Greetings, Future Superstar! Whether you’re looking to grace the stages of TED or simply win over your company’s boardroom, being a stellar public speaker is key (see what I did there? Yes, I’m sorry).
1. The Art of Storytelling: Making Your Grandma Proud
If you’ve ever endured a presentation that felt like reading an instruction manual, you know the power of a good story. Stories resonate. They bring color, texture, and humanity to your message. So go on, dig deep into your repertoire of personal experiences, insightful anecdotes, and knee-slapping jokes to keep your audience engaged. Just make sure they stay appropriate and clean!
2. The Slide’s the Thing: Less is More
Ah, PowerPoint, the double-edged sword. While slides can offer valuable visual aids, they can also bore your audience to tears. Keep slides simple and uncluttered, using them as a tool to accentuate—not replace—your spoken words. If you are going to use slides, don’t spend 15 minutes on one of them. Try to separate every bullet point on your slide into a separate slide. Keep em stimulated and keep it moving.
3. Eye Contact: More Than Just a Staring Contest
Don’t fixate on your notes or, worse, your own shoes (even if you love shoegaze music). Eye contact establishes a connection and invites your audience into your narrative. It also makes you seem more trustworthy—unless you’re looking around like you’re spotting snipers in the room, and if you do, run! Unless that’s your audience. Hopefully there was a metal detector at the door. But if they’re real snipers, they can probably make a gun out of pocket lint.
4. Humor: Laughter is the Best Presentation Medicine
You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but a little humor goes a long way. Whether it’s a well-timed joke or a funny anecdote, humor can disarm an audience and make your message more relatable. Just be sure it’s actually funny, or else you’ll get laughs for all the wrong reasons. Or dead eye stares. There’s nothing more deflating to the room than humor that doesn’t land. My advice? If you’re going to try to be a funny speaker, start attending comedy open mics just so you can see how high the bar actually is and try to develop some timing.
5. Gesture for Success: Hand Signals Aren’t Just for Baseball Coaches
Your body language communicates just as much as your words. Use open gestures, move around the stage, and for heaven’s sake, do something with your hands besides clutching the podium like you’re hanging off a cliff. While we’re on that topic, get away from the podium- you look scared. Maybe you don’t need a bulletproof vest as a speaker. Uh oh, we’re back to that sniper thing.
6. Vocal Variety: Don’t Be a Human White Noise Machine
A monotonous voice can turn an exciting subject into a snooze fest. Vary your tone, pitch, and speed to keep your audience awake and engaged. Think of your voice as a musical instrument and play it like you’re at Carnegie Hall. They call it vocal variety, and you need to develop it. It might feel weird and unnatural at first, but trust me that’s better than sounding like a didjeridoo.
7. It’s About Time: The Underestimated Skill of Timing
Great comedy—and great presentations—are often a matter of timing. Know when to pause for effect, when to speed up for excitement, and when to slow down for emphasis. Your watch should be your best friend, not your nagging aunt. Find some of your favorite comedians and practice saying their jokes with their rhythms. It helps!
8. Audience Engagement: Because It’s Not a Monologue
Who says presentations are a one-way street? Use rhetorical questions, polls, or even brief exercises to engage your audience. You’re a keynote speaker, not a keynote reader. Laughter in one kind of engagement, hand raising is another- and workshops are at a completely different level.
9. Tech Savvy: Master the Mute Button and Beyond
It’s not just about words and gestures; you also need to be a tech wizard. Familiarize yourself with your presentation tools—whether it’s a clicker, a microphone, or a complex AV system. There’s nothing worse than a speaker who doesn’t know how to screen share. As a speaker, you run into all kinds of different setups- soundboard or not; confidence monitor or not; using your own laptop vs an event one. Be ready for anything.
10. The Q&A: The Grand Finale of Every Presentation
When it’s time for questions, it’s also time to shine. Be prepared for anything, and by that, I mean everything—from serious inquiries to weird, out-of-left-field questions. Your ability to answer gracefully can make or break your presentation. If needed, stall with “that’s a great question,” or by asking for more info. Talk about experiences that come to mind and at the end summarize with a brief answer to their question. Then ask, does that answer your question? If not, you’ll find out! And be able to fix it.
So there you have it! Ten crucial skills that every keynote speaker should absolutely master. Remember, practice makes perfect, so hit that stage or Zoom call and dazzle the world with your newly acquired presentation prowess.