Last week I attended one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen in person and came away with some really important public speaking tips. Some of these are for advanced speakers, but they’re skills anyone can aspire to achieve.
1. Not Every Presentation Requires Visuals
Mark spoke for five hours, not including lunch and a few breaks, and he did it without using a single slide. I’ve seen that done for a standard keynote of 30 or 45 minutes, but not for this length of time.
And I was completely captivated. I think the lack of slides helped keep us focused intently on him and his message.
He didn’t use notes, either, which made it all the more impressive, since he had no obvious “cues” for his remarks.
I do like to use slides, but they’re almost entirely images instead of words. So they serve as true support to what I’m saying, as opposed to something that competes or interferes too much with my message (like a bunch of words). But a slide-free experience is something I’d like to experiment with.
2. There is Strength in Stillness
Mark planted himself firmly at the front of the room and stuck to that spot through nearly the entire workshop. He gestured, of course, and used his body, and occasionally took a step or two.
But for the most part he was completely still. And it was very, very powerful. It projected confidence and strength.
I tend to move around when I talk. Most people do, as a way to channel the nervous energy. I try not to do it too much, to move only with deliberation and purpose, but I’m going to work on minimizing my movement and see what happens.
3. The Best Stories are Personal
Storytelling, of course, is widely known as one of the most powerful forms of communication there is. But sometimes I worry about whether my stories are too much about me.
But Mark’s stories were all from his own experience, and they worked really, really well.
Too often, speakers go looking for stories online or from some business publication. But the most powerful stories are those we have personally experienced. Because they’re meaningful to us, our passion and conviction shine through, and that gets the audience engaged.
It’s true that you can probably go too far, but chances are, if it connects with you, it will connect with your audience.
4. Humor Works
In addition to storytelling, Mark emphasized the importance of humor, and I couldn’t agree more.
Humor humanizes us, it helps break down the walls between a speaker and his audience, and it’s entertaining. There’s nothing wrong with making a presentation fun.
Mark studies stand-up comedy. I took improv classes at Second City. Either way you go, a little professional comedy training can be invaluable to developing your speaking skills and boosting your creativity.
5. Be Yourself
Mark noted that there are two types of speakers: magnetic and dynamic. A dynamic speaker gives more of a performance—a larger-than-life type of experience—while a magnetic speaker is accessible, approachable, one of us.
Most of us fit the magnetic model. But a magnetic personality who tries to force himself into the dynamic mode will come across as fake and overbearing. Don’t feel you have to project that dynamic presence to be successful on stage. Just be true to yourself.
Want More Public Speaking Tips?
If you want more information on how to take your presentation skills to the next level, check out this list of expert sources I put together. These are some of the people whose wisdom I drew from in writing my book. There’s a lots of good stuff in those links.