As a former debater and now debate trainer, some may think I am a master public speaker, but the truth is that there are a lot of things I have to improve. Also, some may think I am not stressed before I have to give a presentation, in fact, I am, we all are.
I’ve delivered so many speeches until now, that when I get in front of a public, my switch just goes on and I start speaking. Not every time it goes as I wanted it to be but most of the time it goes well. Also, there are some tools I use before, during and after a rhetoric exercise and I do want to share some with you.
5 DAYS BEFORE
1. Know what you are talking about. After a year of academic research in narrative techniques, and 3 years of study in marketing and economics, I could say that I’ve got my head around the topic I was talking about. That is the first thing you have to do, know as much as possible about what you re going to present.
2. Plan ahead what you are going to say. I like to divide my presentations into key areas and then I allocate 2 or 3 main ideas to each. If you have a limited amount of time, decide how many minutes you are going to appoint to each section. Mind palaces are a good method to remember key aspects (google it if you don’t know what I am talking about). Deliver your speech several times, alone or in front of a member of the family. I asked my parents and sister for feedback after I spoke to them about my thesis, it was a good way to improve the presentation and also to get more familiar with it
3. Create an interesting show, use tools such as Prezi or PowerPoint to make it stimulating and engaging by using as many images and schemas as you can(we think in pictures) and coordinating them with your speech. Don’t forget the animations. Today, I used gifs to illustrate my point of view while I was speaking. Also, I had 10 minutes allocated to my pitch (without the question section) therefore I assign 1 minute to each slide. Also, save it in cloud, is safer this way.
Don’t freak out. Stay calm. Mindset is the key. I started my day as pleasant as possible, I grab a coffee from my favourite local coffee shop, I talked with my colleagues and read some interesting articles about philosophy on Medium. My point is that you should not worn yourself out before you even started.
Your attitude is essential because it is contagious. Go inside there anxious and you will inspire only negative feelings. Before delivering a speech I like to listen to music and dance, it gives me a very good vibe and I get positive and energized.
Breathe, this is also important. By controlling how you breath you can get in the more relaxed state. Also, it will help you have a nice tone of voice once you start speaking.
Don’t talk about how awful is it going to be. Most of my colleagues were talking about rumours they heard about the examination committee, how some of our peers didn’t pass etc. Even if you consciously don’t realize it, this way you set your mind in a negative frame. On the other hand I started to get to know some fellow students and I found out that one of them was a trainer and made me remember a concept I once learned in high school, emotional anchors, and another one, who was a business owner, taught me about when to wear ties versus bow ties (he also had a fabulous beard).
FIRST 5 SECONDS
Even if we don’t like to admit it, we already make an impression of someone in the first five seconds. It’s not that I say it, science says it (check Vanesa Van Edwards, she is amazing). Besides, having the proper posture (keep your back straight, pay attention to your shoulders, hold your head up) pay attention to your hands, keep them at sight (it is a sign that makes you trustworthy for others). Smile and make eye contact. Having a positive and calm attitude now is essential because you now set the way they are going to perceive you.
Also during the presentation pay attention to:
- Your speed. Make sure you are not talking too slow, they will get bored nor too fast, won’t understand anything.
-Your tonality. Use it to emphasize key aspects (I don’t master this completely yet, but is a powerful tool)
-Your gestures. Don’t overuse your hands because your auditory may get distracted but also not too less. Apparently, the right amount of gesture is an indicator of truthfulness (remember what I mentioned earlier?). Try to position somewhere between a statue and a chopper and you are going to be fine
-Your posture.Don’t adopt a defensive stance but rather a confident one. Remeber too keep your pose and pay attention to your voice
If you don’t know the answer to a question there are several things you can do:
-repeat it so you will buy more time (sneaky)
-answer it but vaguely trying to pull it towards something you master (even sneakier)
-admit you don’t know the answer for sure but still try to deliver something (a strategy neither good nor bad)
-admit you don’t know the answer but you can prepare for the next time with an appropriate response (the honest one, and the one that I recommend if it is not mandatory to answer)
5 MINUTES AFTER
Take some time to relax. It’s over. Breath. Get out of that anxiety state. Listen to music, talk to someone (about something else than the presentation). Come back to the mundane world.
5 HOURS AFTER
If you can and have the proper energy think about what you liked about your presentation and what you can improve the next time. Feedback from others is also valuable.
Someone saw me dancing in the hallway and said that I seem very relaxed. I told him I was anxious too but I was just managing it better.
Hope this will help you, and I know next time, you are going to deliver a killer presentation. Until then I send you good vibes and warm hugs.
Want to read something interesting? Check this out it is about what is wrong with the way we measure intelligence. Also if you are interested in the way we frame our reality, I recommend you to read this (how we base our likes and dislikes on previous experience) or this (how the outside world reflects the inner one)