10 Essential Tips to Deliver a Talk

As someone with expert knowledge, we are often asked to speak and deliver a talk.  Whether that is to give a presentation, talks at live events or at virtual conferences.  

For many of us, this is outside our zone of comfort. But, we’ve discovered that with a little practice and a few key tips, it can become something to enjoy rather than dread.

Here are our 10 essential tips to deliver a talk that will take you from an uncomfortable zone, to a confident thought leader:

1. Speak from the heart

Believe in what you have to say or don’t say it at all.

Talk about the subjects that you are passionate about. When we are passionate about a subject the words flow. Speak about the fundamental beliefs you have about life, the simple truths that you believe in with all your heart. Whatever the subject matter when delivering a talk, making it personal to you will really engage with your audience and show authenticity.

2. Write down two or three specific objectives you have for the talk

When preparing for your speech, ask yourself, ‘What do you want the audience to do as a result of your speech?’ Think differently? Act differently? Do something differently? Don’t write the content yet, start with the objectives that you want to achieve. This will then give you something to refer back to and check in with to make sure your messaging is consistent.

3. Write it down

Write your talk down, read it back and ask yourself, “Will my audience understand what I’m teaching them?” Make sure everything is explained clearly and in layman’s terms or tailored to your audience. Can you section your talk and highlight lead sentences? If not, go back through and edit it. Then write the lead sentence on small cards that you can use as a reference guide. The idea is that you don’t read your talk word for word, instead use those cards as a guide to jog your memory of what you are talking about next.

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4. Connect with your audience during the talk

Connect with your audience from the start. Imagine yourself talking to friends. If you feel that certain comments are resonating then embellish and emphasise those to deepen that connection. Staring into space and reading word for word,  isn’t what they came for. They are keen for information, to discover and feel enlightened. Be present for them.

5. Know the audience you are delivering your talk to

Ask the organisers in advance who will be sitting in your audience and what they expect to hear from you. Are they men or women? What is the theme of the meeting or conference? What is their purpose in being there? That then becomes your purpose. Be sure to give your audience not just what they want, but also what they need to hear. 

6. Room Setup for the talk

Check out the layout of the room where you will be giving your talk in advance and test the area. Giving a talk under bright lights on you, so that the audience is in darkness, means that building that connection will be a lot harder when you can’t see the faces or reactions of people. 

If you are giving a talk online, make sure that your Wi-Fi signal is strong and that all of your computer settings are correct. If using wireless headphones are they charged? And if you are using software you aren’t familiar with to deliver the talk make sure you test it out first.  

7. Is there a special technique for delivering a talk?

Conversational is usually recommended. Talking as naturally as you can to your audience will not only help calm you, but will help with that connection. If talking to smaller audiences, talk as if you were in their living room. Don’t look over their heads or beyond them. Speak directly to them. 

If you are addressing a crowd of several hundred or more people, look at one person, then another, then a third. But really look at them. You may feel like you want to look over their heads, but you will find the talk easier if you are communicating it to one person at a time, rather than reminding yourself that there are hundreds of people in the room.

 

8. What about “ums” and “ahs”?

“Ums” and “ahs” come from uncertainty when we pause. The key to this is to know your subject and what you want to say inside out. 

And then practice, practice, practice. Use your mirror or give your talk to your friends and family. And above all, don’t try to remember the exact same words. 

9. Personal Stories

People will learn from your vulnerability and your mishaps when you share your personal stories as they are just one step away from their own story. 

We connect more and build trust with people we can resonate with. Add in humour – as that will also help you to relax. When you see smiling faces and hear the odd chuckle, your confidence will increase, you’ll feel more at ease.

10. Wrapping up

You need to give your audience a plan of action. What do you want them to do now that they’ve heard your talk? Go around the room, and ask them to share one nugget they got. Ask them for an idea that they can use today, in two weeks and in one month. 

End your talk on a summary of the points you raised (remember your headlines) and give them their final call to action, and if appropriate, where and how they can find you if they want to work with you.

Are there any tips here that you can apply before your next talk?

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