Public Speaking for Product Managers: 5 Hacks To Kill Your Nerves and Impress the Crowd

The topic you are presenting should resonate with your audience. Whether you are presenting a new feature to your team, giving a status update at an all-hands meeting, or even presenting your findings to your clients and investors, you want your audience to form a positive memory.

In short, a Product Manager is a public speaker. Here are 5 tips to give your presentation the greatest lasting impact:

1 . Have a Strong Stage Presence

To be seen as a thought leader, your audience needs to see you walk the walk while talking the talk. For greatest impact, the presenter must be the main focus of the presentation. Professional public speakers rarely, if ever, sit down.

Standing & walking around gives you energy and keeps the audience engaged, so try to avoid podiums as they lock you in one place. Your product might be fantastic, but you must excel as a public speaker so that others can see it.

If you do have to stand in one spot, or are restricted in terms of space to move around, something as simple as shifting your weight from one foot to the other, occasionally using your hands to emphasize a point, and taking a few pauses can make you more captivating to watch.

The most important part of stage presence is confidence. If you find yourself stumbling over your words or forgetting what you need to say next, don’t be afraid to pause for a few moments to collect your thoughts. It looks much better than panicking and trying to cover up without anyone noticing (trust us, they definitely noticed already.) Stay calm and clear, and you’ll be that much better as a speaker!

2. Have a Good Posture

Believe it or not, good posture can make the difference between the audience thinking “WOW this is a really good talk” or “{nudge} dude wake up you’re snoring.”  If you look like you’re not into the material, chances are your audience won’t be either. Typical good posture for public speaking is feet comfortable, knees a little flexed, and be a bit relaxed.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to do with our hands when we’re in front of people. Occasionally you’ll be lucky enough to have a clicker or a pointer which takes care of the problem. If not, the worst thing you can do is fold your arms as it looks like you’re angry or insecure.

Having them swinging freely at your sides also looks quite unnatural. Usually, if you’re more focused on what you’re saying, your arms will do their own thing and you won’t even be conscious of it. But if you’re nervous, watch some clips of public speakers and check where they put their arms.

3. Vary the Tone of Your Voice

When you convince your friends to come to your favorite bar, you rarely ever say it in a monotonous voice. Humans use vocal inflections to convey excitement and that should show in your presentation. Great public speakers or even standup comedians have vocal ranges that are all over the place.

Not only are audiences not falling asleep but they are on the edge of their seats wanting more. There are various different angles you can play with here, when you are passionate about something, increase the tone of your voice. If you are giving results from research that shocks you, play with the silence a little bit, of course practice makes perfect.

Even if you hate the sound of your own voice, record yourself reading from a script and then record yourself telling a story off the top of your head. See how they both sound. Are you monotonous and boring when reading from a page, and are you more lively and animated when simply telling a story? Which one is nicer to listen to? Let that influence how you relay information when speaking in public.

4. Spread Your Eye Contact Across The Room

Eye contact helps to tell more of the story. This is why public speakers use this tactic – not with everybody in the room, but definitely with a few select people. Allow yourself to lock eyes with a few people in the room, but only for a few brief moments. And try not to keep choosing the same person… That might feel weird.

If making eye contact with people makes you feel more nervous, then try to look at different spots in the room, if it’s big enough. An empty chair, the back wall, a column. No one will know what you’re not looking at someone else. It’s also fine to look down at the ground, but only for a moment as if you’re deep in thought.

Staring down at the floor the whole time won’t help your aura of authority, and it’s pretty boring for an audience to watch.

5. Test Your Equipment

Think back to when you were at school. Nothing was more fun than when a teacher’s projector was broken so that you can pass notes in class or throw a wad of paper at your friends. Don’t be that teacher. Assume that technical difficulties will happen. It’s easy to think that everything will run smoothly, but that’s not always the case!

Of course you won’t be expecting your audience to act like a high schoolers (or maybe you are) but in either case, avoid the awkwardness by coming early, testing the equipment and if possible, convert your presentation to PDF and avoid using the internet! There is no guarantee it will always be there.

It’s also important to be sure that whatever files you need can be accessed easily from someone else’s device. Imagine creating a beautiful PowerPoint presentation only to find that it’s not installed on the computer you need to use!

Sure, it’s loaded in OpenOffice but the pictures are all over the place and some fonts are missing. That itself isn’t enough to derail your entire talk, but you want to start with your best foot forward.

Bonus: Making It Work on Zoom

Nowadays, some of your public speaking is likely happening online through video conferencing. Whether it’s your weekly company meeting or a webinar to share your expertise, it can be no less terrifying than standing on stage in front of an IRL crowd.

  1. Test your equipment first. You need to make sure your WiFi is strong enough to handle the video stream, and that your microphone/headphones/earbuds pick up your voice nice and clearly. You don’t want to record an entire podcast episode only to find that the room you’re in is too echoey.
  2. Pre-record if you can. The benefits of virtual content is that it can be grabbed ahead of time. If speaking in front of an audience makes you nervous, consider recording your webinar/speech ahead of time.
  3. Keep some notes off-camera. Have a notebook open next to you on the desk, with words of encouragement, things to remember, or tips like ‘slow down!’
  4. Don’t look at your audience. If speaking makes you nervous, you can hide your audience’s cameras and pretend they’re not there at all!
  5. Acknowledge the audience. Alternatively, bring your audience into your presentation. Pretending they’re not there is a great coping mechanism if public speaking frightens you, but it’s much more impactful to actively engage with your audience. If you see someone nodding along with what you’re saying, you can try saying, ‘Zaina I see you nodding, I knew you’d love that part.

Time to Practice!

The best way to get used to talking to people…is to talk to people! If you’re really dedicated, you can get someone to film you giving a mock-up of your speech to see how you do. And to become a good Product Management public speaker, try modeling your talks on the most popular ones on our YouTube channel.

Product Management Certification

Enjoyed the article? You may like this too: