When it comes to public speaking , presentations and communication skills, Lauren Ferraro is one of Canada’s go-to educators. Her expertise and innovative approach have made her one of the most sought-after public speaking coaches for top Fortune 500 companies, CEOS, executives, politicians and media personalities in Canada and abroad, as well as a regular fixture on TV and radio shows, including The Social, CBC Radio and CTV news, among many others!
She is the current instructor of public speaking and interview skills with the Speech Communications department at the University of Waterloo and an invited instructor with the Master of Professional Communications Department at Ryerson University, teaching advanced speaking and presentation technology.
I asked Lauren to share her best tips for giving an impactful presentation without sweating it! Over to you, Lauren!
1. Keep this top of mind: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU
You’re a professional and you know your stuff, but in all your preparation, a voice comes into your head – the voice that makes those “I” statements we all make and LOVE:
The great thing to hold onto is that speaking isn't about YOU! It's about YOUR AUDIENCE and what you want them to feel and experience, as well as what you want them to know and take away.
If you lead with yourself to impress or to make yourself look good, then you sabotage your messaging and your audience is left empty-handed. So get out of your own way and ask:
2. Get physical with your message!
When rehearsing, bounce while you speak. Yes, bounce! Gently unlock your knees and bob a little; swing your arms, back and forth, so you feel the motion in your muscles. You'll quickly find yourself losing that strange motionless feeling of being stuck in “in the headlights” as disaster barrels down on you.
Bouncing loosens you up and energizes you and puts your words into your body. You are now delivering from all of you – mind, heart and soul!
Stop the memorization insanity. When you simply memorize a speech, you speaking TO – or worse – speaking DOWN to your audience, rather than sharing with them. Impactful delivery means you embody your speech, which means you have to get physical. You have to get on your feet.
Practice your speech while preparing dinner or doing the dishes or working out at the gym or in the shower. Do any physical activity that works for you while practicing out loud. Your message becomes part of your natural movement and will come from your body, not just your head. Our bodies move naturally when we speak, so why stand still when you're giving a public presentation? Even if you feel that you won't be moving during your presentation (you may be behind a podium, for example), movement animates speech. Remember, motionless speakers aren't dynamic speakers.
2. Stop giving disclaimers
The audience in front of you is here for the one person they have come to hear: YOU! That means no apologies for being a “bad speaker” or “not good at this” or “I’ve never done this before.” Stop!
Don't set yourself up for failure with disclaimers. You may think they’ll make your audience warm up to you, but these words automatically undermine your speech and what you have to share with the room.
If you want to win me over, then speak to me. Tell me about yourself and your message. Have a conversation with me. Yes – a conversation. We get caught thinking a speech or presentation is about “addressing” a group. Your audience has come to hear the ONE AND ONLY YOU, so give them you, without apologies.
3. Distill your thoughts
Trust that you can deliver your message and make an impact in bite-sized pieces, leaving your audience wanting to know more.
When prepping, distill your thoughts! That is, use no more than three main points for your whole presentation and deliver them one at a time.
Three points equals three strikes in baseball and after that you are out! Three courses for dinner and after that you are stuffed and can’t take in anymore!
Speak about one thing at a time. Your audience will easily accept, take away and execute one idea at a time. As a listener, I don't need to know everything in a twenty-minute talk and I can absorb only so much. Keep it simple and you keep it effective. See, you have the advantage as the speaker, you know your content. But as an audience member, our minds need time to receive and digest the content you just delivered.
4. Use the power of your senses
Use all your five senses to describe an idea. If you can visualize, hear, smell, taste and touch your idea, you can bring it to life and make it live for your audience. Even with the driest material, the trick is to make it personal. Weave personal anecdotes in with your stats and your message will go deeper in both you and your listeners. When you tell the story, you lift the numbers off the page and your audience will receive that information faster and with staying power.
Grab my attention with your energy and personality and have a conversation with me. Give me your message in bite-sized pieces and paint me a picture or tell me a story. Your audience will stay with you on your journey because they’ll really get your message, hear about your service and want to buy your product.
- Lauren Ferraro