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Your Time to Shine

Step up to the microphone. It’s your time to shine.

Many people are terrified by the prospect of speaking in public. But if you work in tourism, either as a supplier or a travel planner, chances are you’ll have to address a group from time to time. So you might as well accept it and try to get better at it.

Nobody enjoys a boring or uncomfortable public speech; it’s torture for the speaker and drudgery for the audience. Unfortunately, bad presentations take place every day all across the country. And, to be honest, tourism conferences are full of them.

Whether you give sales presentations, lead team meetings or simply speak to your travel groups over the motorcoach sound system, here are five essential elements that can make your public speaking more effective and more enjoyable for your audience.

1) Crucial Content

The entire point of a public speech is to communicate information to your audience. Too often, though, the important content in a speech gets lost in a tangle of formalities and rabbit trails. To maximize the impact of your presentation, distill your content to the most basic and important points, and strip away anything that could distract your audience from what you want them to know. Nobody will mind if your speech runs short.

2) Smart Slides

PowerPoint slides can be helpful or dreadful, depending on how you use them. Many inexperienced speakers pack their presentations with too many slides and too much information. This distracts your audience and ensures that you’ll go over your allotted time. Smart slide decks are designed to reinforce what the speaker is saying. My presentations often have only a handful of slides, each with one big image and two or three key words to represent the ideas I’m sharing.

3) Targeted Timing

Some times are better than others for speaking: Audiences are less receptive early in the morning or in the sleepy hours right after lunch. If you want to communicate crucial information, pick a time when people are at their best and there’s nothing else competing for their attention. At a meal event, don’t try to talk while the waitstaff is working. And whatever you do, don’t be the speaker standing between your audience and their food.

4) Proper Preparation

Many people with valuable things to say struggle onstage because they lack confidence. The more important your speech is, the more preparation you need to put into it, not only crafting the content but also practicing the presentation. Rehearse your speech out loud in front of a mirror until you feel great about it. Effective speakers count on their preparation instead of reading from scripts or notes.

5) Acute Awareness

You might be the only one talking during a presentation, but you’re not the only one communicating. Your audience’s facial expressions and body language can tell you a lot about what’s going on in their minds. No matter what you have planned or prepared, you need to be aware of the audience’s reaction while you’re speaking. If they look bored or sleepy, liven things up. If they seem restless, cut things short. Learn to read the room and adjust as necessary.

Put these practices into place, and your audience will thank you. You might even enjoy your next speech.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.