The first time I was asked to give a client presentation, you could barely hear what I was saying.
Between the stuttering, and the shakiness in my voice, and the constant dancing around what I was really trying to say, it was clear no one in the room was impressed.
It has taken me years of practice to learn how, especially as one of the younger people in the room, to present myself well.
1. Replace “um” with stronger filler words
In the moment, it’s hard not to say “uh, um,” while you try to gather your thoughts.
Great speakers rarely ever use the distracting sound.
But if you listen close, it’s not that they avoid pauses altogether. They instead replace “uh, um” with stronger filler words.
When you need to gather your thoughts, use words such as “Now; You See; However,” etc.
The sentence, “Um, I was thinking…” suddenly sounds much more definitive and powerful when slightly adjusted to “You see, I was thinking…”.
It sounds intentional, and intention instills confidence.
2. Know the power of silence
The best speakers know the power of silence.
They are unafraid of letting the room wait for a moment. These speakers can sit calmly for a breath or two in total silence and feel comfortable — and actually use it to their advantage.
Unintentional silence can be seen as a mistake or a sign of uncertainty.
Intentional silence, however, is seen as dramatic and even more important.
Instead of seeing moments of silence as issues for concern, turn them to work for you by making your next statement that much more poignant. Use silence to lean into your points and your audience will hear you much more clearly.
3. Do not make things complicated
The quickest way to know whether or not someone knows what they’re talking about is to pay attention to how many industry-specific words they use.
If their vocabulary is a fashion show of insider adjectives, chances are they are speaking more from a place of theory and less from a place of experience.
Great speakers and people who carry themselves well know how to get to the point.
They don’t dance around it.
They don’t throw around handfuls of buzzwords.
They say what needs to be said and leave it at that.
If you use language that leaves your audience confused, you aren’t impressing them. You are frustrating them. Keep it simple.
4. Don’t curse
Unless you’ve built a reputation or a persona around your “edgy” delivery, nine times out of 10 it’s best to leave the sailor’s mouth at home.
When it comes to leading a room, it is in your best interest to keep the energy and the flow as positive as possible.
Unless you know your audience very well, you never know where a misplaced word could lead.
Don’t add in an extra variable that doesn’t need to be there.
This doesn’t mean you have to keep your language G rated. Say what you need to say, in the way it needs to be said.
5. Tell a story
I have watched so many rooms turn the corner after a well-told story.
Stories are how we relate to each other. Stories are what ignite our imagination and turn a thought into a feeling, an idea into reality.
Whether you are explaining a data point or hinting at the outcomes of a campaign, whatever the case may be, be descriptive.
Use sensory words — touch, taste, smell, a feeling, a sound.
Bring what you are talking about to life, and let the people in the room be part of it.
A presentation, or a speech, or even a single sentence with an added element of the story becomes an experience.
This story originally appeared in Inc Magazine.