Top tips for public speaking and presenting in front of large crowds, overcoming nerves and staying on topic

2017 has been a year of putting myself “out there” and pushing myself well beyond my comfort zone. As part of this self-imposed “year of overcoming fear” I have tried many things that, quite frankly, terrify me: I’ve climbed rock-climbing walls, I’ve touched a snake (eek!) but most terrifying of all, I’ve done a few public speaking gigs and presentations (the most recent of which were 2 hours each!).

Those of you who know me personally probably find me high-energy, personable and not shy in the least but, as with many people, put me in front of a room of faces and I become the “introverted extrovert”.

So, do you have what it takes to be an engaging public speaker? It’s not rocket science but this infographic from gives the low-down on the 20 Habits of Truly Brilliant Presenters.

Habit #1: Acknowledge and Reframe
I don’t think there’s a speaker, performer or presenter on the planet who doesn’t experience nerves. Acknowledge the butterflies but don’t let them overcome you.

Habit #2: Focus on the Audience
As with all things in business, it’s all about audience and the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor. Research who you are speaking to and keep them in top of mind when creating your presentation.

Habit #3: Don’t Try to be Perfect
I don’t think I’m the world’s best public speaker by any stretch, (TEDx haven’t called me to present at their next Melbourne event) but we’re all human: we all make mistakes. Just be the best you can be and be authentic!

Habit #4: Stick to the Point
Also known as, don’t waffle! Cut to the very core of what you are trying to say in the planning stages of your presentation and ensure you answer (what you believe to be from your research and the brief) your audience’s questions from the outset.

Habit #5: See the Opportunity
Presenting is a skill that you will rely upon more and more as your career progresses: the more well-known you are, the more you will be called upon to present. See each presentation as an opportunity to hone your skills and develop as a speaker.

Habit #6: Anchor Yourself
As it happens, I am currently studying to be an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner and the fascinating “anchoring” technique can assist in changing your state from anxious and stressed to happy and relaxed, i.e. “go to your happy place”. Take a moment to close your eyes, take some deep breaths and deeply experience a very happy and relaxed time in your life before presenting. Practice this in the lead-up to your presentation and meditate on it. It’s incredibly powerful.

Habit #7: Practice Makes Perfect
Practice practice practice! I practice on my children, my husband, on video. I record myself and listen back, the more times you practice your presentation, the more confident you will be at the live event.

Habit #8: Tell Stories
Storytelling is a powerful tool to convey relevant information in a meaningful way. It can be as simple as using similes, metaphors and allegories or giving your own first-hand transformational story of how you solved your audience’s problem.

Habit #9: Be Colourful and Creative
A fun presentation is a memorable presentation! Change things up with interesting images, colourful (don’t go overboard) slides and imaginative language. Some people learn linguistically while others learn visually: ensure you cater to both types of learners.

Habit #10: Involve Your Audience
Ask questions: it’s the easiest way to get your audience involved, especially in live presentations. Being interactive with your audience encourages them to interact and learn together. It also livens things up!

Habit #11: Use Videos and Props
If a picture is a thousand words, a video is a million. Videos convey huge amounts of information in a very short amount of time and can evoke impactful emotions. Don’t rely too heavily on video as your audience are there to see YOU but use them if they are relevant.

Habit #12: Use Your Voice
Your voice is your instrument! Vary your tone, pitch, pace and volume to keep your audience interested and to have more impact!

Habit #13: Stay in the Present
Try not to worry too much about what your audience is thinking: people can be very difficult to read (well, unless everyone is walking out!). If you feel you are losing your audience’s attention, take a deep breath and stay focused!

Habit #14: Make Friends with the Audience
In the recent series of talks I gave, I had a wonderful time with my audience! Smile, tell (appropriate) ajokes, ask questions and genuinely listen to the responses. You will learn a lot about your audience and add value to their experience!

Habit #15: Know Your Stuff
Research, research, research: for a two hour talk I’ll do 8+ hours of preparation. Research helps you be confident that you know all you need to know and are prepared for all the curly questions your audience might throw at you!

Habit #16: Be Consistent
Speak consistently about your experience, values and emotions. Consistency makes people feel comfortable, relaxed and receptive to the information you are delivering.

Habit #17: Be Generous
When you are presenting to a room full of people, be mindful that these people have given up their time to hear you speak. That’s a generous thing to do; be generous in return with your passion, energy, attention and information! Don’t appear to be distracted or disinterested, even if you’re nervous.

Habit #18: Compare and Contrast
When presenting two options to your audience, even in the context of education, drawing comparisons and highlighting the contrasts in a clear and meaningful way helps people make decisions in an easier way.

Habit #19: Give Them a Good Reason
Using a rational, practical and logical argument is far more compelling in most cases than playing to emotions.

Habit #20: Give Them Hope
In the recent series of presentations I gave (on social media) many of the attendees were not confident that they could execute the techniques I was showing them in their own lives. Give people hope that they, too, will be able to achieve the goal you are presenting. As with all things in life and business, we all start out as amateurs.

Do you have any top public speaking tips you’d like to share?