9 public speaking hacks to make a successful pitch

22nd Jul 2015
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Death is the second-most feared thing in the world. Public speaking is the first.

Anyone who has ever spoken on a public platform, or made a pitch, knows that there is more to public speaking than just content. In fact, because there are so many things to take care of simultaneously, public speaking is one of the most difficult skills to master.

The idea of speakingcan make you nervous even if you have years of experience. Also, there is a significant lack of basic education on this important skill; resources and professional opinions are not easily accessible to most people.

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In truth, there are no experts when it comes to public speaking. However, here are some tips that can help you in making an effective pitch:

  1. Content: Your content must be clear, interesting and concise. You will only have your audience’s undivided attention for a few seconds; then,they will begin to completely ignore what you are saying. In this limited window, you must be able to call for, grip and hold on to their attention. No matter what is said, your content is of prime importance; everything else revolves around it.Use good grammar, but do not be too wordy. Simple language will convey more than extremely floral language, which only confuses the audience. It is also good to first show your content to an independent third party (a friend, family member) and ask their opinions. It is not uncommon for presenters to not include points that seem obvious to them, but wouldn’t be to someone else.
  2. Supporting presentation: When speaking on a public platform, always use a supporting presentation. The presentation can be made on simple software like a PowerPoint or more complex ones like Prezi. The rules for your content remain the same. Keep it short, crisp and complete. Remember this while making your presentation: “No audience ever complained about a presentation or speech being too short.” (Stephen Keague, The Little Red Handbook of Public Speaking and Presenting)
  3. Use infographics, pictures, bullets, and numbered lists to make your content readable. Lastly, do not simply read out your slides. If all your presentation is a reading of all the slides present, you might as well get off the stage; your contribution is superfluous. Instead, put bullet points down on your slides, and explain them as you talk.
  4. Body language: Public speaking can be nerve-wracking. Even though you might try to conceal your nerves, your body will betray you. Here’s the catch though: it is a good thing to be nervous. It is a bad thing to showThere are some actions that leak anxiety. Theseinclude twitching hands or legs, swivelling on the spot, talking too fast or even looking down at your feet regularly, or nervously around the room.All these signs can be controlled with practice, and that will help keep you at ease while you present. A presenter who looks calm and relaxed will engage the audience better.
  5. Be confident: Being under-confident and nervous are two different things when it comes to presentations. Your under-confidence stems from your lack of faith in your content and abilities. Your nervousness is born out of the fear of the number of people who are looking at you.Confidence and nervousness can (and should) exist together. Remember, this is your You designed it. There is no one in the world who can present this better than you can. If you do not place your faith in your own content and ability, why will your audience?
  6. Interact with your audience: A presentation is never a monologue. If you were to plan a10 minute presentation of just you talking, you can write off your chances of scoring any points with the audience right there. Interact with gestures, ask questions, engage your audience. Remember, you only have their attention as long as they can follow your presentation, and find it interesting and relatable/knowledgeable.You may start off very well and hold their attention for the first two-three minutes. But all your efforts will have been in vain if you were to lose them immediately after.
  7. Voice modulation: A basic thing to consider while making a presentation, voice modulation is used to stress the more important points, get the audience to think and keep them connected when they are on the brink of distraction. Voice modulation is an essential for a good presentation and depends on the skill of the presenter. It can be developed over time with experience.It should never be underestimated because of its simplicity.
  8. Vary your pitch: Your pitch should never be the same. It should vary with respect to who you make the pitch to. For example, the pitch for a B2C platform would be different for the business (B) and different for the consumers (C). It would highlight and stress the advantages of the product to the respective group. Therefore, have a flexible pitch, with room for variation.
  9. Always leave room for questions: Your presentation is like a three course meal; an introduction, a body (with a conclusion) and a Q/A session. Questions from the audience are probably the best form of feedback, since they help you remove small imperfections from your presentation.They also mean that you were able to connect with the audience well enough to make them care. Answer the questions confidently.Keep your answers crisp and to the point. Most importantly, use these questions to implement changes to your pitch/presentation where necessary.
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