If giving presentations reduces you to a state of panic, let public-speaking coach Benjamin Loh show you how to skyrocket your confidence and speak with total cool.
PHOTO SUNG-IL KIM/CORBIS
Standing on stage or behind a podium doesn’t guarantee that all eyes will be on you. “Amateur presenters dive into a speech hoping to capture their audience’s attention. Pro-presenters know they have to get people engaged before they even begin,” explains Benjamin. So start your speech with a story to personalise your subject matter and provide visualisation. For instance, if you’re talking about self-defence, say something like: “Before I start, I’d like to make a confession. I grew up as a pudgy kid and this (display image of you as chubby child on the screen) was how I looked when I was seven.”
Of course, no one wants to hear your entire life story, so ensure your anecdotes don’t appear self-indulgent (and a bit dull – sorry!). Strike a balance between bonding and boring by using more “you-focused” statements like:
❶ “Do you remember when you were so stressed you wanted to give up?”
❷ “Can you imagine how desperate I was feeling at this point?”
❸ “What would you have done if you were me?” See these statements as mini-hooks and pepper your speech with them. Executives may brush off storytelling as flippancy in the business world, but when you establish the facts and involve your audience, you’ll get higher levels of engagement.
Literally. Some speakers raise their intonation at the ends of their sentences. It’s called “up talk”, and is not a good thing. “This causes your sentences to sound like questions and undermines your credibility as a speaker,” warns Benjamin. Record your speech beforehand to see if you’re guilty of it. Your vocal variety should reflect the subject matter and your personality for optimum engagement. Be particularly aware of how you round off your sentences, because that’s what your audience pays major attention to – and remembers the most.
Crush croc brain
You know when your brain automatically goes into shutdown (thinking about lunch, imagining Chris Hemsworth naked, et cetera) during abstract lectures? This is the work of the “crocodile brain” – psychologist Robert Ornstein’s term for the brain stem, which filters out less-important information before it reaches higher-functioning areas like the neocortex. Your audience is entering croc brain if they’re checking Instagram. To prevent this, engage them by changing your delivery or tone, or switching from emotional content to statistical data, every 10 minutes. And try to stick to three key points in every presentation.
*Visit www.benjaminloh.sg to download a free chapter of his book, Inspirit – How Asian CEOs Inspire Action from the Stage, which is available at all major bookstores.