You’ve got the perfect speech … on paper. You may have even presented it a few times with decent results. But you want more. What can you do to take this presentation to the next level?
I’ve been there before. When I was competing in high school with my earthquake speech it was good enough for me to get into the finals and place 5th most of the time. But I was never able to take it higher. I wish I had known these three things then!
1. Know your audience.
In order to connect with your audience, to get them to truly engage with your presentation, you need to know and understand them. If I’d had a better handle on what the judges where looking for, as well as who they were as people, I might have been able to tweak my earthquake speech to better meet their needs and earned more points in the process.
Before you give a presentation, do your homework on your audience. What makes them a group? What are they looking to gain from your presentation? What are their “hot topics” and “hot buttons”? Do they have inside jokes? What things do they have in common that you can pull from to create meaningful illustrative anecdotes?
If you can, meet some of the members of your audience and chat with them as they file into the room. You could learn something you could use … and gain some advocates in the audience, as well.
2. Speak with passion.
I’ll admit it … the more I gave that earthquake speech, the less passionate about the topic I became. People respond to passion in your voice … when you lose that, you also lose your audience. Cultivate your interests and passion in your topic … keep it fresh so that your enthusiasm becomes infectious.
3. Get your audience involved.
My earthquake speech was a talking head speech. It was me sharing information with the audience. But my audience was from California and chances are everyone in the room had experienced an earthquake or knew someone who had. If I had engaged the audience by getting them to either remember or share their earthquake experiences, bringing home my points and making the information come alive, I’m sure I would have done better.
Is there a way you can engage your audience so they are active participants in your presentation. This can be literal … having them physically or verbally participate … or more subtle, having them participate in their minds. Phrases like “Imagine, if you will …” or “Picture this” go a long way to engaging your audience.
Remember the basics, too
Yes, you need to get your presentation to the first level before these tactics will help. That means you need to prepare and practice so that your speech is polished. That means you need to dress appropriately for your audience and your topic. That means you need to speak clearly and use vocal variety. That means you need to use visual aids when words aren’t enough. All those things will make your presentation effective. But to take it to the next level … take your presentation out from behind the lectern or podium and really speak to your audience with passion and understanding.