How to nail your next public speaking presentation

Written on Jan 28, 2016

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

With a new year comes new challenges, and you might find yourself presented with the opportunity to do more public speaking in 2016. Whether you’re presenting in a meeting or at a conference, honing your public speaking skills will serve you well at every stage of your career. Peter Margaritis, CPA, is a professional public speaker and suggested looking at ways to engage the audience, rather than just lecturing to them.

“The way I look at this is it’s not a presentation, this is a conversation I’m having with this group. How do you turn that presentation into a conversation? That takes a lot of practice,” he said. Margaritis covered the tips you can use before your next time in front of a crowd:

Silence your inner critic. The fear you have about speaking in front of a group comes from that voice inside you criticizing your performance. Margaritis said the key is learning to silence that voice using the phrase “Yes, and,” to build yourself up. “Yes, and it’s going to be okay. Yes, and you will survive. Yes, and you’re prepared,” he said. “Get rid of all those negative thoughts that handcuff you into that fear and instead just get up and do it.”

Practice, practice, practice. You’ll build confidence through knowing the material inside and out, and practicing your material out loud. If you’re having trouble finding time to practice, Margaritis recommended using downtime in the car or shower to go over your speech. You’ll know your material well enough when you don’t need notes or slides to help you along.

Remember to breathe. Seriously, take a breath. Margaritis said anxiety and panic brings shallow breathing, and if you’re panicking before (or during) a presentation, remember to stop and take a few deep breaths to get yourself back on track.

Know your audience. Whether it’s a small group of investors or a big room filled with your peers, remember who is listening. And when presenting financial information to non-accountants, know when to alter how you explain information. “Accounting is a different language,” Margaritis said. “We have to be able to translate our language into ways that when presenting to non-accountants helps them connect.”

Find help. If you’re serious about sharpening your speaking skills, Margaritis suggested joining Toastmasters International or finding a coach. Practicing on a consistent basis with constructive feedback will mean you’ll get better a lot more quickly than presenting once every few months.

Related: How to speak off the cuff like a pro (from Fast Company)

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