Many of us find public speaking an uncomfortable adventure we’d just as soon avoid. The flip side of this is that we admire powerful speakers. Do you wish you could speak like that? Well, you can! In the first article of this series, I listed five ways to prepare yourself to be poised and confident in front of a group. In this second article there are more tips for showing your skills to their best advantage. These tips will help you manage physical aspects of your talk, from the set-up of the room to the way you gestures and movement. When you maintain that confident control, your audience will hang on your every word. The first three tips are about controlling the environment for your talk.
Tip 1: Know what equipment you need and what is available. As the speaker, it is up to you to determine what you need to give the best talk possible and to make sure you have it, or to adjust your plans. To know whether your preferred projection method is available, ask ahead of time what equipment is on site. If necessary, make arrangements to bring in anything additional you need. Once you are at your venue, make sure you know how to use the projection equipment, or that the projectionist knows what cues you will use to request slide changes.
Tip 2. Make sure your audiovisuals are compatible with the system. If you are using computer files, make sure you have a file type compatible with the system — and check ahead of time to make sure it projects well. In addition to making sure your audiovisuals will work, take these additional steps that many speakers forget or don’t think of.
Tip 3 . Set up the room for the type of interaction you plan. Make sure there are seats with a writing surface is you expect your listeners to take notes, make sure you have a pointer and writing implements. If you plan for group discussion, have a way for people to interact face to face. Make sure you know how to dim and turn up the lights. It is also important to make sure you have room to move as you wish during your talk — this means taking the time to move furniture and other obstacles out of your way, including tables and chairs that obstruct your movement. If you have a choice — and you usually do — don’t hide behind a podium. You will be more accessible and visible to your audience if you speak to them without that barrier. Now that room is ready to set you up for success, two more ways to use that space to your advantage:
Tip 4. Use purposeful gestures. A noticeably fidgety speaker transmits nervous energy to the audience and those jitters can be contagious. However, when you stand confidently and to use your hands for strong emphasis when necessary you portray confidence and power. When you use gestures deliberately for emphasis, you not only draw attention to your point, you will not be able to fidget at the same time.
Tip 5. Use movement purposefully. A speaker who uses space in a confident way commands respect and attention. This is one reason you must set up the environment to be conducive to movement. Allow yourself to walk naturally up to the screen to emphasize a point, or toward your audience to ask a question. When you face the audience and hold your body in an open relaxed position it shows confidence and poise. This will also allow you to feel more relaxed and will draw the attention of your audience.
Using these tips will help you manage the room to deliver a talk with confidence and your own personal flair. In the next articles of this series, I’ll cover tips for getting the most out of your voice, and for the development of visual aids that can enhance your message and add another dimension to your presentations.