Do you have the goal, the vision, the desire to be highly successful in your career or business in 2023?
If this is on your agenda, then you have probably worked on improving your professional skills and getting the certifications you need, and no doubt you’ll have considered the connections you need to take the next step. But have you also looked at and worked enough on your so-called ‘soft skills’?
There is one area that is incredibly important for anyone who wants to become extremely successful, and that is your communication, public speaking and presentation skills.
You may have heard this quote from Warren Buffet before: “The one skill to improve your value by 50 percent is public speaking.”
Well, it is true.
In my public speaking workshops, I always ask my audiences the following question:
“Imagine you are the best communicator in your team, will it have an impact on your career?”
The audience always answers: “Yes!”
“Imagine you are the best communicator in your company, will it have an impact on your career?”
The audience answers: “Yes, 100%!”
“Imagine you are the best communicator in your industry, will it have an impact on your career?”
The audience answers: “Yes, without a doubt!”
After we have established the impact that outstanding public speaking skills can have on your success, it is time to believe that you can improve and that all starts with a growth mindset. “To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are,” as said Muhammad Ali.
And public speaking is a skill that can be learned — I have seen it countless times how people that work hard and challenge themselves become exceptional speakers. It is possible.
Becoming a great speaker is a honed skill like becoming a martial arts black belt. You need to practice with discipline, be dedicated to learning techniques, to test them in training, and do this over and over again until you are ready to become a ‘black belt.’ So how can you take your communication skills to the next level and ace any presentation in the boardroom and even on the big stage?
There are many ways to achieve excellence in communication, whether you study at home and apply the knowledge you learned in the field, join a public speaking training organisation like Toastmasters, or work with a public speaking coach. Here are a few ways anyone can improve their skills no matter where you are on your journey.
The first building block to winning communication is to represent. This idea can be applied to your message and your delivery.
As a communicator it is your job to share your message in a way that enables the audience to represent your message in another setting to others. Therefore, you must tell your message in a way that is relatable, logical (for the audience), and memorable.
Very often, professionals are told they only have two or three slides, or a short speaking slot. As a result, the presenter puts as much content as possible on these few slides, making it a cluttered mess with the main message unclear. The audience is not able to memorise what was really important.
Having an overarching key message and a concise take-away is what will ensure your content is represented impactfully to others. And don’t fill your slides with words.
The other aspect of Represent is to help the audience to remember you. Think about a pitch setting where multiple companies are presenting their solutions to one potential client. After four or five presentations, it becomes difficult to remember everyone, but a strong individual that dares to stand out of the crowd will be remembered. Like it or not, it starts with your appearance. My afro, for example, is my key trademark and it makes it easy for people to remember me because very few people have this hairstyle. It might be the clothes you wear that make you memorable. The occasion might demand a suit but maybe you can play with colour or cut.
But above all, audiences will remember an authentic delivery. Focus less on perfection and more on being yourself — not just the corporate version of you. This will ensure your audience goes out and Represents your message.
Walt Disney used this term in the 1950s because he understood that media which educates through entertainment is more effective than boring education materials. You can use this approach in the business world. Almost every presentation aims to educate and share new information, so ask yourself: How can I add a layer of entertainment to this content?
It is very important to clarify here that entertainment is not just humour. While humour is a great tool, entertainment is so much more: storytelling, audience interaction — anything that brings a wow factor to your content.
If you aren’t sure how to do this — ask your team! There is nothing wrong with brainstorming how to incorporate a wow-factor moment. Together you can find the best stories that add value, or ideate how to create a memorable audience interaction. You might be presenting on your own, but presentation preparation need not be a solo job.
Connaction is fusion of connection and action.
Many speakers fail to connect with the audience, meaning all they have said is swiftly forgotten and, sometimes, they are not even aware of what it means to create a connection with the audience. We have all observed speakers walking up and down the stage looking at the floor but never at the audience, or with their back towards the audience because they are only looking and talking at the screen. Sometimes, presentations only focus on the professional content but neglect the need for an emotional connection.
An authentic delivery, strong eye contact, open body language, telling personal stories, audience interaction, and talking with (and not just to) the audience are some techniques to make sure that you are turning a monologue into a dialogue. All seasoned presenters understand the importance of connecting with an audience to demand and retain their attention.
One of my favourite philosophies is: “Every speech is an opportunity to inspire.”
We should always strive to inspire action — to encourage the audience to act and look at situations differently. No matter how big or small the stage, how young or old the audience, they all deserve to see the best version of yourself that creates a magical connection and achieves the desired outcome.
There you have it, my three approaches — Represent, Presentainment, and Connaction — that lead to a wealth of ideas to take your public speaking and presentation skills to the next level!
Flo Akinbiyi is a communication specialist: a presenter, public speaker, and communication coach. Check out his free course, 5 Public Speaking Strategies from World Class Leaders, where he explains the art of effective public speaking in more detail.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional business/career advice or diagnosis and should never be relied upon for specific business/career advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of professionals, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of The Gaggler.