Public speaking frequently appears at the top of lists of people’s worst fears, making it even scarier than death! Improv comedians have learned some techniques to own any room-and overcome even the most hostile of audiences. Here are some top tips from improv to help you nail your own presentations at work.
1) Watch your body language
Clearly the content of your presentation is important. If you want your audience to trust you, you have to be credible-and that’s about what you say. However, trust is also based on congruence between your message and how you deliver it. If you’re not confident in your presentation, then how can you expect your audience to believe in it? To look more confident, check-in with your body language. You want to take up space in the room: chest out, shoulders back, and your head level (as if it’s held up by a bit of string.) A quick hack to get into this position is to tuck your bum in under your spine: you’ll notice your posture changes automatically. (These body language pointers also apply when sat down for virtual presentations.)
2) Give up on perfect
One of the reasons we come across as unconfident in meetings is that we second-guess our self. This is because we think we have to be perfect. But our job is not to be perfect; it is to communicate, and they are not the same thing. In fact, our imperfections are often what make us likable to others. They show our humanity and it is this that others connect to. The trick is how you respond to your mistakes. If you own them, if you can laugh at them, there is nothing more charismatic. Just look at Boris Johnson!
3) Tell stories
Stories have an incredible effect on an audience. Stories allow us to hook and hold our audience’s attention-and then reward it with insight. If you can put a few stories in your presentation you will be in the top 5% of communicators: most people don’t bother. Your stories don’t need to be long: 30 seconds will do. The best way is to think of them as another form of evidence. Shown a graph? Great, now give an example showing this principle in action. You’ll have them in the palm of your hand.
Max Dickins is author of Improvise! Use the Secrets of Improv to Achieve Extraordinary Results at Work which is out now. He is co-director of improvisation training company Hoopla! Hoopla run improv classes, shows and corporate training.