Tips for a critical presentation

By: Lucell Larawan

SUPPOSE you were invited as a resource speaker for an important event, how will you prepare? Think of it as a critical time to show what you are worth. It can lead to open doors: launch careers, inspire employees, attract customers and investors and partners. Thus, how you rehearse makes a difference.

Steve Jobs is an exemplar whom Bill Gates called a “wizard” who “cast spells” on his audience and proclaimed by Fortune magazine as one who could set “hardened hearts aflutter.” John Sculley, the former Apple CEO, revealed: “Steve thought about every word, every step, every demo.”

Overcoming stage fright could be a challenge to many. Astronauts, airline pilots, and Navy SEALS are not born with the ability to remain calm in a crisis. No one is born to enthrall an audience. But the bigger the effort in the preparation, the more effortless and spontaneous the presentation.

I have some experience in delivering a message before an audience as a former business mentor. I also read a valuable article by Carmine Gallo, a Harvard Professor and author of “Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great”.

I cannot agree more that even the pros need practice. As a professor, I did not become content with only one source for my topic of discussion. I read professional journals and supplementary materials. I also spiced-in my personal encounters. The more exposed I was in teaching, the better I can articulate my thoughts in public.

Aside from previous speaking experience, there are also tips to improve one’s public presentation. One is the gospel of 10x by Larry Page. The co-founder of Google expected his team to create products 10 times better than the competition’s, not just improving by 10 percent. Anything less than this, Page reasoned, means just becoming like the rest. In public speaking, the concept applies. If you want to cast a spell, the least you can do is prepare far more than you’ve done in the past and 10 times more than your peers.

Being viewed 25 million times on the TED site is not a coincidence for Jill Bolte Taylor: She rehearsed her 18-minute TED Talk about 200 times before stepping onto the stage. It gave her a 10x advantage.

Another tip is to nail down the first and last two minutes of a presentation. The introduction gives the listeners a reason to care. The conclusion determines what they should bring home and how they will feel after the delivery. Giving emphasis on the introduction and conclusion gives confidence without the memorization of every line. Every word, however, must be memorized for strictly 18-minute presentations like the TED Talk.

Aside from giving emphasis on the first and last two minutes of your speech, Sian Beilock shares: “Even practicing under mild levels of stress can prevent you from choking when high levels of stress come around.”  This means inviting some audience for practice—what Adam Grant did for Susan Cain’s preparation in TED Talk; he gathered about 30 of his students and alumni to watch her practice.

One can also record his or her rehearsal through a smartphone. Gallo emphasized: “By watching your presentation, you will instantly catch distracting habits such as fidgeting, averting eye contact, or flipping your hair. Look for areas where you seem unsure of yourself or fumble your words. Those are the sections you’ll want to rehearse out loud or on the drive home.”

Lastly, getting the feedback of one’s run-through is valuable.

If you want to improve your public speaking, set aside hours of dry run to be the best version of yourself.