President William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States is a prime example of what it means to be an effective speaker. Although George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole were highly qualified opponents in the 1992 and 1996 elections, it was Clinton’s presentation skills and ability to work an audience that earned him his back-to-back terms in office. President Clinton “owned the room” from the beginning of his first presidential debate.
Upon being asked his first question, Clinton walked up to the lady seeking answers, squared his shoulders toward her, looked her straight in the eye, and asked her to repeat her name. As soon as she responded with her name, Clinton repeated her name back to her and answered her question passionately and confidently. (Koegel, 2007, p. 06-07). Effective speakers can walk into a room, take the audience by surprise, and deliver a presentation that is both passionate and natural. A presenter does not have to be perfect, nor does the audience expect him or her to be so.
According to Henninger (2010), making a mistake, forgetting a segment of your speech, or falling speechless for a moment is okay as long as your presentation has value. An effective speaker knows how to avoid gestures and facial expressions that point out his or her mistakes. Public speaking skills are not inherited. It is a talent and a technique that has become second hand to a speaker through a great deal of practice. Can anyone be an effective speaker? The answer to this question is yes; with sufficient knowledge, tools, and practice, anyone can stand up and “own the room. ”
Be Organized An exceptional presenter is one who is organized and an organized presentation is one that has a developed structure. The average human being has a very small attention span; therefore a speaker’s best speech is one that is short and to the point. At most, a good presentation only needs two or three main points. That’s really all the audience wants to hear anyway (Henninger, 2010). The audience is also more obligated to listen to a presenter who looks organized. First impressions are crucial when a presenter is trying to sell his or her ideas, services, or products.
Thirty seconds of floundering before the audience can send a negative signal that suggests that the presenter is unprepared and can also create question as to whether or not the presenter is even confident in what it is he or she is trying to promote (Koegel, 2007, p. 45-46). A speaker only gets one impression, so he or she should strive to make it a positive one by looking and being organized. Speak Passionately A presenter must be passionate about his or her topic in order for the presentation to be persuasive. If a presenter is not passionate about the topic, then why should the audience even care about it?
Many presenters are guilty of delivering lengthy presentations that painstakingly reinforce their topic. According to communication experts, the time on a presentation should be slimmed down and the energy should be boosted up (Layman, 2011). A presenter should be aware of his or her voice when delivering a speech. If one’s tone is droning and monotone, then the presenter can likely expect to look out into an audience that is either asleep or captivated with something other than the presentation on point. Speak up, speak from the heart, and speak with conviction.
In keeping with Koegel (2007), a presenter’s voice is an outward expression of his or her passion. Engage the Audience A powerful speaker is one who can engage his or her audience. People do not particularly care to sit silently through an exhaustive presentation. Most audiences want to participate and be a part of it. One way to engage with the audience is to encourage audience participation. Meet with the audience before the presentation, learn a few of their names, and listen to comments that are being made. When delivering the presentation, the presenter can address these comments and call on audience members by name.
Addressing the audience’s issues and demonstrating that time was taken to know them by name builds a relationship with the audience. It is significantly important to make eye contact with the audience as well. By looking people in the eye, a presenter enhances two-way communication as well as encourages and establishes trust and a congenial give and take relationship (Downey, 2011). Many speakers have been given the advice at one time or another to find an inanimate object, such as the wall in the back of the room, and focus in on it when delivering a presentation.
By looking over the audience, the presenter can alleviate the anxiety that he or she may be experiencing, correct? Unfortunately, the wall in the back of the room is not going to be the one making the business decisions that day. The audience makes the decisions and if a speaker cannot talk to the audience, then the audience will more than likely seek business with someone who can. Act Natural An exceptional speaker always appears natural. If the speaker looks confidant and relaxed, then the audience will be relaxed.
A presenter should stray from giving formal presentations overflowing with facts and statistics; try leaning towards a style that is more conversational, engaging, and full of illustrative stories and current events that relate to one’s topic. Telling a story or beginning a presentation with an anecdote is a good way to break the ice, ease a presenter’s anxiety, and engage the audience at the same time because telling stories is something that comes naturally to humans. However, be sure that the story or anecdote flows with the topic on point.
An effective presentation should not sound scripted. Writing out the presentation is okay, but the speaker must then fight the temptation to read it word for word. The written word does not flow nor does it have the same approach as the spoken word. If a presenter feels obligated to write out his or her presentation and follow scripts, then he or she should be sure to lose the official tone and write in the manner that he or she speaks (Koegel, 2007, p. 122). Understand the Audience An effective speaker is one who can connect with his or her audience.
According to Koegel (2007), understanding the business, issues, and concerns of the audience is an excellent way to achieve this goal. Before pitching a sales presentation, a presenter should research and thoroughly understand his audience. There are a number of ways one can achieve this, such as researching the company’s website to understand a firm’s morals, beliefs and objectives or another option would be to speak with employees within the organization prior to a meeting. As you present, you should look for opportunities to add value.
Researching and understanding your audience is imperative and can present opportunities in which value can be added. An organization is more likely to listen and do business with a speaker who has demonstrated his or her knowledge of the company more so than a salesperson whose only preference is to acquire another sale. Once a speaker becomes familiar with the wants and needs of the audience, the presentation becomes much easier to craft (Mackay, 2011). Practice to Improve Humans are creatures of habit. The human body seeks comfort when placed in an uncomfortable situation.
An example of this can be putting one’s hands in his or her pockets or looking down towards the floor. These minute gestures speak on behalf of the presenter and inform the audience that the speaker is uneasy about something. Without practice, a speaker cannot improve on these habits. There are many opportunities during the day to put into practice various speaking techniques. These skills should be practiced during one’s daily routine and not in “live” win-or-lose situations (Koegel, 2007, p. 6). If a speaker is in need of further assistance, he or she can hire a presentation coach.
Effective speaking is not something one inherits at birth; it is a talent that is achieved through hard work and consistent practice. There is no reason to feel ashamed for asking for external help. Baseball great Hank Aaron batted cross handed until a batting coach corrected his style that led him to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. To Aaron and his colleagues, his hitting style before was satisfactory, yet it is often easier and beneficial to receive constructive criticism from outsiders instead of one’s own employees or colleagues (Porro, 2011).
The point of this story is that even when someone is good at something already, that person is still not perfect. Practice, whether it is on one’s own time or through the assistance of a presentation coach, may not make a presenter a perfect speaker, but it opens the door for improvement and will make delivering a speech second nature to the presenter. By allowing one’s self to practice these techniques, it is then that the speaker becomes effective.
Courtney from Study Moose
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