Effective Presentations

Are you one of those people who would prefer death over public speaking?  Or, do you thrive on having an audience?  Either way, you can still be an effective presenter, despite yourself.   Until recently, I’d forgotten what an adrenaline rush it is to make a great presentation.  A series of new business pitches and an award-acceptance speech gave me new ideas for my professional goals, and reminded me of one of the things I do best:  speechwriting.

Indeed, in my corporate days, I wrote speeches for top executives to deliver to the press, internal and external sales teams and global audiences.  I media trained senior vice presidents and company leaders for press interviews and wrote and rehearsed their answers to anticipated questions.  I created visual slide presentations and videos to accompany those speeches.  I polished already great presenters and I turned average speechmakers into orators.  If public speaking is not something you do every day, but you want to be great when you give a speech, here are a few tips that can help:

  • Think about the logistics prior to your debut: Find out the format and seating arrangements.  Theater-style, round tables, classroom style?  Stage with steps?  Podium or lavalier microphone?  Remote control for slides?   Be absolutely sure you’ve checked the A/V equipment and tested your computer or video to your satisfaction!  Make sure you have water easily accessible in case of dry mouth or tickling throat.
  • To quell your nerves: Remember that you know more about your subject than your audience, otherwise, you wouldn’t be standing in front of them.  Channel those nerves into energy for your speech.
  • Use personal stories to drive your message home. Engage your audience.  By telling a story in your own words, you not only befriend your audience, you show a passion and a friendliness that makes you likeable.
  • Know your key message. Be clear about what you want your audience to take away from your presentation.  A good way to do this is to emphasize three to five key points that are succinct and easy to remember.  For example, if I want you to know three reasons to hire my company to handle your marketing business, I will say, “Turn of Phrase is your ideal marketing company because we are passionate, creative, and results-driven.” Then I will continue to expand on each of these points.
  • Unless you’re using a teleprompter, NEVER go to the podium with your speech completely written on two sheets of paper. You will always end up reading it, rather than delivering it.  This totally defeats the purpose.
  • Use bullet points on note cards or bullet points on slides. Sometimes nerves can cause you talk too fast or not enunciate clearly.  The physical act of changing your note cards or clicking to the next slide is a reason to pause, and it lets the audience absorb what you just said.
  • Bullet points should be a reminder to you about what to say next. They should not be the only thing you say.  This is where a good rehearsal comes into play.  Be sure you have practiced your speech several times prior to delivering it.  You need to be familiar enough with it that it rolls off your tongue with ease, but not to the point where it is rote.  Also, be sure you have a smooth transition to each new topic or thought.
  • End on a high note. Don’t let your voice drop or lose your enthusiasm at the end.  Most of all, find your rhythm and have fun!