Advocacy is an incredibly powerful tool for boosting your presentation skills. For politicians, salespeople and lawyers it is essential but it can help anyone who has to present to an audience.
Barristers learn this skill and it is taught by many top fee paying schools as an essential for leadership but anyone can learn the techniques, so here are five steps to turbocharge your presentation:
FIRST – FOCUS ON THE ACTION
First, you need to focus on the steps you want your audience to take. This is about so much more than just imparting information.
Perhaps you want them to vote for you, or buy a product, or join a movement for social change. Or maybe you want to impress your colleagues and advance your career – a good ten minute speech will build your reputation more effectively than months of unrecognised desk bound effort.
You also need to know your audience, so you can understand how they feel at the start of your performance and what you will need to achieve in the time you are in front of them.
SECOND – CONTENT IS KING
Presenters can get over anxious about body language or nerves. But think of the great speakers that you have seen in action – do Boris Johnson, Tony Blair or David Cameron worry about body language? Many of the personal traits you might think you need to eliminate actually make you look more authentic and less rehearsed. Once on stage it’s much more productive to be thinking about what you will say next than worrying about having your hand in your pocket or how many times you have said ‘erm’.
So you need really good content and it should be assembled in a way that makes your case. It is important to understand causation – why will doing what you recommend achieve this result? And why will this result benefit your audience? Those are two key questions that you need to address.
Also consider the possible objections and how they can be neutralised.
THIRD – BUILD AROUND A CLEAR STRUCTURE
All the content should be assembled in a structure. Every speech should have an opening, a middle and a closing – like a game of chess. The Opening is where you build rapport, the Middle is where you make your case, and the Close is where you call to Action. Having a structure ensures that you remember all your key points and that you make them at the right time.
FOURTH – USE DEVICES APPROPRIATELY
You can use a range of devices in your speech but they must be deployed at the right time and in the right way for maximum impact:
Data – used to back up your arguments with facts and build authenticity. Don’t do too much of this, just select a few impactful figures and focus on them. A blizzard of stats will lose your audience. Data should be used in the Middle of the speech.
Experiences – it’s become fashionable in management circles to describe these as Storytelling. Their value is in their memorability. Your experiences are unique to you and they are the part of your speech that most people will recall. Use them to build rapport in the Opening and to illustrate your case in the Middle.
Humour – can be tricky as it depends on good timing so thorough practice is needed if it is going to work. Use it to break the ice and build rapport in the Opening and perhaps to break up a lengthy Middle. Avoid anything that will cause offence. If you aren’t sure a remark is funny, that is because it isn’t.
Emotion – creating an emotional response is a great way of building support but you mustn’t over use it. In particular, your case should rely on logic and causation, not emotion. I suggest that you save it for the Closing where you can boost your call to Action.
FIFTH – PREPARATION BUILDS CONFIDENCE
It takes time but an important speech should be rehearsed until you are comfortable with it. Initially this is as easy as writing it down and reading it aloud, possibly recording your efforts and playing it back.
You will be able to spot words that you trip over and these should be changed. Longer sentences should be broken up to give you space to take a breath – otherwise you will rush and stumble.
Bear in mind that practice always takes less time than the real performance. You need to leave space for applause and laughter but even if there is no audience reaction it will still take a bit longer, so shorten your speech to create some spare time.
Capitalise key words in each sentence so that you lean into them and emphasise them.
After several practices you should be familiar with the phrases so that you can present without notes or at least not falter if you lose your place on the big day.
FINALLY – THE BIG DAY
Arrive early so you can get a feel for the room. Do the microphones work? Are there strange echoes you need to get used to? How do the audience feel? Are there any distractions?
And when you finish, take stock of how it went and what you can do to improve next time. Perhaps over a glass of wine – you will have earned it!
My blog contains a lot of useful tips for speakers and they are available for free, but I also work one to one with clients, ensuring they can Be Their Best when it really counts. You can Contact me for a free consultation.