Let's say you know the standard speaking tips, tricks, and fare. You're good... you can get by. But how can you elevate your speaking to the next level?

Over the past few years, I've spoken at a lot of events. Beyond just speaking (and getting better at it with practice), I share the stage with different types of speakers with different speaking styles. It's the nuances that determine who the masters are.

So if you're just getting started presenting to audiences, or you need to hone your technique, or you'd like to really up your game in the new year, here are some of the more important nuances that will take you from an everyday speaker to a star that people want to see.

And, by the way, these tips apply to marketers whether they're speaking in an auditorium or presenting in a boardroom.

1. Limit the technology

All too often I see people with laptops, PowerPoint, DVDs, cued CDs, props, and more. Kill it. You don't need it.

If you use slides that can augment what you're saying, great—but you don't need it, and you should not rely on it. People are coming to learn from you. Know your content to the point that even if your slides don't load or the video doesn't play, it should not matter.

Expecting the audio/visual to know all of your cues and the intricacies of your presentation is putting way too much reliance on the AV (and the AV guy). On top of that, asking for videos or music to play from the stage kills your story and flow: It's like when an actor calls for a line.

Also, having a lot of gear makes the organizers nervous ("something could go wrong!"), and might make you, the speaker, seem like you're high-maintenance.

2. Kill the Internet

Whether it's a hard-line or wireless connection, going live to an Internet connection is a bad move. Don't do it.

If you really need to play something from the Web (like a video), use a video downloading program and embed the video into your presentation. If you want to show a website, do a screen capture beforehand and embed it into your presentation.

3. Don't switch screens

A lot of speakers download videos but wind up toggling between their presentation and the media player. Don't, because it kills the momentum. If your presentation software does not allow you to embed video, switch to one that does.

4. Invest in a remote

Too many speakers advance their slides from the keyboard, or they rely on the AV team to supply a remote control or to advance the slides for them. Invest in your own remote presenter.

I recommend the Logitech Professional Presenter R800. It has a range of up to 100-feet (which is a lot), but it also has a built-in digital timer that gives you a silent vibration when you have five minutes left and when your time is up (which is helpful if you present for different lengths of time). If you want something a little more discreet, try the Honeywell Power Presenter. It has the basic buttons and is very small.

The benefit to owning your own remote is that you will be comfortable with it; as a result, your slide transitions will be more seamless and professional.

5. Don't point

Many people who use a remote presenter tend to point it at their laptops, the screen, or the confidence monitor on the floor. Pointing the remote is useless; it looks silly and draws the audience's attention away from you and toward the technology. Pressing the buttons harder doesn't help either.

6. No inside baseball

Don't talk about your technical challenges, such as the bad audio from the microphone. Don't discuss anything that has to do with the production or presentation of your talk. Focus on two things: the audience and the content. Talking about anything else is a distraction and it's not important to the audience.

7. Stand your ground

It's fine to pace, and it's fine to stand still. Whatever you do, make sure to stand your ground. Don't close up—be open. One of the best ways to "stand your ground" is to go to the center of the stage, and to the front of it, as soon as you are introduced, then do (at least) the first five minutes of your presentation just standing there. Much like a comedian, actor, or musician, you should come out of the gates strong and own your content.

8. Don't use notes

No reading. The best tip I have: Know your content. Having notes and reading a speech is boring and a little inauthentic. Sure, some of the greatest Presidents read their speeches from teleprompters. I get it, but I wouldn't do that if I could avoid it. Do your best to know your content: Just remember your "who, what, when, where, why, and how" questions, ask yourself each question in your mind, and then answer aloud to the audience.

Here's how. Let's say your topic is Twitter for business. Ask yourself these questions in your mind, and then answer them aloud:

  • Who should care about Twitter for business?
  • What do I need to know about Twitter before jumping in for my business?
  • When is it best for a business to use Twitter?
  • Where is the best place to learn more about Twitter for business?
  • Why should any business care about being on Twitter?
  • How can my business get started?

If all else fails, use those questions as your framework or model. Whatever you say will be better (and more interesting) than reading something you wrote a few days ago. Remember, speaking is not reading.

9. Use a clip-on microphone

Holding a mic in your hand is an art form. I've never been able to master it, and I've rarely seen someone pull it off well. It's better to have your hands free. Get a clip-on mic (also known as a lavalier microphone). If you don't own your own, ask the event organizer to arrange one for you a couple of weeks prior to your presentation.

Editor's note: This article originally ran on the Twist Image blog.

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Nine Ways to Elevate Your Presentation and Speaking Skills to Black Belt Level

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image of Mitch Joel
Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image, an award-winning digital marketing and communications agency. He is the author of Six Pixels of Separation (Grand Central Publishing—Hachette Book Group), a best-selling book named after his blog and podcast.