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Let Your Data Do the Talking: TED Tips

By: Roche Life Science

Posted: | Career & Lifestyle

Developing a comfortable speaking style takes practice. No one is born a public speaker; it’s a skill that’s cultivated over time. Even people who make public speaking look effortless put in a lot of time and preparation behind the scenes.

How do they do it? They follow a few simple steps.

  1. Empathize with your audience. Know where the audience is coming from. What do they need to hear? When crafting your presentation, let your facts, figures, and data support a larger story that addresses a challenge that your audience members face. And be aware of other challenges that affect their ability to listen. At conferences, timing is everything. Is it early in the morning after last night’s late evening event? Is it late in the afternoon and they’re worn out from hearing a dozen speakers throughout the day? If you understand the factors competing for their attention, you’ll do a better job of engaging them.

  2. Don’t try to be a public speaker. This seems counterintuitive. After all, isn’t that what we’re trying to do? But we’ve all seen it happen: someone stands on stage and they become a rigid, formal version of themselves. That’s because they’re trying to be a Speaker, with a capital “S”. What people want to hear is someone who is interesting, relaxed, and knowledgeable about their topic. Think of it as a conversation with the audience. Whether you’re presenting to two people or two thousand, everyone wants to feel like you’re speaking to them personally. Think of Steve Jobs at an Apple event. His body language, pace, and tone felt natural, like he was having a one-on-one conversation with each attendee.

  3. Don’t try to be perfect. Even in casual conversation, sometimes we stumble over our words. If the same thing happens on stage, just keep going. Don’t apologize or call added attention to it.

  4. Don’t read your slides. Your audience is perfectly capable of reading what’s on the big screen. You’re there to add color, depth, and added insight to the data. The more you can offer beyond the data, the more valuable your talk becomes.

  5. Visualize your talk. Whether you have five minutes to present at the next staff meeting, or an hour on stage in a hotel ballroom, visualizing your talk helps with pacing, and eases anxiety when the attention is on you.

  6. Practice, practice, practice. Many people think that practicing means that you know your presentation verbatim. Good speakers know that this is far from the truth. Effortless speakers — the ones with that TED Talk charisma — know their material. They know what they want to say in what order, and how to create a story that supports the data on screen. But verbatim? No. They leave room for improvisation. And because they know their material so well, they can ad lib as they go. Have you attended a conference where a speaker refers to something a previous speaker said? They don’t have that written in their speaker’s notes. They know their material inside-out and are so relaxed that they can think and make connections while on stage — just like in a regular conversation.

  7. Be comfortable. Dress professionally, yet comfortably. The more comfortable you feel, the more comfortable and confident you’ll appear when you speak.

Follow these steps and you, too, can deliver your next presentation with the charisma of a TED Talk star.


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