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Ten top tips for public speaking
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Posted by IPG
Four popular speakers and chairs from recent IPG Conferences share their advice for sharpening up presentation skills

1 Know your subject

I can’t think of anything more terrifying than having to stand up and talk about income tax or quantum physics. Only agree to speak on something if you are experienced and expert in it. Nicki Howard, director, Gill Books

2 Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Go over your speech a number of times out loud. What reads well on paper can sometimes be really difficult to say. But also know when to stop: you don’t want to be over-slick, and a few hiccups can sometimes be better than appearing overly polished. Nicki Howard
Things are much less likely to go wrong if you practice. I tend to go through a speech in detail but then try to hone it down to just remembering the key themes, so I can speak without referring to notes too much. Visual tools like Powerpoint can help if you lose your way. Helen Kogan, managing director, Kogan Page

3 Get your bearings

Arrive early at wherever you are speaking and familiarise yourself with the room and where you'll stand. Find out whether you'll be wired for sound and if so how that will work, and make sure there's some water on hand. Familiarity will breed confidence. Jonathan Harris, IPG President

4 Harness your nerves

Being nervous is normal for most of us when we speak in public. I try to think of nervousness as my ally: it keeps me focused and gives me that bit of adrenaline that helps me to perform. Jonathan Harris

5 Embrace the goodwill

Remember that everyone in the room wants you to do well. Try to embrace that goodwill to give you momentum. Nicki Howard
The audience is on your side and wants you to succeed. If you can remember that, and take strength from it, you're at least 50% of the way to a successful presentation. Jim Smith, IPG Patron

6 Enjoy being yourself

Authenticity is the key to being able to engage with your audience. You have to presume that people want to hear what you have to say and that nobody wants your nerves to get on top of you. Helen Kogan
Smiling helps to build a rapport with the audience. I often imagine that I've got a really supportive friend sitting at the back of the room, and talk directly to them, knowing they’ll be pleased to hear what I have to say. Jonathan Harris

7 Tell a story

In Develop Your Presentation Skills (Kogan Page), Theo Theobald suggests taking members of an audience on a journey. Try to deliver your talk in a narrative style: it helps to keep people’s attention and is a good aid to learning your speech, too. Helen Kogan

8 Begin and end strongly

Aim to start well and end well. What you say in the middle may be more important in terms of content, but your listeners will remember the beginning and the end. Jim Smith

9 Look up

Most of us need some words in front of us, whether on paper or a screen, and it’s really important that you’re very familiar with them. As soon as your head's down and you are reading verbatim, your audience will be that bit less interested in what you're saying. I find bullet points better than sentences, large print better than small, and paper better than screen, but it's a question of what works best for you. Jonathan Harris

10 Keep going

The only thing that can kill a presentation is silence. I once saw someone falter when giving a talk, but immediately start spouting a long list of groceries. After listing about a dozen items, he said: “Sorry about that—I got completely lost for a minute, so decided to run through my shopping list.” Having bought himself some recovery time, he carried on as if nothing had happened, and the audience loved it. Jim Smith

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