There are very few great speakers in this world and most of us can stand to sharpen our skills. I am by no stretch of the imagination a great speaker; however, I do try to employ basic strategies before commanding the attention of any room.
Have something to say. It may seem obvious, but so many people begin with a not-so-exciting topic. Research your topic (even if you are the expert) and take a look at what others are saying about said topic.
Know your audience. By knowing who you’re speaking to and more specifically, what they’re looking to learn, it makes you a more compelling, interesting speaker.
Don’t be dry. Ask yourself, “Would I be entertained by this?” Many times, the answer will be “no”. Take a look at the raw material and find ways to inject some level of entertainment. Can you use props? Visuals? Puns?
Dress the part and one step higher. If you walk into a room underdressed, the immediate message to the room is that you aren’t taking the event seriously. If you’re unsure of how to dress for the event, speak with the event coordinator or someone who has attended similar events in the past.
Don’t be negative. Don’t bad mouth the competition, don’t dwell on how awful the economy is, don’t, don’t, don’t. That five second rant will be the part many remember days later.
Be friendly. Talk with the audience before you’re on stage. Having friendly faces in the audience will relax you and it will engage them.
Size does matter. When given the choice, take the smaller room. iI’s “standing room only” that makes your session even more memorable.
Practice. It seems like a no-brainer, but so many times, especially in our industry, folks are going over their talking points in the elevator ride up to the event. If you’re important enough to impart your wisdom onto a room full of people, then you should be courteous enough to deliver a well-planned, thoughtful, rehearsed presentation.