Communication takes place all the time, even when we are not aware of it. But there comes a time when we have something special to say. A message that only we can deliver and we need to be ready. So here are a few quick tips to help you get over the hump and do better at your next engagement whether it is a presentation, an interview or a networking event.
1- The audience is not out to get you. Your audience is curious about your message. The HR manager is looking to fill a spot in the company, the guy at the networking event is looking to expand his circle of acquaintances, and the audience in the room wants to learn from you. So look at them as your allies. Engage your audience by asking questions – at a presentation, plant a mole or two in your audience if you must, if you know someone’s name, direct a question or two at that person.
2- Stand tall. When you elongate your torso your voice sounds stronger. Face your feet forward to project a stronger image, and keep your hands above your waist line. You can hold on to a paper or the pointer or the remote control if you have to. Ah, gesticulate.
3- Dress the part. Whether you are going out to a networking event, giving a class or being interviewed, be aware of the image you want to portray, and dress accordingly. The way you look has an impact on how people react to you and how much weight they will give to what you say – especially if this is your first time addressing them.
4- Fake it, if you must. Your audience can sense your emotional state and you want to pass confidence to them. If you do not feel confident enough, emulate someone else’s energy – just make sure it is someone appropriate for the occasion. It’s not that hard, just finish this sentence and emulate that person’s energy: I wish I was [person’s name] right now. But, since audience members are your allies (refer to #1 above), you can also count on their support.
5- Know your stuff. The above is outward stuff. They influence your image and how people look at and react to you. But to keep them interested, you need to have a message. So, know your subject well and be aware of the things you do not know. Be sincere in your desire to get the answers the audience asks for and you do not have, get email addresses (you may already have them in your sign-in sheet), and follow through.
6- Be prepared. Whether it is an hour-long presentation or a networking event, think in terms of the takeaways you want to provide. Study, research, prepare, and rehearse. It can be as simple as having your elevator pitch ready. I am awkward at networking events and prefer it when people come to me, but that is leaving too much to chance, so I always go over my E.P. at home and while driving.
7- Know your audience. Make sure to describe your presentation well in your abstract so as to attract the right audience. I can guarantee that delivering a presentation geared to freelancers to an audience of employees has a very high likelihood of going wrong. Been there. Done that.
8- The unexpected is a feature ingredient of most presentations. Be flexible. The projector is not working? Use your handouts. No handouts? How about an impromptu Q&A directed by the audience? And, yes, it is okay to share your frustration with your audience, just do not bad-mouth your host.
Public speaking does not come easy to most people. It does require preparation, practice and the right attitude – the generic recipe for success in any endeavor. The above will not turn you into a Cicero or a Bill Clinton, but I hope it will help you feel more comfortable about doing a presentation or simply encourage you to attend that next networking event. And that is the first step.
More material on elevator pitch
– Tips on voice training: http://www.wikihow.com/Talk-With-a-Deeper-Voice and http://www.wikihow.com/Develop-a-Perfect-Speaking-Voice
Giovanna (Gio) Lester has worked in the translation and interpreting fields since 1980. Born in Bahia, Brazil, she has lived in the US since 1985. She is very active in the associations she is affiliated to – American Translators Association, National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, National Association of Judiciary Translators and Interpreters, Asociación Internacional de Profesionales de la Traducción y la Interpretación, the International Medical Interpreters Association, and ATA’s newest Chapter, Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) which she co-founded and served as its first elected president (1/2011-12/2012). As a writer, Gio has contributed to ATA’s The Chronicle, revived The Interpreters Voice (for ATA’s Interpreters Division) and FLATAFlash (for the original Florida Chapter), created CMI Tides for the National Board, and Speaking Out! for ATIF, and is a current contributor to the NAJIT Blog. She frequently gives presentations both in the US and abroad on the subject of translation and interpreting. Gio calls Pinecrest, FL home. You can find her on Twitter @cariobana.