Public speaking is a common fear for many Americans. But if you can learn how to master the art of delivering a presentation from the stage, an entirely new world of opportunities emerges.
5 Tips for Better Stage Presentations
If the thought of public speaking paralyzes you, consider yourself in good company.
“The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights,” National Social Anxiety Center cofounder John R. Montopoli explains. “The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population.”
But just because public speaking strikes fear into your heart doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective presenter. Practice and repetition are the best antidotes. And once you get a taste of a successful presentation, your confidence will increase exponentially.
Here are a few tips for better stage presentations:
1. Frame Your Story
The first 10 to 20 seconds of your presentation are vital. This is where people make assumptions about whether to tune in or tune out. And if you do what most public speakers and presenters do, you’ll force people to do the latter.
Don’t open up with an explanation of who you are. The reality is that nobody cares. (You’ll have time to prove your credibility later on.) Instead, frame your presentation as a story. Humans are wired for stories and they’re the best way to engage people.
“When I think about compelling presentations, I think about taking an audience on a journey,” TED curator Chris Anderson says. “A successful talk is a little miracle—people see the world differently afterward.”
It’s better to dig deep on a few ideas and tell relevant stories that paint an engaging picture of your topic than it is to go shallow on a lot of ideas. Quality supersedes quantity.
2. Use the 10-20-30 Rule
Guy Kawasaki of Apple is a seasoned presenter. And when it comes to giving a slideshow-based talk in front of an audience, he recommends sticking to the 10-20-30 Rule:
- No more than 10 slides
- No more than 20 minutes in length
- No less than 30 point font
This last point is as much about legibility as it is about preventing you from putting too much information on a slide. Slides are complementary – avoid going overboard.
3. Project Confidence
Want to know a secret? Nobody in the audience knows how you feel on the inside. All they can see is how you carry yourself. And if you project confidence, people will assume you’re confident.
Projecting confidence looks like mastering your body language and voice. Here are a few tips:
- Body language. You want to carry broad shoulders and an upright chin. Make eye contact and smile when appropriate. Use gestures and make yourself big.
- Voice. If you’re uncomfortable, your audience will be too. Nothing is more awkward for an audience member than watching someone stammer through a presentation. It’s embarrassing for everyone. To project confidence, control your voice. Slow down, speak with conviction, and avoid filler words (and, umm, like, okay, etc.)
Content still matters. However, if you’re able to project confidence in your body language and voice, people will be much more likely to engage with you.
4. Engage Beyond the Stage
While your words should do most of the engaging, you can take your presentation to the next level by providing supplemental resources for the audience.
Since you won’t be able to cover everything in one presentation, providing a printed booklet as a handout is a great way to expound upon ideas and go into further detail.
5. Finish Strong
The introduction is arguably the most important element of a presentation, but it’s the ending that people will remember. If you can nail the ending, people will consider your presentation a success.
A good ending is memorable and purpose-driven. For best results, end by telling a story that relates back to the story you introduced at the start of your presentation. This establishes continuity and closes the narrative arc.
Conquer Public Speaking and Increase Your Influence
Public speaking is one of those skills that’s entirely transferable, regardless of your industry or line of work. It doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant, professional football player, or an artist – being able to communicate through public speaking will add value and cultivate influence.
As much as it may scare you, proactively improving your skills will elevate your career.