Confident Speaking & Better Presentations

The first time I was on television on the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, I read the Teleprompter like a champ.

What an easy job, I thought.

Until the director walked into the ice-cold studio and said “We’re running about 4 minutes early, you’ll have to fill”.  Adlib!  I thought he was kidding.  I hoped he was kidding.

What gets us through public speaking opportunities and presentations is not what most people think it is – not some learned air of confidence but something more deep-seated that all of us can attain.

  • You have earned the right to be speaking in public or leading a group.  Remember that fact often.
  • Be yourself. Trying to imitate a speaker is the formula for failure but to be yourself makes you an expert.  I am Italian and enthusiastic.  I speak with my hands.  “Good” speakers are encouraged to be someone else but I don’t believe it.   Be you with hand gestures and all.
  • Be authentic.  When I started a new class as professor of music industry at USC I would say, “I’m Italian and from New Jersey, anyone have a problem with that?”  The students would laugh because that is the way I talk.  It’s real.
  • The biggest fear a speaker or presenter has is that they are going to forget what they intend to say.  Even to this day I rehearse my presentation or talk three times.  That’s it.  Each time it comes out differently which is good. The fourth time is the actual presentation and the way I do it is different again.  This is how you know you are being effective.  You know the material well enough to not worry about how it comes out.
  • Confidence booster:  no audience ever knew if a speaker forgot something so don’t worry about remembering everything.
  • Never memorize.  You’ll get caught.
  • You can start with a set opening line and end with a memorized line – no longer – but the rest of your talk even if you use notes should be extemporaneous.
  • To be enthusiastic as a speaker, I mingle with the audience before I talk so they can see I am just like them and to get my mind off the talk and focused on real people.
  • When you take questions even from people who disagree with what you are saying – let them have their say, you had yours.
  • Oh, and try not to use slides.  Make them available on Google Drive after the talk but the surest way to put an audience to sleep is to use PowerPoint.  Or as one of my USC students said, “if you use slides, make it a picture.  No words”.  They want to hear you!

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