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3 Powerful Public Speaking Tips

All l the great speakers were bad speakers once. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You’re the new operations manager and you have been asked to address the executive leadership team on last quarter’s safety performance and the strategy going forward. The meeting is next week and you have 30 minutes…an eternity in executive leader time. Are you so excited that you start immediately taking notes about your message, or are you like the rest of us and feel a bit queasy about the thought of giving a presentation in front of other people.

Public speaking generally falls near the top of the list of the things we fear most, or maybe it’s really the fear of making a total “you know what” of ourselves in public. If you are one of those people (like I used to be), there is good news…everything will be all right and you will do just fine! Why? Because the audience wants you to be successful, they are pulling for you! Of course, practice and lots of it helps to.

In addition, here are 3 tips to remember and master to have a successful presentation.

  1. Verbal – your message. It must be relevant to you audience. What do you want them to know? What do you want them to do? And how do you want them to feel? For example, if the VP of Human Resources is in your audience, you can show how safety increases employee engagement. Injury rates will not likely be relevant to an audience of front line employees. If you can put your message in the form of a story, even better. For a good reading on sticky messages, see Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick.

  2. Vocal – how you sound. Project your voice so people can hear you clearly. Use voice inflection to emphasize key points. Use a pause to allow a key point to sink in. Too often speakers feel like they must fill up empty spaces because it just feels uncomfortable. I filled up empty spaces because I was nervous which caused me to talk fast. Pauses are good! They leave your audience wondering for just a moment what will come next. Pauses also allow you to gather your thoughts for a moment. Let your enthusiasm come through. Nothing says you don’t care like an unenthusiastic presentation.

  3. Visual – how you look. Our bodies have a language of their own, and their words aren’t always kind. Stand tall. A good body posture projects a positive image. Move with purpose. For example, take a step toward the audience when you make a key point, then step back and pause to allow it to sink in. Use open palms and hands which conveys trust vs pointing and using exaggerated gestures. Make an emotional connection by making and holding eye contact for a few seconds. Use props to help your audience visualize and remember your message. Finally, depending on your audience, dress how you want to be addressed.

It’s not always what you say, but how you say it and how you look when you say it. According to a study by Albert Mehrabian; if what you say is not aligned with how you sound and how you look, you audience is more likely to believe how you look or sound than what you actually say.

Safety professionals are expected to know hazards and mitigation tactics, how to conduct investigations, run audit programs and safety committees, etc. Possessing technical skills and knowledge is the price of entry into most fields and professions, but it is often the soft skills, in particular public speaking and presentation skills that influence change.

Are you attending Safety 2017 in Denver and want to enhance your presentation skills? Join me and Camille Oaks at 11:00, Thursday, June 22 in session 726; It’s All in the Presentation – Techniques to Enhance Your Presentation Skills.

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