Throw everything you learned in your public speaking class out the window if you want to become a good public speaker. A good public speaker isn’t the one that the audience adds on LinkedIn after the presentation — a good public speaker is the person the audience wants to grab a drink with after the event. The first point you have to keep in mind is that using great quotes, while helping you come off as strong and confident, makes you less relatable. The second is that the audience will always feel at ease doing business with someone in whom they see a bit of themselves. If you’re interested in making yourself a better public speaker, here are a few tips to help you on your way.
Know what you are talking about. Your knowledge of the topic at hand should extend beyond your index cards. It doesn’t matter whether you are a marketer, an engineer or a data scientist, when presenting, you have one ultimate goal - you want to make an impact and tell a story. The only way to tell a good story is to know the story, know it like you know yourself. The best speakers out there are as good as they are because they are passionate about what they are presenting, with knowledge going beyond a simple powerpoint.
Own that you are nervous. One key thing about being a good public speaker is being relatable. It is not by the content of your presentation, how you are dressed or your title, but by being human that you connect with your audience. Even the world’s greatest speakers get nervous presenting, but it’s not because they wonder how they will look, it’s them wondering if they have everything the audience needs. Admitting your nervousness makes you relatable; it will ease your nerves and the medium changes from talking at them to talking among them.
Laugh at yourself. During your presentation, say something like, “Guys, on a side note, this chart took me forever to make. Actually, my designer made it. But creating it was almost the death of us.” It helps both you and the audience take a mental break from the bombardment of information. It distracts them, but in a positive way. It gives them breathing room to process everything they’ve learned so far and lightens up the mood, showcasing your approachable side.
Be the problem solver, not the know-it-all. The know-it-all presenter looks rehearsed. He or she has practiced this so many times, memorising every sentence and joke. They aren’t there to help the audience think; they are there to tell the audience that they know things — they are the “Hire me, I’m the best”-type of person. The problem solver, while also practicing well, does so from the audience perspective - what questions would I have if I was them, what are the limitations in my topic, I need to be transparent about this — they are the, “We are a team, we’ll find the solution”-type of person.
Be okay with not knowing the answer. Instead of getting flustered on stage for not knowing something, stay calm. Not knowing the answer doesn’t make you stupid; the question isn’t about you. The fact that your presentation has created questions that you don’t know the answer to just means that your audience is intrigued — they are pondering how they can apply this. They are helping you think of other perspectives. This isn’t about you; this is about the solution you are offering. Be okay with not knowing it all; it will only grow your knowledge.
Public speaking isn’t about how good you are; it’s about what the audience can get out of your presentation. Think about them, about what you would want if you were them. The way I think about it, do I buy something because it looks good on the model or do I buy it because it looks good on me? It’s the latter. It’s the same with public speaking, the audience isn’t going to buy your idea because you are a good presenter; they are going to buy it because it makes a difference to their life.