- 30 de May, 2023
- Posted by: Filipa Ferreira
- Category: Skills
There may come a time in your career when you will be asked to stand before your peers at a conference to deliver a presentation, comments, or a workshop.
Presenting at conferences and financial meetings is a good way to demonstrate your knowledge as a subject matter expert and advance your career, but for many professionals, public speaking can be intimidating.
Despite being a self-described introvert, Nikki Wild, FCMA, CGMA, is comfortable speaking at conferences — from behind a lectern, though, which separates her from the sea of people in front of her in the audience. Wild, a business and executive coach at Wild Empowerment in Hampshire, UK, is a former practising management accountant, who made the transition to business coaching more than ten years ago.
She and Tony McMurray, FCMA, CGMA, who is managing director at Ingram Micro in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a frequent presenter, provide easy methods for conquering fear and becoming an effective speaker.
Wild and McMurray explain that with preparation, practice, and focus, you can step out of your comfort zone and onto a stage to deliver a polished, professional talk that your audience will appreciate long after you exit the spotlight.
Their advice includes:
Know your audience. The first step in preparing a speech is learning the make-up of your audience, Wild said. If it’s a peer group, determine their degree of expertise so you can tailor your talk to their level.
“Find out from the event organiser if the members of your audience have the same technical knowledge, use similar jargon, and generally have the same professional rank, or if you will be speaking to a wider peer group where you may need to explain your points using more common language,” she said.
Establish your credibility. Most audiences, particularly those with finance and accounting expertise, demand credibility from their speakers, McMurray said.
One way to explain why you are qualified to speak on your topic is by providing your personal experience with the subject matter, the work you have done, or the research you have completed, which enables you to speak about it with authority.
Once you have established yourself as a subject matter expert, deliver your speech fluently, expressively, and with confidence, McMurray said.
Craft a great opening. Whether checking phone messages or returning emails, people often come to presentations burdened with distractions. For presenters, grabbing and holding the audience’s attention is one of the biggest challenges they face as they prepare to deliver their remarks.
Opening your presentation with an entertaining or intriguing anecdote or initiating interactive exercises, such as asking the audience questions and having them respond by raising their hands, have the power to hook them and reel them in. Another engagement technique is visualisation — asking your audience to close their eyes as you tickle their imagination through colourful storytelling.
Connect with your audience online or in person. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new way of addressing audiences, and Wild said speakers present themselves quite differently on a computer screen than in person.
For speakers trying to connect with people online, Wild suggests they focus their gaze on the camera to make eye contact with their audience, and not the screen. Whilst looking at the screen allows you to see your online audience, it actually appears to them that you are looking down, which breaks your connection with them.
When delivering a presentation at an in-person event, it’s also crucial to connect with your audience. This requires an entirely different technique, Wild said. She recommends focusing on individuals for a few seconds at a time. However, she warns against staring at people long enough to make them feel uncomfortable.
Make it memorable. When Wild prepares a speech, she places emphasis on her message, often focusing on one or two key points she wants her audience to remember.
McMurray relies on storytelling techniques and often includes a call to action at the end of presentations to reinforce his message, sometimes asking his audience what they would tell someone who asks what they learned from the presentation.
Adapted from: “5 strategies for delivering a memorable presentation”, by Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in the US, published on FM magazine on 30 March 2023.