Presentation Tips from a World Champion Speaker

By Heather Baldwin

Twelve years ago, when Darren LaCroix announced to his brother that he was going to become a comedian he got his first laugh. After all, he wasn’t funny and he had almost no experience speaking in front of audiences. Yet LaCroix not only became a successful comedian, in 2001 he outspoke 25,000 contestants to become the World Champion of Public Speaking. LaCroix, founder of The Humor Institute in Weston, MA (www.humor411.com), offers these tips to salespeople who want to follow his path from nervous novice to expert presenter.

1. Watch and learn. Observe speakers whenever you can. Good ones, bad ones and mediocre ones—you can learn from all of them. LaCroix attended a multitude of Toastmasters’ presentations and open mic nights at comedy clubs.

2. Speak in plain English. A presentation filled with acronyms and jargon might sound impressive to you, but it’s likely to confuse your audience. Use simple, everyday language to make your points. For example, don’t tell the people in your audience how they can boost their bottom line by reducing their financial outlay when you could simply tell them they can save money. Business communications, says LaCroix, must be precise, complete and totally comprehensible

3. Be an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. If you constantly ask yourself what you can do to make your presentation better, you’ll come up with some answers. After reviewing his presentation, LaCroix decided to use the stage a little differently from other speakers. Because his championship speech was about failing on his way to achieving an objective, he used the stage as a linear metaphor. He started on the left side of the stage, progressively moving to the right side, toward his goal.

4. Read a lot. Read everything—books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and trade publications. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas you can find to make your presentations and conversations better.

5. Shift the spotlight. You can reduce your anxieties about speaking by turning the spotlight on the audience, says LaCroix. By focusing on the needs and concerns of the people in front of you, you’ll be less likely to dwell on yourself.

6. Practice. Don’t let the competition out-prepare you. Before giving his 7-minute winning speech at the world championship contest, LaCroix watched 90 other contestant speeches on video, presented his speech to 22 Toastmaster clubs, received 143 written evaluations and videotaped almost 7 hours of his practice speeches. Now ask yourself: How did I prepare for my last big presentation?