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Public Speaking 101

Jan 01, 2007

Learn to give A+ presentations with tried-and-true tips from a top speaker.

Every day, fitness professionals speak to new clients and students with one common purpose in mind: to motivate, persuade, educate and positively influence them to take action steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Each time you speak to a potential client, a small group at a local community meeting or a sell-out audience at an IDEA conference session on stability training, stretching or some other fitness-related subject, your presentation delivery conveys as much about you as does your content. However, many fitness professionals have had very little formal training in giving dynamic presentations.

Want to become a master at delivering vibrant, memorable presentations? Courtesy of Len Kravitz, PhD, here are 10 strategies for making yourself really come alive when you have the exciting opportunity to stand up in front of a group of people you don’t know.

10 Important Keys

Key #1: Know Your Audience

In advance, try to find out your listeners’ concerns, interests and possible beliefs regarding the fitness topic you are presenting. What will people expect from you, and how can you best address their needs? For instance, talking to a group of inactive smokers and addressing a group of recreational enthusiasts require two very different speaking strategies and presentations.

Key #2: Define the Essence of Your Presentation

Every year, I work with undergraduate and graduate students who give lectures and presentations to their peers. As the students strive to show how much they know about a subject, they often start to ramble. The solution to this common speaking problem is to focus on the essence of your presentation. What is the essential information you are discussing or delivering? What are your main points? What actions or directions do you want your audience to take? Clearly define the concise objectives and the essence of your presentation, and you will avoid disappointing your audience and embarrassing yourself.

Key #3: Check Out Your Presentation Space

To ensure a successful presentation, it’s crucial to investigate your speaking area before you talk. In my many years of presenting, I have seen countless speakers fail to review their space and equipment in advance. Always arrive early, and assess your lecture space for movement if you are going to move. Identify where to place your props (such as dumbbells, tubing or other exercise devices). Determine where demonstrations will best be seen, and familiarize yourself with the audiovisual equipment and room lighting. All of us have had the (sad) opportunity to observe a presenter fumbling with equipment, demonstrating an exercise that no one beyond the first few rows could see or speaking with a microphone that was turned down too low. Remember, not preparing all aspects of your presentation space (and equipment) may undermine much of your professional credibility in the eyes of your audience.

Key #4: Know That It Is Okay to Be Nervous

Being nervous is a good sign. In many respects it shows that you really care about the speech you are about to deliver. One of the best ways to manage nervous tension is to begin your presentation with something that draws your audience toward you, establishing a positive speaker-to- audience connection. Here are some examples. Starting with a relevant quote can be very powerful. Sometimes a brief but entertaining story that is appropriate and related to the topic makes an effective beginning that will help you relax. Another option is to start with a fascinating or even shocking statistic. Some interesting audiovisual display can also provide a compelling way to attract the audience and calm your presentation nerves.

Key #5: Be the Enthusiastic Greeter

As attendees have observed at my IDEA conference sessions, I enjoy being the gregarious greeter of delegates at my presentations. Nowhere is it written that as a speaker you should avoid talking to audience members before your presentation! If you have the time and opportunity, meet and greet members of your audience before you speak. These actions, while building a communication bridge with your audience, will also settle your nerves.

Key #6: Speak With Passion

No one wants to come to a presentation to see a lecturer read his slides. So be sure to select a topic you have great enthusiasm and passion about. Allow that zest to come through as you speak to the audience. If you are not passionate about your topic, how and why will the audience be passionate about listening to you? Allow your energy and motivation to extend to those you are addressing.

Key #7: Wear the Right Attire

Without a doubt, dress appropriately for your listeners. Wear clothes in which you can effortlessly move, speak and interact with the audience and that people will feel comfortable looking at you in. For instance, I feel very restricted when I wear ties. Ties inhibit my movement; they make my gestures feel robotic to me and look robotic to the audience. So I always wear sharp slacks and dress shirts, which look “professional” to my audience and allow me to be natural in my movements. Your presentation and the way you look express much about you to your audience. Choose your attire accordingly.

Key #8: Practice, Practice Some More and Review

Great presentations are not like diffusion in biology—they don’t just happen. When you are underprepared, you will typically be so preoccupied with the wording of the speech that you may fail to develop an energetic, engaging style of communicating with your audience. However, how you practice will really make a difference in how you relate to your audience. Practicing your presentation in front of a mirror can be most enlightening. You can see little facial and bodily mannerisms that you were totally unaware of. Another worthwhile idea is to practice in front of respected colleagues and request their constructive feedback. And since most of us have access to camcorders, filming and reviewing your presentation is another valuable aid.

Key #9: Make Your Presentation Memorable

One of the most helpful activities you can do before a presentation is to ask and answer this question: “Is my presentation memorable?” Have you done the exhaustive research and preparation necessary to present the most applicable, meaningful and attention-grabbing presentation? Most audiences enjoy a varied, stimulating and thought-provoking talk. Only through your conscientious attention to details, facts and information will you be able to provide this.

Key #10: Dare to Be Different

Observe and learn from your fellow colleagues, but allow your presentation style to be different. Really focus on ways that you can distinguish yourself and establish a style unique to you. Try combining your experience, knowledge, passion, beliefs and creativity to develop the exceptional professional image you want to project. You don’t have to be outlandish, as we all have seen presenters who have attempted this strategy and failed. However, dig deep and embody those aspects of yourself that are different from others.

Ready to prepare for a dynamic presentation? Go for it—you can do it!

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1

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