Think about the last presentation you saw that really stuck with you.
You probably remember being impressed by the speaker’s conviction, their confidence, their knowledge of the subject. What was it that made it so you just couldn’t look away?
Chances are, it wasn’t one thing, but a combination.
Impressive public speaking comes down to a smart and intentional mixture of a few things: goals, content, delivery, and mindset. Additionally, it’s worth noting here that an “impressive” presentation does not come from someone who walks into a room and goes, “alright! I’m going to be impressive now.”
Here are a few steps you can take if you’re hoping to leave a lasting impression on your audience:
1. Ask What Your Goal Actually Is
I get asked frequently, “How can I be impressive as a speaker?”
My bigger question in response is, “Why do you want to impress people?” Because if we’re aiming to simply impress, then it’s quite possible that the content we’re giving isn’t going to be useful—nevermind the risk of our ego getting too involved.
Without a concrete goal, we won’t be doing much of a service to our audience.
So ask yourself instead, “What is the greatest value I can bring while speaking, and what is the best possible way to bring that value?” These questions take your ego out of the equation and focus on the audience. It’s less about presenting yourself as the hero with all this restorative knowledge and impressive slides, and more as a mentor—someone who is there to help others in their own journey.
That way you don’t put anyone off by flashing your ego around and overstating your own importance.
Essentially, it’s better to be thinking about what people really need from you, because if you deliver that, you’ll actually impress them. You’ll have given them something they care deeply about.
2. Make Your Content Specific to Your Audience
You’ve got to have great content that people will care about.
A fantastic talk you give to one audience can’t be rehashed for another. I’ve seen this happen and it bombs every time. People think, “Well, I got a good reaction at the last conference. I’ll just take that and change a couple of things.”
But that reduces the specificity that was the key to the last success.
You have to get really in the weeds when it comes to people’s’ goals and how they want to achieve them. This may mean asking a series of questions around what’s worked for them in the past and what hasn’t, or it may mean simply spending some time thinking about what your audience’s best possible outcome would look like.
The important thing here is that you focus all of your content on the audience rather than on yourself.
3. Be Genuine in Your Delivery
Once you start talking, you have to be sure what you’re saying has genuine passion and conviction behind it.
I mean it. Nobody will ever be more enthused about your idea than you are. When you’re fully physically and vocally committed to the message, people become more compelled to watch. Now, this doesn’t mean being loud or big, necessarily. It just means giving all of your energy.
If a person is committing their energy to the delivery—whether they’re doing it slowly, quickly, quietly, or loudly—and they’re speaking with enthusiasm and complete conviction, then we are more compelled to watch. No half-heartedness. No disinterest. No questions. Even if you need to be somber, it doesn’t matter. It’s the conviction that really works.
And to do that with your delivery, you can’t just look through your slides and memorize your content. You need to rehearse—stand up if you’re going to be standing, be loud if you’re going to be loud. You have to get used to the level of presentation you want to give so that it becomes muscle memory.
Then it will be an immediate and natural impulse to commit your energy to what you’re saying when you speak.
4. Focus Your Mindset
Finally, making time to mentally prepare yourself before speaking is crucial.
You have to make sure you’re in the best state possible before you deliver your message. Make sure you feel centered and can commit the energy you need to give the delivery your content deserves.
If anything is making you feel agitated or distracted, go for a walk or do a short meditation to clear your head. Take long, deep breaths while counting, or visualize the event going well. Your only thought should be “I am 100% focused on serving this audience.”
Then, you’ll have set aside your ego, calmed your primal mind, and you’ll be ready.
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