PR professionals work hard to craft messages, communications, and presentations that get key points across to the target audience. We inform, educate and persuade. It’s our strength. It’s what we do in PR.
However, without strong public speaking and presentation skills, audiences become distracted, messages aren’t received, and brands are diluted.
Competency in public speaking is a leadership skill that PR pros need not only to elevate their own business and brand but to coach and inspire their clients and executives.
Public speaking sometimes means a formal speech or even a TED talk. It includes business presentations, strategy briefings, training sessions, pitches, and progress reports. Whatever the forum, all great speakers have one thing in common: they are prepared. Here’s how to prepare, practice and deliver a clear, crisp and professional business presentation.
Prepare to Practice
To start, write down everything you want to say, word for word, with punctuation. Then read it out loud. Several times. Rearrange it, fine-tune key thoughts, and scrap words that trip you up. Then, reduce that full-sentence document to a skeletal outline. That outline is what you’ll speak from.
Your outline can be on paper or computer.se a large font. Don’t use all caps. Number your pages. And if you’re speaking from a hard copy, never use index cards.
Then practice by delivering your presentation out loud and timing yourself. Then do it again. And again. Use a highlighter to mark transitions and pauses. Use your commas for dramatic pause and periods for breathing room. Video yourself. Watch for and eliminate ah’s, so’s, and distracting behaviors like playing with your hair or glasses. And allow room for critical feedback from yourself and others.
Deliver with Power
Always stand when presenting. Start speaking after you’ve got everyone’s attention, no sooner. If there’s a podium, resist the urge to clutch it. Keep your posture loose and centered and maintain eye contact.
Finally, don’t give away your power by apologizing, saying you’re not prepared or admitting you’re nervous. These comments give the audience permission to not listen or believe you.
Still not confident? Seek out a coach who can work with you to hone your skills.
Will you always have time for this level of preparation? Probably not. But the process and skills still apply, even if you have to compress them.
Dotti Gallagher, APR, Fellow PRSA, owns Dotti Gallagher Consulting of Salt Lake City, Utah. She specializes in brand building, communications, and PR. She has industry expertise in staffing, construction, and financial services and works with mid-to-large-sized companies nationwide.