Delivering an effective presentation is difficult. Because listeners have better access to information, audiences expect more CONTENT from speakers today than they did in the past. In addition, because of the ENTERTAINMENT slant of most media, audiences want a presentation delivered with animation, humor, and pizzazz.
START WITH A BANG
Begin with something to get the ATTENTION of the audience. This might be a startling statement, statistic, or your own story. Listeners pay close attention when a person begins with, "Two weeks ago as I was driving to work a car pulled out in front of me..." You could begin with a current event: "You might have read in the paper this morning about the flood that..." A QUESTION is another way to make people listen. "How many of you feel our society spends too much on medical care?" might be a way to begin a presentation about curbing costs. Whatever technique you use, when you grab the attention of the audience you are on your way to a successful speech.
GIVE IT YOUR ALL
Second, be ENERGETIC in delivery. Speak with variety in your voice. Slow down for a dramatic point and speed up to show excitement. Pause occasionally for effect. Don't just stand behind the lectern, but move a step away to make a point. When you are encouraging your audience, take a step toward them. GESTURE to show how big or wide or tall or small an object is that you are describing. Demonstrate how something works or looks or moves as you tell about it. Show facial expression as you speak. Smile when talking about something pleasant and let your face show other emotions as you tell about an event or activity. Whatever your movements, they should have purpose.
FOLLOW A PATH
STRUCTURE your speech. Don't have more than two or three main points, and preview in the beginning what those points will be. With each point, have two or three pieces of support, such as examples, definitions, testimony, or statistics.
MAKE THE SHIFT
Tie your points together with TRANSITIONS. These could be signposts such as "First," "Second," or "Finally." Use an internal summary by simply including the point you just made and telling what you plan to talk about next. "Now that we have talked about structure, let's move on to the use of stories," would be an example. When you have an introduction, two or three main points with support for each, appropriate transitions, and a conclusion, you will have your speech ORGANIZED in a way that the audience can follow you easily.
CONNECT WITH THE AUDIENCE
Tell your own story somewhere in the presentation -- especially in a technical presentation. Include a PERSONAL experience that connects to your speech content, and the audience will connect with you. You want to help the audience link EMOTIONALLY with what you are talking about, and the personal experience does that. With almost any topic you might choose, you have at least one "war story" to relate to the topic.
DRAW A PICTURE
To add interest and understanding to your speech, include a VISUAL aid -- an object, a flip chart, a PowerPoint presentation, overhead projector slides, or a dry erase board. Visual aids are particularly important when you want your audience to understand a process or concept or understand a financial goal. Line graphs are best for trends. Bar graphs are best for comparisons and pie graphs are best for showing distribution of percentages. Whatever visual you are using, make sure everyone can SEE it. The best way to insure this is to put the visual where you will be speaking, and then find the seat farthest from it and determine if you can read the visual from that seat. And when the visual is not in use, hide it from the audience. Humans are a curious lot, tending to keep looking at the object and losing track of the speaker -- you!
BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS
If you are delivering a persuasive speech, in addition to your own stories include TESTIMONY of experts whom the audience respects and whose views reinforce your points. Add a key STATISTIC when possible to show the seriousness of what you are discussing. For example, if I were discussing the need for improved listening to better serve your customers, I might add that although we spend half of our communication time in listening, our listening efficiency is only about 25%. By using stories, testimony, and statistics in your persuasive talk, you add depth to your evidence.
MAKE EYE CONTACT
Look at the audience as you speak. If it is a small audience, you can LOOK at each person in a short period of time. If it is a large audience, look at the audience in small "clumps" and move from one clump to another. One way to insure good eye contact is to look at your audience before you start to speak. Go to the lectern and pause, smile, look at the audience, and then speak. This will help you maintain good eye contact throughout your presentation as well as commanding immediate attention.
One of the ways to have consistently good eye contact is not to read your speech. Use note CARDS that have key words on them -- that is perfectly acceptable. The word or phrase should TRIGGER the thought in your mind and then you can speak it. If you are including a quotation or complex statistics, reading from your note card actually lends credibility. If you write out your speech you will tend to read it and lose eye contact with the audience, as well as not being as enthusiastic in delivery as when you speak from note cards.
KNOCK THEIR SOCKS OFF
Include a "wow" factor in your speech. Something in your speech should make your audience think, "Wow!" It could be a story, a dramatic point, an unusual statistic, or an effective visual that helps the audience UNDERSTAND immediately. With a "wow" factor, you then have something to look forward to in the speech that you know will have an impact on your audience. You'll become a more enthusiastic speaker because the "wow" factor will get you as well as your audience PUMPED for the speech.
MAKE THEM LAUGH
Consider using a touch of HUMOR in your speech. Humor will help you to be perceived as an amiable person, and it is hard for people to disagree or be bored if they are smiling at you. Perhaps inject a one-liner or a quotation. Don't poke fun at your audience; you should be the OBJECT of any shortcoming, showing that you can laugh at yourself. Tell a short embarrassing moment in your life that you might have thought not funny at the time. Avoid long stories or jokes. Even seasoned speakers know that funny stories soon become unfunny if they go on too long. Probably the least risky use of humor is a cartoon. The cartoon is separate from you and if people don't laugh, you don't feel responsible. (Be sure to secure permission to use it.)
A LAST THOUGHT
Finally, leave the audience with something to THINK about. People remember best what you say last. You might summarize your main points, or you might complete the statement, "What I want you to do as a result of this presentation is...." But beyond that, make your last words a thought to PONDER. For example, I might end a speech on becoming a better speaker with "As Cicero said centuries ago, 'The skill to do comes with the doing.'"
Stephen Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University. He is also a trainer in communication who presents more than 60 seminars and workshops a year to corporations and associations. Visit his website at www.sboyd.com. He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at .
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