Whether you have given a thousand speeches, or ten thousand, there is always something to learn or improve upon. A presentation can still be a source of stress for even the most seasoned speaker.
We spoke to 5 professional speakers to find out their advice for helping move an experienced speaker from good to great.
Whether I am the first to speak, the last to speak, somewhere in between, or the only one to speak, I find that the audience is complacent. They aren't really prepared to listen. They expect to work their way into it like watching an old movie on television. That is unacceptable to me. Whenever possible, I like to explode on to the stage and wake them right out of their seats. Whether I can or can't do that, I will use a statement designed to jolt them into a listening mood. Make them start thinking right out of the gate.
R. Bruce Baum
I recommend infusing appropriate humour throughout the presentation or speech. We have all heard speakers who begin with a very motivational or humorous introduction in the form of a joke, story, anecdote, or quote. Then they go on at length with a presentation or speech that is devoid of humour, and maybe interest as well.
Make sure you focus on producing the outcome the person who paid you (or brought you in if you're speaking for free) wants you to produce. Far too many speakers lose sight of the fact that the opinion that matters most is the one from the person who wrote you the cheque (or will write it when you're done).
Remember that there is a reason you have been asked to speak. If anyone could present confidently and effectively, there would be no need for you to be doing it. Because you are the expert (and hopefully a well-rehearsed speaker), you have been placed in front of the room, often with a microphone and the audience has been instructed (if only by positioning their chairs) to pay attention to you and find the key learnings that they can use.
I can't emphasize how important it is to practice, practice, practice. As experts in our own field it can be easy to think that we can "wing it" – and I'm sure we all have tried that method; it simply doesn't work. Your audience isn't getting your best, and you won't feel like you've really shared your passion.
Being a successful professional speaker takes preparation, training, experience and coaching. Listening to fellow expert speakers is a great way to draw on others' knowledge and expertise. Learning from others in the field can also help you to create the impact you desire.
Are you a professional speaker? What advice would you give to other experienced presenters?