Everyone has suffered through a meeting, webinar or conference where the guest or keynote speaker was deadly dull, unprepared or simply a poor speaker. It’s unfortunate because a lot of money was probably spent to attend the meeting, and the perceived value was lost when the speaker didn’t deliver. Personally, I love public speaking and have since I was in elementary school. My parents swear I came out of the womb publicly speaking! I find public speaking fun and exciting, and it provides me the opportunity to meet new friends, network and impart knowledge to an interested audience. That said, I am the exception rather than the rule. According to numerous studies, the majority of Americans would rather diethan publicly speak or make a presentation. Just the thought of standing in front of a crowd of unknowns makes people weak at the knees and nauseous. But, I’ve seen those same frightened folks speak like a pro with the proper training and practice. Public speaking is a learned skill, and most people can become strong public speakers if the time is taken to prepare, practice and present! Here are some tips: The key to a presentation that rocks is being prepared. The first aspect of a great presentation is selecting your topic based on the audience. Do your homework; learn as much as you can about who you will be speaking to, what they are interested in learning and how your presentation can have an impact. A great trick is to visualize what you want the audience to walk away with and how can you facilitate that end result. Once you have selected your topic and performed your audience homework, develop three to five proof points that clearly define your topic objectives. Don’t get muddled in the details – think big picture! This can be spoken or as a slide in a PowerPoint presentation. Let’s talk PowerPoint While I love PowerPoint, it is the most misused of all the tools available. Most people feel the insatiable need to turn their back on the audience and read the slides. Not only is that incredibly boring for the audience, but it also shows the speaker is not prepared. Steve Jobs was a PowerPoint master. He only used short sentences and words or pictures in his PowerPoint presentations and he never turned his back on his audience. Check his presentations out on YouTube to see how he seamlessly used PowerPoint to support his presentations. The speaker is the star of the presentation, not the PowerPoint slides. Great Presentations Don’t Just Happen Practice, practice and then practice some more so you know your presentation backwards and forwards. Most dynamic speakers have spent countless hours preparing their presentation. Develop cue cards or type your presentation out so it is easier to practice. Give your presentation to a trusted friend or colleague and ask for feedback. Refine the presentation based on the critique. Also, don’t forget – become the master of the audio visual equipment so there is no awkward downtime fiddling with the laptop or other equipment. Arrive at the venue in plenty of time to rehearse and practice with the microphone. Nothing is more annoying than no command of the equipment. Meet a Friend Meeting people prior to the presentation provides a smiling face in the audience once you begin the presentation. Using the person’s name wins big points with the audience as well. It shows you were interested in your audience and gives you a boost of a familiar face if stage fright creeps in. Focusing on the smiling faces of the people you met helps squelch the nervousness and keep you on track with the presentation. Having someone to look at also shows you are scanning the audience and connecting with them eye-to-eye. End Big Always end with a recap of what you discussed throughout the presentation. Provide the audience with the key takeaways, along with a call to action. Closing with an anecdote, analogy or famous quote that ties your closing remarks together can also be helpful. The audience is there because you have information they are interested in learning, so don’t let them down. So, in closing, to ensure your presentation rocks, be prepared, be enthusiastic, be friendly and end big. It’s a great recipe for success. What will you be presenting on next?