You are about to give a presentation to a group of people! This is an incredible opportunity to engage with others and share your knowledge with them. How exciting! But you’re not excited…you’re truly and completely dreading this presentation. Why?
I ask this question of every person that comes to me for advice on public speaking. Often the answer is they’ve been persuaded to believe public speaking is scary. They can pinpoint back to a presentation in school or early in their career when their peers convinced them to be nervous. Think about it, instead of reacting with support or excitement, the reaction from others typically falls along the line of how much anxiety is caused by the idea of speaking in public.
Now, I’m not in denial on this topic. Speaking in front of a room full of people can be hard. It’s likely to be even harder if you’re not prepared with your content, your approach, or worst-case scenario, not at all. Although preparation is key, delivering your message in a concise and memorable manner is equally critical. Members of the audience are eager for a few strong takeaways. They don’t want to endure an unfocused presentation, nor do they want too much extra information. To keep your audience engaged and keep your topic easy to remember is the speaker’s goal!
Does this sound familiar? If you’ve taken a class or read an article about effective presentations, then you’re familiar with this term: residual message. This is the ultimate takeaway for your audience. The residual message is what you want them to remember when you’re finished! You’ll do this by keeping that message concise, easy to understand, and repeat it often as you are speaking.
I lead a course internally at Vault on public speaking called Two Minute Speech. The approach was inspired by my communications course at Penn State. Attendees work to develop their residual message and practice public speaking with a small group of peers. I’d love to say it’s our most popular course offering, but that’s completely biased and unproven!
Practicing in a small group for a short time period helps to overcome that fear. In addition to practice, being prepared will make presenting easier and less scary. Be concise with your message and make it memorable. And if you’re not nervous, don’t allow someone else to convince you that you should be.