Recently I was at a client reception in which there were several presentations, speakers, and plaques awarded. Of the many speakers, some were astounding, some were good, and some were just plain old average.
I too, spoke at a work function in the last few months. It was in front of about 60-80 people and I did, if I do say so myself, an awkwardly average job. Having given speeches at weddings and having MC’d a few events, I’d like to share with you some tips on how to present professionally, or better yet, how to not present like me:
- Do come prepared. I once MC’d a friends wedding and I wasn’t totally prepared. I hadn’t spoken in public since high school at that point, and foolishly assumed I would just rock it. This is one of the problems you face when you’re unnecessarily overly confident about everything. I was also extremely nervous, and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say until the night before. So, I got in front of the crowd, turned beet red, swerved around like an SNL Harry Carey impersonation and proceeded to stutter. Mind you, it wasn’t as terrible as I’m making it out to be, but it could have been better.
- Don’t point out your faults. This is something I have trouble with on a day to day basis. What’s that all about? If I stutter, I point it out and quote Billy Madison ‘t-t-today Jr’. If I start rambling, I’ll state ‘oh, I’m rambling’. I mean, everyone loves a little bit of self-depreciating humour, but know your limits.
- Do know your faults. I, for some reason have a strange problem where I can’t read/say numbers when they are in the thousands. Ex. 235,456 comes out of my mouth sounding like ‘two hundred three five thousand four thousand and fifty six.’ This is certainly not the right way to say those numbers. So, next time, if I have to present huge numbers I will do one of three things, 1) round up, 2) write out the numbers in word format or, 3) tell the audience to look at the screen and that they can read it themselves.
- Don’t wear uncomfortable clothes. Obviously, I’m not telling you to do your presentation in sweat pants, or worse Lulu Lemons disguised as dress pants (that’s just horrid), however, if you’re fidgeting with your pants because they are too tight, or your bra straps are falling down, people will focus on your fussing rather than your words. Also, don’t stand there and rub your belly, it’s weird (unless you’re knocked up – that’s cute).
- Do smile. Even a sad eulogy could use a flash of your pearly whites, or yellow-ish Chiclets.
- Don’t swear. OK, maybe you can swear, but it all depends on who you’re speaking to.
- Do know your audience. There’s a time and a place in which you can make lewd jokes. At your religious friends wedding? Maybe not so much (thankfully, I have not done this one). Being respectful of your audience should be your number one goal.
- Don’t stress too much. Odds are in your favour that your audience wants you to succeed. If you stumble, pick yourself up and get moving again. For me, I have to make a joke about my stumble, this may not work for you as I said ‘don’t point out your faults‘ but sometimes, a little laugh at your own expense goes a long way. Just try to avoid talking about how much you’re sweating because you’re so nervous. This is also something I need to stop doing. I swear, once upon a time I had manners.
As you can see I may not be the best example of a public speaker, however, I am a great example of what not to do so that you can improve. Really, every time I present, I do it just to help everyone else get better. Pretty selfless if you ask me.