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7 Steps to Being a Great Public Speaker

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If you are going to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be a great presenter. At various times, you will be in front of audiences that could include potential financing sources, customers, the media and others who can ease your path to become known and respected in your niche--or make it incredibly difficult for you. How you come across when communicating your ideas has a lot to do with whether others will help you or not.

Here is a core set of guidelines to help you as you craft and deliver your presentations.

1. Make Sure Your Audience is Ready to Listen

If you are presenting to one individual or a small group, it's a good practice to make sure you have their permission to start your presentation. If they have something else on their mind and you don't deal with it first, their attention will be diverted. So ask if the audience is ready for you to begin before you proceed.

2. Summarize Up Front and Keep it Simple

When you start a presentation to a group, don't have a long, meandering introduction. Tell them quickly what you are going to discuss in just a few points--three is a good number. Why three and not six or 10? Because the half-life of your audience's memory is likely to be very brief. It has often been said that by the time an audience leaves your presentation, they've forgotten 20 percent of what you said. By the following day, they've lost 50 percent of your message. Within four days, they can't recall 80 percent of what you said. So boil it down to three core things. Tell them the three points you are going to cover, then cover them, then tell them what you just told them.

3. What's In it For Me?

When you convey your points, all that matters to the audience is what's in it for them. While it's your presentation, it's not about you. They don't care about you. They care about themselves. So your presentation has to be focused on their needs.

4. Show, Don't Tell

No matter what you are conveying, you want to show people, through real anecdotes and human stories, what you mean. Personalized stories are always more convincing than statistics or generalities alone.

5. Take Control

When you present to a group, your audience wants you to take control of the room. The groundrules are yours to set. If you want questions at the end and not during the presentation, say so. If you want to request that people silence their cell phones and other electronic gear, let them know. Want the room set up a certain way? Arrive early and rearrange it to suit your needs. Taking control is not possible if you arrive for your presentation two minutes before it's due to start. Whenever possible, arrive one hour early. Try to get access to the meeting room and make sure it's set up in a way that will benefit you. Arriving early will also assure that you have time to relax, cool off (or warm up), comb your hair and otherwise get comfortable.

6. Stage Management

Where is your light coming from? Not every presentation room has great lighting. If you stand in the wrong place in some rooms, your features will be washed out. Make sure you optimize where you position yourself. Avoid podiums if at all possible. Obstructing the audience's view of you with a block of wood minimizes the impact of what you're saying and puts an emotional barrier (as well as a physical one) between you and your listeners. The podium is usually a crutch for the speaker--literally something to hold onto. Whereever possible, try to avoid it.

7. Connect with Individuals

Some people talk to a room in the "say and spray" style -- they keep their eyes darting all around the room from person to person, without ever really landing to convey an idea or concept. Instead, find a person in the room and sell your statement. Wait for the nod or acknowledgement before moving on to another person. When other people see someone in their group connecting with you, they will listen more intently to what you're saying because they know their turn is coming and you'll be focusing on them soon.

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