- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Giving a public presentation can be an exhilarating experience: A roomful of people all listening to you, just waiting for you to deliver your incredible insights!
At the same time, it can be tremendously nerve-racking: What if you mess up? Or bore your audience?
If there’s anyone who can help with these quandaries, it’s Chris Anderson, curator of TED and author of the new book, “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.” Business Insider spoke with Anderson in May and he offered up his best public-speaking advice.
Read on to find out how to give a compelling presentation that leaves your listeners wanting more.
- Matt Cardy/Getty
1. Practice – a lot
Anderson saidthe difference between “owning” a talk and letting it own you is simply rehearsal.
Yet he thinks a lot of people don’t realize the importance of practice when it comes to public speaking.
“Most people think that what they have to do is just write down some bullet points and then kind of stand up on stage and try to make it happen,” he said. “That definitely can be terrifying depending on how natural you are.”
Moreover, standing up to give a so-so speech can be a waste of your audience’s time. “You’re talking to some other people; that’s a lot of time invested by them,” he said. “So it’s right for you to invest plenty of time preparing for it.”
- Al Bello/Getty
2. Prepare one story that you’re confident will land well with the audience
Anderson cited Monica Lewinsky as an example of a TED speaker who crafted her talk around one awesome story. Once that tidbit went over well with the audience, she felt more relaxed and confident about the rest of the presentation.
Here’s the story Lewinsky used:
The night of my speech [at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit], a surprising thing happened. At the age of 41, I was hit on by a 27-year-old guy. I know, right? He was charming and I was flattered, and I declined. You know what his unsuccessful pickup line was? He could make me feel 22 again.
Anderson recommends using this strategy if you’re nervous about the talk, and worried about your audience’s reaction.
- David Rogers/Getty Images
3. If you’re nervous, say so
You might think the audience is rooting for your failure, but Anderson said they’re generally “dying for you to succeed.”
So they probably won’t mind if you explain that you’re feeling anxious about public speaking – especially if you do it with a little bit of humor.
Here’s Anderson: “If you actually go on stage and you’re still feeling nervous, it’s okay just to tell the audience that. Audiences like honesty; they will actually embrace people.”
4. Make sure your audience understands what you’re talking about
One of the biggest public-speaking mistakes Anderson has seen is speakers neglecting to make sure their listeners understand what their talk is about:
They forget what it’s like not to know something. If you’re very familiar with a topic, you make all kinds of assumptions when you talk about it to other people. You might use jargon or you might just assume that people know a concept that is completely obvious to you.
He suggests practicing in front of a group of people with a similar knowledge level as your audience. Periodically ask if they got that last bit of information or if something wasn’t clear – then tweak as necessary.