Audience-Friendly Presentation Style Habits in Three Easy Steps

NIne years of coaching business speakers have made it clear to me: there’s a body of public speaking style habits that pass from one presenter to another. The biggest question is “are these public speaking habits helping or hurting?”

Many public speaking style habits are not audience-friendly. They create barriers between you and the audience, they’re boring, or they make it hard for the audience to pay attention to you. If the audience feels remote and bored, they won’t respond to your call-to-action and they’ll wonder why they bothered to attend.

The list below describes the poor habits and the audience-friendly habits you can use instead. Change one habit at a time and enjoyed increased audience satisfaction ratings and an enhanced reputation.

  • Talking towards screen or slide Talking about media while facing the audience
  • Lack of eye contact with the audience Connecting with individual audience members for 2-3 seconds at a time
  • Reading bullets Explaining the information in your own words
  • Announcing or reading slide titles Opening each topic with an interesting and attention-getting statement
  • Boring transitions between presenters Value-add transitions between presenters that keep the story flowing
  • Audible “next slide, please” Hand gesture or nodding to indicate you’re ready for the next slide
  • “Uhs” and “ums” between every thought Silent pauses while you’re thinking
  • How can you do replace your poor public speaking habits with great ones?

    Once you know your content fluently you can begin. Have a colleague video tape your presentation. Your helper should record your opening and 5 minutes following it, then about 5 minutes in the middle, and then the last 5 minutes. Short stretches spread out over the whole presentation will give you enough material to work with, but you won’t be overwhelmed with trying to analyze the whole thing.

    Use these three techniques to add audience-friendly habits to your presentations:

    1. Specifically identify which of these poor habits you have. Avoid a general evaluation such as “I look terrible.”

    2. Create an affirmative plan for change. Select one habit to improve. In order of importance, 1) start with habits that ignore the audience; 2) improve your oral content, so you say things in your own words; 3) work on substituting silent pauses for “uhs” and “ums” and using gestures/nods instead of “next slide, please.”

    3. Once you have added one audience-friendly habit to your presentation style, move on to another one. Taking your habits one at a time and creating a strategy for change for each one is more effective than trying to change many things at the same time.

    When you Put the Audience first, and focus on how to increase the Return on Investment of every audience member, every time, you will find it easy to replace your poor speaking habits with audience-friendly ones.

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