Dos and Donts at the Podium

At some point in your career you’ll likely be asked to do public speaking. The way you present yourself gives a first impression of how competent you are. Here are some tips to keep in mind before, during and after your presentation.
Prior to the speech…

Consider the purpose and speak to it. Is it a formal atmosphere or an informal, interactive one? Are you trying to educate your audience or move it to action? Keep the appropriate tone throughout.

Speak only about what you know well. Begin with a strong introduction and keep the presentation simple, understandable and memorable. Let your passion for your business or product come through; no matter what you’re talking about, people want to see your enthusiasm.

Give yourself a time limit. Practice making your message fit the time available.

During the speech…

Balance the format of your information. Cover the basics and put the details in a handout.

Use anecdotes and stories to show rather than tell.

Be mindful of your language. Don’t use words above or below your listeners’ level of comprehension. And vary the pace of your speech to keep it interesting.

Be aware of your body language. Don’t move your hands too much, and when you do use gestures, make sure they match your words. Move around if possible, but keep your movements fluid and steady.

Read your audience. If they’re not looking at you, they’re probably bored. Throw in some changes in tone or tell a story to gain back their attention.

Close with a bang. Your conclusion should bring your audience to where you want it to be. End powerfully. Call for some action.

Never go over the time allotted. It’s the quickest way to make everyone forget the great things you’ve said.

After the speech…

Take questions. You can ask for written ones to keep control.

Feel out the crowd. Talk to as many people as possible; you never know who might be a future client. Get their contact information and hand out plenty of business cards.

Call, write or e-mail audience members after your presentation. You might get a sale or a letter of recommendation out of it.

Source: Adapted from “Be a Better Speaker” and “Speaker’s Checklist,” Chris Widener, , 2002.


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