Think about the time invested in preparing a great speech: research, organization, practice, preparing a slide presentation, etc. Now, imagine neglecting the last preparation step by not allowing time to prepare the facility when you’ll give your speech.
Your presentation is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. You blast into the room —with the audience already there— at 9:58 a.m. and proceed to set up your notes and equipment.
Ten minutes later, you’re fiddling with cables trying to connect the projector to you laptop. You haven’t booted up yet. It’s powered by Windows, so we know we have another ten-minute wait while it starts.
By this point, you’ve pretty much lost your audience.
Make sure that you spend enough time in the presentation room before your speech begins. Don’t let unforeseen circumstances put a damper on your speech. Get the details of the location where you will deliver your speech ahead of time.
- Make sure you have all the material you need: notes, files, handouts, USB stick, projector, etc.
- Double check your equipment. Make sure it’s working.
- Bring extra hardware as practical. Have two memory sticks, with the presentation file. Throw in an extension cord and extra connector cables for your tech. hardware.
- Make sure you have directions to your location, so you can get there early.
At the location
- Arrive early. At minimum, you need time to get your material ready. Better yet, be there early enough to set up and then greet audience members as they arrive. You can help build rapport with the audience by spending a few minutes chatting with them.
- Check the set-up. Can everybody see the speaker and presentation clearly? If possible, arrange the chairs and tables in a configuration that works for you.
- Make sure that the room is comfortable. Is it too hot or cold? Can you adjust the temperature?
- Set-up any electronic equipment you are using and test it to make sure it’s working properly and can be seen easily.
- Make sure the cables and cords are run in a safe manner. A roll of masking tape is helpful for keeping the cable out of the path of audience members.
- If the venue is providing the equipment, take a few minutes to make sure you know how to operate it.
- Test the microphone and sound system, standing where you’ll be using them.
Preparation at every stage of the process leads to a successful speech or presentation.
Creating a PowerPoint presentation requires skill, knowledge and creativity. Here are five tips to help you create an engaging and fun PowerPoint presentation.
Share a story.
All PowerPoint presentations should tell a narrative which includes a beginning, middle and end part. The initial part of the presentation should give a brief introduction of the problem. Try to ask yourself the question—“What are the things that you want to solve today?” Key findings should be presented in the middle portion of the presentation, but these facts should tie back to the main issue that you want to solve. By the end of the presentation, the audience should feel they have learned something and have a good understanding of the solution.
Always remember, less is more.
More often than not, people have this tendency to over-complicate a simple presentation with quirky transitions, too much text or flashy images. Some of these features are unnecessary. Try to make each slide free of clutter, using only a single image to sell an idea.
Branding is the ultimate key.
Create a PowerPoint presentation that will reinforce your brand image. Use the same fonts, logos, and color schemes that you use for the business. Treat a presentation like a marketing or advertising campaign. Don’t skimp.
Take a break.
Based on a research conducted by the University of Tennessee, the average adult’s attention span lasts for 20 minutes. It is best to keep your presentation brief and straight to the point. If you think you’ll use more than 20 minutes, give the audience a minute or two to relax. Steve Jobs often allotted a blank slide as a way for the audience to maintain their focus.
Practice and practice some more.
A wonderful presentation comes down to its speaker’s ability to capture the audience’s attention and keep them focussed on the topic. The best speakers are the one who don’t stare at their notes and don’t read scripts. Try to focus on the main points and let handouts outline the rest. Brilliant speakers don’t convey information; they sell ideas.
From the Office of Educational Development at UC Berkeley:
Analyze Your Audience
- Remember that the members of the audience are beneficiaries of your communication.
- Don’t make assumptions about your audience.
- Figure out the basics. Who are these people?
- demographics (age, ethnicity, gender mix, etc.).
- predispositions (hopes, fears, positives/negatives, level of interest).
- knowledge of/experience with subject/me.
- In what kind of setting will you be speaking?
- large lecture hall or small seminar room or classroom.
- lighting and sound issues.
- time of day.
- Take into account the “me, here, now.”
- Picture yourself as a member of the audience and ask “How does this message affect me, here, now?”
- “Me, here, now” translates into what you as a sender have to offer your audience/receivers—what they will be able to understand, accept, support, consider important—because it matters to them.
- Establish objectives for your audience:
- What do I want my audience to know?
- What do I want my audience to do
Openings, and Closings
OPENINGS. Stay away from the predictable (Good morning…, Today, I’m here to talk about…). Instead:
- Begin with a provocative question, anecdote, or current event—and how it relates to the content.
- Ask the audience a question
- Set up a problem—and promise that they’ll have all the tools for a solution by the end of the class.
CLOSINGS. Many speakers simply talk until the end of the time or beyond it—and say, “I see we’re out of time.” Instead:
- Plan a rhythm for your speaking—plan to end with content 5 minutes early, so you can summarize, raise questions.
- Set aside a time for questions—and structure that time.
You won’t cover everything you want in a talk or speech.
- Decide what is essential, what is important, and what is helpful.
- Cover the first; try to cover the second; forget about the third.
- Release a little control over the material and rely on a list of supplementary readings for the nonessentials.
- Set objectives.
- What do you want to have accomplished at the end of the speech?
- What do you want the audience to know at the end of the speech?
- Plan a speech to cover less than the allotted period.
- It takes some time to get going.
- Questions always take up more time than you expect.
- Divide the speech into segments and follow the standard speech structure.
- Divide it in terms of time and material.
- Try for roughly equal blocks, each one on a topic.
- Tell them what you’ll say, say it, and tell them what you’ve said.
- Speak from notes or an outline, rather than a complete text.
- It’s too tempting to simply read, rather than lecture, from a complete text.
- Reading also creates a barrier between speaker and audience.
- Writing up an entire speech is time consuming.
- A written speech often becomes a fossil that never gets updated.
- Be conversational; speak naturally; be yourself.
- That self may be formal, “laid back,” understated, or hyper. Use those traits; don’t fight against them.
- Talk about the material; don’t lecture about it.
- (Talking is easier if you don’t read verbatim.)
- Vary your pacing and voice.
- Gauge audience reaction.
- Repeat critical points immediately if you sense the necessity.
- Use your voice to emphasize the important points.
- Pause before new points.
- Use transitional statements to move to the next idea.
- Use gestures to emphasize points.
- Have your gestures mirror your voice.
- Adjust your gestures to the size of the room.
- Look at the audience.
- Try to cover all parts of the room by dividing it into four quadrants.
- If direct eye contact makes you forget your place, try looking just over a listener’s head, or between two audience members.
- Use language to create pictures.
- Use metaphors, analogies, and similes.
- Observe the techniques of others.
- Try out techniques you admire in others.
- Like any skill, delivery must be learned
Credibility & Commitment
Although speaking isn’t theatre, we know that audience find concepts and ideas most accessible and credible from someone they consider entertaining.
- Think about antecedent image—perception is often stronger than reality.
- Credibility is enhanced by:
- Your own sense of comfort and confidence presenting material.
- Your enthusiasm and interest in teaching.
- Your research and own ideas.
- Commitment is enhanced by:
- Relating your own experience, ideas, and feelings.
- Taking the first person approach, not separating yourself from your subject.
- Relating your “passion” for your subject.
- Delivery is tied to both commitment and credibility:
An old UCLA study of effective presentations analyzed 3 elements (verbal, vocal, visual). Here’s what it found was important in establishing credibility/believability:
- Verbal (words you say): 7%.
- Vocal (how you sound when you say them): 38%.
- Visual (how you look when you say them): 55%.
- Your energy and intensity will move your audience—and help you reach your objectives.
- Learning takes place best in an active, not a passive environment.
- Interaction is a continuous way to
- Assess the me, here, now.
- Determine whether or not your content is understood.
- Share the responsibility of learning more equitably and appropriately.
- How to build interaction?
- Have questions prepared—begin with relatively easy, accessible ones.
- Work to get everyone involved, even in large groups.
- Ask the audience to consider issues with the person sitting next to them/jot down ideas, questions, concerns.
- Discuss as a larger group.
- Move yourself!
- Don’t scurry back and forth, but don’t get locked into one position.
- Explicitly request and encourage questions.
- The audience will see that you have a genuine interest in what they’re thinking.
- Be aware of how your behavior and comments can set the tone for questioning.
- A negative response (e.g., “We’ve already covered that”) discourages further questions and may make the audience think you don’t really want questions.
- Make sure everyone hears the question.
- Repeat it if necessary.
- But don’t make a habit of simply repeating every question.
- Ask the audience if they heard the question; then ask the person to repeat.
- Clarify questions.
- Say, “Do you mean that . . . ,” or “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question,” rather than “Your question isn’t clear.”
- Answer questions as directly as possible.
- Address your answer to the whole audience.
- Ask whether you have answered the question.
- Be diplomatic when people raise tangential, overly complicated questions, or persistently ask questions just to be asking.
- Ask them to stop by after the presentation or to contact you.
- If a someone is simply confused, say, “Let me go over this point a bit more slowly.”
- Get regular feedback.
- Ask the audience to spend the last five minutes of class writing down the most important thing they learned that day or one question they have as a result of the talk.
- Or ask them to write down questions they still have.
- Use eye contact as a tool for continuous feedback.
- If you notice people with questioning looks, stop what you’re doing and ask if you need to clarify.
- If you get no response, go ahead and clarify.
When considering what type of visual representation to use for your data or ideas, there are some rules of thumb to consider:
1. Use visuals sparingly. One of the biggest problems in presentations is the overuse of visuals. A useful rule of thumb is one visual for every two minutes of presentation time.
2. Use visuals pictorially. Graphs, pictures of equipment, flow charts, etc., all give the viewer an insight that would require many words or columns of numbers.
3. Present one key point per visual. Keep the focus of the visual simple and clear. Presenting more than one main idea per visual can detract from the impact.
4. Make text and numbers legible. Minimum font size for most room set-ups is 18 pt. Can you read everything? if not, make it larger. Highlight the areas of charts where you want the audience to focus.
5. Use colour carefully. Use no more than 3-4 colours per visual to avoid a rainbow effect. Colours used should contrast with each other to provide optimum visibility. For example, a dark blue background with light yellow letters or numbers. Avoid patterns in colour presentations; they are difficult to distinguish.
6. Make visuals big enough to see. Walk to the last row where people will be sitting and make sure that everything on the visual can be seen clearly.
7. Graph data. Whenever possible avoid tabular data in favour of graphs. Graphs allow the viewer to picture the information and data in a way that numbers alone can’t do.
8. Make pictures and diagrams easy to see. Too often pictures and diagrams are difficult to see from a distance. The best way to check is to view it from the back of the room where the audience will be. Be careful that labels inside the diagrams are legible from the back row also.
9. Make visuals attractive. If using colour, use high contrast such as yellow on black or yellow on dark blue. Avoid clutter and work for simplicity and clarity.
10. Avoid miscellaneous visuals, If something can be stated simply and verbally, such as the title of a presentation, there is no need for a visual.
Somewhere along the line, you are going to have to tell another person how to perform a task. Whether teaching your kids how to use the dishwasher or training new staff at work, your ability to give good instructions will affect the speed at which they learn.
Giving clear instructions sounds easy, but can be complex, especially in an office environment or within a business. Mixed messages, assumptions and multiple options mean that the message received might differ from what we actually meant.
If you explain things properly, you only have to do it once. Explain things poorly and you will have to do it again. You might even need to fix things that were done wrong. Here are some tips to make sure you communicate instructions effectively:
- Get people’s attention. Before giving any instructions, make sure you have the attention of those who should be listening.
- Be clear and specific about what you want. Break the task down into step-by-step procedures.
- If you’re unsure whether or not people have really understood you, have them repeat your message using their own words.
- Demonstrate or illustrate whenever possible.
- Only give a small number of instructions at any one time. People have trouble remembering large amounts of information. For more complex tasks, break-down the instructions to each part of the job.
- Use direct and specific language. Say exactly what you mean. Don’t leave people guessing.
- Don’t rush your instructions. Clear directions save time.
- Avoid misunderstandings by asking the person how they’ll approach the issue or task and why. Have them repeat your instructions when you’re finished.
- Don’t get sidetracked by excuses or disagreements. Restate your instructions one more time if necessary.
- Check back during the initial stages. Give people room to do what you expect of them, but be available to help when needed.
Delivering an effective presentation is difficult. With the Internet, listeners have access to more information that ever before and have higher expectations for content from speakers today. In addition, because most people are saturated with entertainment, audiences want a presentation that is entertaining.
Here is a quick guide to giving an effective and interesting presentation:
Grab their attention.
Use a startling statement, statistic, or a compelling 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….” Whatever technique you choose, when you grab the attention of the audience you are on your way to a successful speech.
Speak with vocal variety. Slow down for a dramatic point and speed up to show excitement. Pause occasionally for effect. Don’t stand behind the lectern; move away to make a point. When you are encouraging your audience, step towards them. Gesture and demonstrate. Get your face involved in the presentation. Smile when speaking about something pleasant; let your face show other emotions as you speak. Be careful to make your movements appropriate for your talk.
Organize and plan your speech.
Don’t have more than three main points. Start with an overview of the points. Support each point with examples, definitions, testimony, or statistics. Use visual aids and presentation software, but keep it simple and appropriate.
These could be as simple as 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.
especially in technical presentations. Use examples from your experience that connects to your content. Stories work and have value because they help us understand. Through stories, facts and raw data gain meaning. Stories are how we best learn and visualize information. They simplify and clarify even the most complex information. They can hook an audience with emotion. Stories help people remember what they’ve heard.
Use the stories of others.
If you are delivering a persuasive speech, include the support of experts whom the audience respects. Add key statistics when possible to show the seriousness of what you are discussing. However, be careful not to overwhelm them with numbers and data.
Make eye contact.
Let your eyes speak for you – Your eye contact is the single most effective indicator that you’re involved in the conversation. You can communicate warmth or sympathy or sincerity or any emotion needed, through your eyes. Avoiding eye contact, makes you appear anxious, uninterested and bored. Your eyes speak and provide cues as to how approachable you are.
Don’t read or memorize your speech.
Be yourself; speak naturally. Whatever your natural self is: formal, “laid back,” understated, or hyper, use those traits. Talk—don’t lecture—about the material.
You’re not be a comedian but you’re going to lighten up a serious speech to make it more memorable. Make sure the humour is related to what you are saying and not just a joke for the sake of a joke. Don’t poke fun at your audience; poke fun at yourself. Keep it short. Experienced speakers know funny stories soon become unfunny if they go on too long.
End with a call to action.
People remember best what you say last. Summarize your main points, then make your last words a thought to ponder or an action the audience can take.
You never becomes a perfect speaker. Public speaking skill is a life-long development. The points discussed here will get you started becoming the speaker you want to be and a speaker your audience wants to hear.