by Julian Goldsmith

Five tips on presenting and public speaking

May 21, 20123 mins
IT Leadership

I just came across this useful five-point guide to presenting and public speaking on Forbes, through LinkedIn.

The author has tried to cut through a lot of the babble about presenting to give some good practical advice, which I think should be useful to CIOs, who have to sell their ideas to a variety of people: budget planners, board-members, stakeholders and staff.

I recommend reading the original article but here are the top-line points, with some reflections on my own experiences.

1 Get comfortable:I remember using yoga breathing exercises to calm my nerves just before going into my final exams at university. Conversly, the article recommends laughter.

I recall talking with one speaker at a press conference once who told me a joke just before he went on.

On stage, he told the same joke and realised he had been rehearsing his act on me.

I’ve also interviewed CIOs, shortly before they were to present on stage. We discussed the key issues for them at the moment, which happened to be the focus of their presentations.

This must have helped them organise their thoughts and reassured them to bounce ideas off me.

2 Accept discomfort:This is a sensible piece of advice. Acknowledge you are only human and presenting is a daunting task.

Feed off the feeling of anxiety if you can and channel that energy into your presentation.

3 Address the audience as individuals:The article focuses here on the correct tone of voice to suit the listeners, but it’s also about developing a rapport with them.

I always seek eye contact with as many people in turn as possible when I am speaking to a group, so that I can assess their reactions to what I am saying.

The main thing is to keep in mind that you are there to be listened to and you need to keep individuals’ attention to get their understanding and engagement.

4 Double the passion, halve the content:My experience at script-writing showed me that it is important to focus on one or two key messages.

The more detail you have, the more likely most of it will not be assimilated by your audience.

Even the most diligent of listeners won’t be able to take in all of your power point presentation, so consider ditching it.

If you are excited about what you are saying, you will carry the audience with you. If you have to remember lots of facts and figures, you are likely to be more subdued and this will be reflected by the people you are talking to.

5 Encourage discussion:Leaving lots of time open to the floor means you have less time to fill with your presentation.

More importantly, if you engage your audience, they will be persuading themselves of the value of your messages.

The ultimate aim of your presentations is to get buy-in from the audience, so let them do the work for you.

This means making the presentation compelling and contentious in the first place, or you will be greeted with stoney silence at the Q&A stage.