Back To Basics: Presentation Tips 101

We Can All Use Some Reminders On What Makes A Speech Great
We Can All Use Some Reminders On What Makes A Speech Great

So perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to do some public speaking in the past, shucks maybe this is how you are currently making your living. As with all things that we’ve done a few (or many) times, we have a tendency to start to become just a little bit, how shall I say this, complacent? I guess the word “lazy” would be just a bit too harsh, but I’m sure that you get the point. If our last presentation went over fairly well, then why rock the boat? Well, here’s the harsh reality – you can do better. If you stall now, then you’ll at best be as good as you were last time and in fact you’ll probably start slipping and that won’t be good for anyone.

In order to stop all of this from happening, let’s take just a moment and see what David Brooks who once upon a time won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking contest can suggest to help us get better. David has seven presentation tips for us to remember and learn from:

  1. PowerPoint Is Really Not Your Friend: Way too many of us spend more time working on the PowerPoint slides that we’re going to use instead of working on what we are going to say (business presenters please confess NOW!) No matter how beautiful your slides are, nobody is going to remember them once your presentation is done. Don’t hide behind your slides, instead let your slides support what you are saying.
  2. It’s A Speech, Not A Battle: All too often we approach a presentation just as though we are preparing to go to war with the audience. This is crazy – they are there because they want to hear what you have to say, not to throw stones at you. The most painful thing in the world for an audience is to sit through is a bad speech. Therefore, they are actually on your side. They may or may not agree with what you are talking about, but they want you to do a good job no matter what.
  3. Why Are You Doing This?: Look, why are you going to be willing to stand in front of a group of people and talk to them? What is that reason? It can always be put into one or more of four buckets: to entertain, to inspire, to persuade, or to inform. You need to know the answer to this question BEFORE you start to speak so that you can make sure that your words will accomplish what you want them to do.
  4. W.I.I.F.M.?: How long should your presentation be? Not too long! Your audience will be asking themselves What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) even before you open your mouth. The last thing that you want to do is to sound like a high school Spanish teacher who is going over the irregular verbs. Instead, you want to engage your audience in what you are saying and have them feel that you are having a conversation one-on-one with them directly that lasts just the right amount of time.
  5. It’s ALWAYS Story Time: Brooks makes a great point when he boils public speaking down to this very, very simple formula: make a point, tell a story, make a point, tell a story. When you are done talking, your audience probably won’t be able to remember your points. However, there is a very good chance that they will be able to remember your stories long after you are done. Don’t use other people’s stories, instead pay attention to your world and “see” you own stories.
  6. Write But Don’t Read!: If you want to get really good at giving a speech here’s the secret: write it out word-for-word. Don’t you dare read it to your audience word-for-word! Instead, edit what you’ve written over and over again until the words shine from being polished so much. Then practice, practice, practice. Once you’ve practiced enough, you won’t need to read your speech word-for-word, the words will simply tumble from  your mouth with only the slightest shove provided by notes on cards.
  7. Don’t Forget The “P” Word: That would be, of course, practice. In order to get the little things that make a speech great like pauses and your own natural rhythm correct, you need to practice your speech over and over again. Make sure that you say the speech out loud just like you’ll say it on that special day so that you can hear how you sound and make any needed changes.

How many of these tips do you already use when you are preparing to give a presentation? Do you take the time to write out your presentations or do you just create a quick outline and wing it from there? Have you ever had to give the same presentation multiple times and did you get better each time? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.