How to be a better speaker

If you’ve been in your given business long enough, the opportunity usually arises to speak about a topic related to your business. This could be you creating short-from videos for social media, longer videos for YouTube or private courses, or live or recorded presentations as webinars or expert sessions as part of a conference or virtual summit. Whatever the situation is that leads to you speaking to an audience, the tips below will help you be a better speaker, which should also allow your audience to have a better experience and reaction to your presentation.

I’ve attended lots of webinars and virtual summits. There are some things I’ve experienced that make the overall attendee experience more frustrating than is necessary. I wanted to share them with you to help you become a better speaker and to make your marketing videos more effective and appealing to your audience.

Practice your presentation

Practicing your presentation several times will allow you to make sure your slides and your notes are well organized and understood, and that your presentation fits into the allotted time. Even better is recording your practice presentation and watch it to ensure you can be heard and understood, and that you know how to use the tech before hand.

You can practice with a friend via Zoom or another video chat service, or record your presentation using tools like Zoom, StreamYard, Vimeo, or Screencast-o-matic.

Be mindful of your timing

Many of the presentations I’ve watched recently have the same issue. The speaker is speaking slowly and is easily understood at the beginning, while they are introducing themselves, and giving the background information relevant to their presentation. Then just before they get to the meat of the presentation, they seem to realize they are falling behind or running out of time and turn into a speed talker for the remainder of the presentation, making it hard to understand what they are saying. This is especially an issue if the viewer has any auditory processing issues or hearing loss as it is much more difficult to understand people when they speaking quickly.

If your presentation must conform to a specific length of time, be sure to keep a stopwatch or some other time tracking tool visible to you (but not displaying on the screen) so you can keep track of where you are. Also, as you practice, make note of the approximate time you should reach significant portions of the presentation so you can be sure you’re pacing yourself properly during the live presentation or final recording.

Provide captions or a transcript

Viewers with hearing loss or auditory processing issues will be very appreciative if you are providing captions or a transcript of your presentation. In addition to helping those with hearing loss or auditory processing issues, captions and transcripts can be helpful for those caring for young children or in noisy/public environments. When my kiddos were little, they often only napped well near me, and I was grateful for captions and transcripts when trying to watch webinars next to a sleeping child. Now that my kids are older, I still use transcripts and captions if I’m watching a video in public and don’t have my headphones.

Creating a transcript is not as hard as it might seem. There are many services such as Otter.ai and Rev.com that can make a transcript from your video. Its’ important to review the transcript/captions produced for accuracy.

YouTube and some other video services offer free captioning services, but these are usually done with AI and I’ve heard from many that they are not terribly accurate. If you choose to use one of these methods, please make sure you’re reviewing the output for accuracy.

Transcript vs. Captions

Transcripts and captions are not the same thing. A transcript is a word-for-word record of the content of the video, but it is usually in a different document (Word or text file, PDF, etc.) or simply added to the web page where the video is presented. Transcripts can be time-indexed, or have notes indicating what is said at what time in the video, and this time-indexed transcript can be used to create captions.

Captions are a word-for-word record of the video, but they are shown with the video. That’s where the time-indexing comes in handy, so the software knows which text to display at what time.

Transcripts and captions can also be translated into different languages, so the content can be consumed by a larger audience than just those ho speak/understand the language used in the video.

Learn how to use presentation mode properly

Many of the presentations I’ve seen lately have been given by the speaker having the slides open in the program used to create them (PowerPoint, Canva, etc.) and manually moving from one to the next. As an attendee, I find this distracting and unprofessional. These programs have a presentation mode that makes the slides full screen and allows the presenter to navigate with mouse clicks or arrow keys. Using presentation mode encourages the viewer to focus on the presentation and not other things visible on your screen.

If you are doing a live webinar or recording the presentation, it can be a little tricky to get it all working correctly, but it’s not impossible. Spending the time to learn how to use the keyboard to control the recording or navigate the slides, or to quickly move between applications on your computer will make your presentation much more professional looking.

When you are practicing your presentation, you can also be practicing using the controls to make your presentation smooth and polished.

Be Yourself!

I’ve used words like “polished” and “professional” in this post. I want to be clear that those words do not have to be synonymous with “boring.” In fact, boring is the last thing you want your presentation to be – you want to be warm and engaging. Be as vivacious as you would be if you were speaking to them in person. If you are outgoing and warm and snarky in person, be sure this comes across in your presentation so that your viewers will feel like they have a better connection with you.

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