I am a volunteer docent at the U.S. Botanic Garden where I give tours of this glorious facility nestled at the foot of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The Conservatory building and outdoor gardens are exquisitely beautiful with ever-changing seasonal displays, each more creative and alluring than the last.
My tour presentation, alas, is not ever-changing. I highlight the same plants and use the same stories each time I give a tour. And herein lies the public speaking challenge.
How do you keep a presentation fresh when you deliver it over and over and over?
The key to success...and the most difficult thing to accomplish...is staying totally present and connected to the audience. Extreme familiarity with your content can cause you to sound like a robot as you deliver your remarks from memory; however, it can also give you the comfort and security to free you up to be fully engaged with your audience. You no longer have to worry about forgetting something; your material is solidly implanted in your brain. So you can watch facial expressions, make eye contact, pick up on side comments made by audience members and invite questions confidently.
TECHNIQUES TO STAY FRESH
When you deliver material over and over, one of the key things you have to guard against is your own boredom. Because your remarks come almost automatically, you need to find ways to challenge yourself to stay present and get out of your own head. Here are some ideas:
- Remember that each group you present to is hearing your presentation for the first time. By being "over there" with the audience instead of in your head, you'll be more conscious of and responsive to what they're experiencing, which will keep you more animated.
- Be mindful of your pace and enunciation. When you've delivered a presentation multiple times, the tendency is to speed up your pace because you're so familiar with what you're saying. Reflect back on the previous point -- the audience is hearing this for the first time.
- Record yourself from time to time (or ask a colleague to evaluate you) to assess your tone of voice, inflection, general presence. Do you look and sound bored? Or are you still conveying your enthusiasm and interest in the subject?
- Mix things up to force your brain to stay present. Obviously you don't want to reorganize your presentation so that the logical flow is disturbed. But use different examples or use a different opening or closing. In my tours, I will sometimes change the direction I take through the Conservatory and cover things in reverse order from my typical presentation. Since the information isn't sequential, it's not confusing to the tour participants but it keeps me on my toes.
Whether you're a tour guide, flight attendant or business person delivering a presentation or training program multiple times, keeping your presentation fresh and interesting is completely within your control. Review these tips occasionally to remind yourself to connect with your audience and it will make saying it again seem like the first time.