It's the holiday season. Time for getting out the Spanx for both your stomach and your speech. Whether you're delivering a keynote speech at the Four Seasons or a toast at this year's holiday party, your presentation needs to be stellar.
Here are some tips:
1. Speak First. Write Second.
Many people make the mistake of writing out their speeches and then speaking from their notes. The rhythm of the spoken word is quite different from the written word, which is why most speeches often sound stilted. When preparing a speech or toast, try to speak it out loud first and then write out your notes.
2. Don't Wing It.
Most people think they can wing it when it comes to making speeches or toasts. Most people are wrong in thinking that. Even when speaking about a person you know well, a topic that's within your area of expertise, or a cause that's near and dear to your heart, it's important to jot down notes or at the very least, think and prioritize your thoughts before you speak.
3. Get Naked.
Don't overdress your presentation with a 50-slide PowerPoint! You need to be the main attraction, not your visuals. If you insist on using some visuals to enhance your presentation, then make sure that you use pictures, not text. There's nothing worse than forcing your audience to read a slide and listen to you at the same time.
4. Hook 'Em
Your first sentence needs to immediately capture your audience.
Avoid: Starting your speech with a laundry list of Thank Yous (save them for the end and thank only the people that you must) or a joke (if it doesn't land well, it's difficult to recover).
Try: Starting with a question (ex: "Did you know that in almost every county in the world, the life expectancy for women is higher than for men?") or a story that's both short and relevant (ex: "I will never forget the first day I walked into this company. I was soaking wet from the rain and..." or "All I heard about Debra before I met her was just how brilliant she was, so you can imagine how I felt when she walked through the door...").
5. Get Real
Authenticity is in. The same old boring speech/toast model is out. Speak from your heart. Yes, I know that might sound corny, but honestly, it's the only way to keep your audience. Find something about the topic or person that you feel passionate about and tap into that energy. Emotions are contagious. Sure, what you say matters. But how you say it matters more.
Here's your holiday bonus tip:
Less is more. No one ever complains that a speech is too short.