Open with a quote
Often, we start a presentation by saying “My name’s X and today I want to talk about Y” but to really hook your audience from the start, try including a relevant quote or statistic.
Imagine you’re due to pitch a marketing concept. Instead of introducing yourself straight away, you could start with something like “Did you know FIFA 2001 and Gran Turismo had scratch and sniff disks that smelt like a soccer field and car tyres? [pause] My name is X and today I’m going to share with you my marketing concept for Sony.” This immediately helps to catch attention from your audience and gives them something to remember you by straight from the start.
Many of the formalities of public speaking developed some time ago and may not be inclusive to a contemporary audience. As one example, opening with “Ladies and gentlemen” could include non-binary gender identities by instead beginning “Good afternoon everyone” or, in a formal scenario, “Distinguished guests”. Throughout your presentation, it’s also worth checking the pronunciation of names if you’re not sure, and practicing good inclusive language, such as people-first descriptions of people with a disability and so on.
Make the most of your conclusion
Just like how using a good quote can help to signpost the content of your talk, a good conclusion can help you consolidate all your key points and remind your listeners of the important material you covered. When preparing for your conclusion, don’t be afraid to refer to material from the start-to-finish of your presentation, but do try to keep it brief. This is also an opportunity to be a bit more conversational, so rather than starting “In conclusion”, you could try more natural phrases like “So, just to recap” or “If we wind the clock back”.
They say that practice makes perfect and rehearsing for public speaking definitely makes a huge difference. If you can, practice out loud so that you get comfortable actually speaking the words out loud. If you can practice in the same room as you’ll be delivering your talk/presentation, even better, as that can help you get most comfortable with the space.
Did you know that Powerpoint has a built-in practice aid? Powerpoint’s ‘Rehearsal Coach’ tracks your pace, originality, use of filler words, and so on to help identify opportunities to improve. For more information, click here.
Don’t forget to smile
This one may seem obvious but there’s a good reason to smile when you’re public speaking (if it’s appropriate for your subject): smiling helps to raise your soft palate, making your voice sound richer and warmer for your listeners. If your audience can see you, it also helps to put them at ease and create a comfortable environment for your talk.
If you’re speaking online, try blurring your background if you have the option. This helps to minimise any distractions in the room you’re in and is recommended by Microsoft as being more inclusive to the spectrum of neurodiversity.