Public speaking fills many people with fear. Jerry Seinfeld once joked that:
“… people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. This strong statement means to the average person that if you have to go to a funeral, you are better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.
For professionals, public speaking is an essential skill which unfortunately not many of them excel at. We all have sat through death by Powerpoint; bombarded with slides and poorly presented disjointed information.
In my opinion, presentation skills are essential to succeed in any organisation—business presentations are a form of theatre. In this post, I will explain how a book popular among magicians—The Five Points of Magic Spanish performer Juan Tamariz—can be used to teach professionals about presentation skills.1 Below are some tips from the book that apply to both magicians and public speaking.
The Five Points of Public Speaking
1. The Eyes
Eye contact is the most important tool to connect with the audience. Don’t only look at the first row. Sweep your gaze like a fan across the spectators, giving everybody some personal attention.
2. The Hands
The hands are the most important tool of the magician, and in business presentations, they usually perceived get in the way. But the hands can communicate almost anything. We should use our hands to point out things, present objects and emphasise the communication. Think about how you use your hands other than a means to hold your laser pointer.
3. The Voice
Imagine an elderly lady, who is hard of hearing, sitting at the back of the room. Dedicate the performance to her and project your voice to the last row.
4. The Feet
The best place to stand is centre stage, facing the audience. Don’t hide behind the lectern or turn your back to the audience. This positioning is essential to be able to make good eye contact.
5. The Body
Body language is our subconscious means of communication. In theatre, and thus also in public speaking, we need to be aware of this type of communication.
This post is only a glimpse into the wide array of literature on theatrical performances that can be applied to public speaking. Business people that perform magic have been found to be better public speakers.2 Next time you need to do a presentation, view it as a theatrical performance and follow the five points of public speaking.
One last tip: whatever you do, never imagine your audience naked, at best it will get you distracted.
If you like to know more about magic tricks, read my book Perspectives on Magic.