In my 10 years working with pest control leader Orkin, I’ve had the privilege of watching some top public speakers. One such speaker, Orkin entomologist Dr. Ron Harrison, has served as our go-to subject matter expert for many years, helping our marketing team develop engaging content. While the topic of pest control is fairly niche, I’ve learned more from Dr. Harrison than just entomology 101.
Whether speaking on stage at one of our annually attended tradeshows, serving as an expert source for media interviews or facilitating webinars with third-party organizations, Dr. Harrison has taught me a lot about public speaking.
Below are a few of the takeaways I’ve learned. Hopefully you can pick up a few pointers yourself.
- Be prepared. Familiarizing yourself with a presentation is undoubtedly the most important thing you can do to ensure success. They say “practice makes perfect” because it’s true. Consider holding a dress rehearsal in front of your peers, or with one of our speaker coaches, to help anticipate difficult questions and reactions from the audience. Ultimately, the more comfortable you are with the content, the more confident and engaging you’ll be.
- Stand up and project. The PowerPoint might be projected on the screen but is the speaker projecting? Standing up and having the freedom to move around grabs the attention of the audience. There’s no need to hide behind a podium – use a lavaliere microphone to start moving. Your listeners will see you as more accessible and are more likely to ask questions.
- Engage the audience. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many professional speakers get wrapped-up in their presentation and forget who they’re talking to – and ultimately why they’re there in the first place. An easy way to foster audience engagement is to pepper question slides about your content throughout the presentation, allowing the audience to think on their own and even share personal experiences. Q&A breaks are another common public speaking technique and allow the audience to ask questions throughout the presentation versus saving them all for the end.
- Don’t be afraid to tell a joke. Many times speakers feel they need to be formal. Some situations do call for a more buttoned-up approach, so assess your presentation accordingly. When used appropriately, though, a well-timed joke or two can help break the ice and put the audience at ease. Comedy creates a safe atmosphere for your audience.
- Admit you’re not the expert. While a speaker is typically presenting on a topic because they are the given expert, sometimes there might be questions you just don’t know the answers to. It’s better to be honest than attempt to address something out of your knowledge base – or worse, provide incorrect information. While we always direct our clients to the “I don’t know, but I can find out,” approach, another is to ask your audience. Turning it back to the group can often reveal interesting insights or information to help inform the original request.
These quick tips will help you tighten up your presentation skills, so you can be a confident public speaker in no time.