Are your palms sweating as little droplets sneak their way down the side of your face? Is your heart pounding so hard that’s all you can hear? Did your tongue just turn to sandpaper? It sounds like you’ve got a speech to give.
Public speaking might not be your “thing,” but anyone can give a killer presentation if they’ve prepared a good speech the right way—whether it’s to do a TED Talk or present a project to your boss or give a toast to the newlyweds.
We asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What is one thing you should do to prepare for a big presentation?” These are their best tips:
1. Highlight your “why.”
Simon Sinek said it best: “Start with why.” This is quite true. You want to engage people. People don’t want to be told “how” and “what” to do. They want to be provoked to answer “why” so they can figure out how to drive their own actions.
—Aj Thomas, Infuse Entrepreneurship
2. Create a hook.
Offering valued information isn’t enough to compete today. You need to develop an irresistible hook that will compel your audience to close down any distractions, move to the edge of their seat and eagerly anticipate what they will discover from your presentation.
—Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits
3. Pick one to three key points.
Unless listeners see its main points, a presentation is pointless. So, your main mission is to ensure that your key points are clear, salient and even memorable. The only way to confirm for sure is to listen to feedback from listeners. Practice on at least two different listeners. Ask them to summarize your points, then ask again a week later. If the summaries miss your intent, then there’s room for improvement.
—Manpreet Singh, TalkLocal
4. Know your audience.
Get a deep understanding of who will be in the room and why they are attending. This will enable you to personalize your presentation to your audience and ensure they walk away with something valuable that will be remembered.
—Farzana Nasser, Gallop Labs
5. Research pop culture.
Tying a presentation to something relevant can further engage an audience, if even for only a brief moment. Piquing the audience’s interest and finding real-time relevance can help tune them into the overall premise of the presentation. A good speaker is one who enlightens the audience and makes sense while also informing; having factoids and a little pop-culture humor can be uplifting.
—Kimberly E. Stone, POSHGLAM
6. Use primary research and third-party data.
Numbers tell a compelling story. Within presentations, prepare to support your claims with statistically significant data from research you’ve conducted and findings from research developed by other domain or industry experts. Scientific studies tend to do particularly well within business presentations. Surveys and reports similarly add credibility to any argument you may make.
—Danny Wong, Grapevine
7. Take an acting, voice or speech class.
You can have the best presentation in the world and great subject matter knowledge, but it won’t be convincing unless you nail your delivery. Invest in improving your stage presence via acting, your vocal projection and enunciation via voice training, or your overall public speaking abilities with a coach. The skills you build will enrich your entire career, not just your presentation.
—Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com
A famous golfer once said, “It’s a funny thing, the more I practice, the luckier I get.” That’s true for most things, but especially for presentations. After three continuous years of pitching my company hundreds of times, I still practice a ton before any presentation. It’s really the key to being prepared.
—G. Krista Morgan, P2Binvestor
9. Watch yourself—and have someone watch you.
It can be a bit weird watching yourself on video, but it is extremely helpful for identifying any odd recurring behaviors or nervous tics you might be unaware of. It can also be beneficial to bring in an objective third party to watch you present and provide real-time feedback regarding information that isn’t clear, opportunities you’re not seeing or even pacing suggestions.
—Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR
10. And watch other presentations.
I’ve found it to be very helpful to watch other presentations to get a feel for how others present. It’s helpful to observe how people conduct themselves, present their ideas, communicate and interact with the audience, and gain an overall feeling of their presentation. Seeing another person give a great presentation and enjoy great feedback makes me visualize my own success.
—Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell
11. Ask for feedback.
Gather friends, family and team members, run through your presentation in front of them, and ask them to provide you with feedback. Tell them to be brutally honest. You don’t want a cheering section—you want them to point out areas that didn’t flow well or parts that weren’t clear. Ask them to tear it apart and use that feedback to perfect your presentation.
—Jonathan Long, Market Domination Media
12. But try to relax and trust yourself.
Something to realize when you’ve been asked to speak on a topic: You are the expert or storyteller. Spending countless hours in preparation or last-minute adjustments to what you will say only serves to create anxiety and uncertainty around a subject that people already find you knowledgeable about. Overworking your speech only serves to erode confidence already earned.
—Toma Bedolla, TravelShark
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.