What does it take to deliver a great presentation — preparation, practice and passion. It takes dedication and hard work. My rule of thumb — 30 minutes of preparation for each minute of speaking. Over the past 20 years, I have observed hundreds of presentations. The best speakers do their homework and use many of the following 10 techniques:
1. Make a connection.
Smile! Welcome the audience. Make eye contact. “Look at me when I talk to you” is the cry of every parent, teacher and coach. Eye contact keeps the speaker and audience connected. Smiles and inclusive gestures reveal your feelings. The best speakers are thrilled to have the opportunity to share their ideas.
2. Begin with an overview.
“Today I will cover three points…” “My talk will answer four questions…” The overview provides the audience with a roadmap of where you’re going and the stops you’ll make along the way. An overview tells the audience how many files to set up so they can organize and store the information presented. In addition, provide transitions. “We finished point 2, let’s move on to the next topic.”
3. Be enthusiastic.
Remember the times you’ve exclaimed with passion and enthusiasm, “It’s a boy!” “We won!” “I love you!” The people you were speaking to became interested and excited. In the same way, an audience’s biggest “turn-on” is a speaker who’s excited about his topic. Enthusiasm enables speakers to become more animated and naturally, use gestures.
4. Create vivid pictures.
Create word pictures: “The train has left the station…” “The red BMW convertible.” If the audience can visualize what’s being expressed, they are more likely to stay tuned. In addition, visual aids with pictures create interest and convey information in a way that makes it more memorable.
5. Provide contrast.
When delivering your speech, become a fixed point, stand perfectly still, then make appropriate gestures. This contrast makes your gestures dramatic and forceful. In the body of your speech, making a contrast between excellence and mediocrity, or changing and staying the same, helps simplify the issue so the audience can clearly see the choices in front of them.
6. Tell stories.
Stories are engaging. People relate to the information both intellectually and emotionally. The best stories are short and make a simple point. Stories personalize the speaker-his interests, beliefs, and values.
7. Explain the data.
When using visual aids, first explain the information on the visual aid, and second, discuss why it’s significant. Many speakers immediately begin discussing the significance of the data. Meanwhile the audience is lost. They’re trying to figure out what information is on the slide before being able to process why it’s important.
8. Use signal words.
Let’s be realistic, people’s attention does wander. Effective speakers summon it back with words that signal to the audience to pay attention: “This next point is most important.” “If you don’t remember anything else, remember this…”Speakers also motivate the audience by STB, sell the benefits, remind the audience what’s in it for them.
9. Let the message sink in.
It’s very difficult to catch baseballs if they’re thrown rapid fire, one after another. The same is true with ideas. The receiver can’t catch them if you present them in a machine-gun fire fashion. Use pauses: “Take a moment and think about that…” Pauses can be used to emphasize key ideas, make a smooth transition, or set up a punch line.
10. One more time.
In written communications repeating ideas is unnecessary. You can always reread a portion of, or the complete document. However, repetition in a presentation is desirable because the audience can’t stop and reread the last remarks. Effective speakers often use three related words or phrases to make their points more memorable. A few examples: “…bloated, inefficient and unimaginative” “…old game, old paradigm, old model” “We will succeed; We will win; We will Prosper.”
Perhaps the most important thing effective speakers do is KISS — keep it simple and succinct. They use simple explanations, examples, comparisons, stories and visual aids to develop one to three main ideas. Then they follow the – “practice-feedback-revisions” cycle until the content is clear and focused and the delivery is smooth and captivating.
© 2001 – 2014, Paul B. Thornton. All rights reserved.