Here we feature all the transcripts for the presentation tips and techniques covered in the Telling it Straight podcast. Additionally, you can listen to each of the podcasts with the embedded player below each script.
If you can answer the question, “why do I need to present to this audience,” then you are well on your way to having a mission. Having a purpose.
But what if you can’t answer the question. Then you need to. Ask yourself what is it that you want your audience to know that’s different, to what they knew at the start of your presentation.
Ask yourself what is it you want your audience to understand that’s different.
Ask yourself what is it you want your audience to believe that’s different.
And ask yourself what it is that you want your audience to do at the end of your presentation, that they would not have done otherwise.
Your task as a presenter is to get your audience to know, understand, believe or do something because of your presentation.
That’s your mission. Now, put it into one sentence and you are ready for the next step…objectives.
Your mission is ready. You know what you want to do with your audience.
Now it’s time to work on your objectives; vital for three main reasons Objectives help you to get from A to B in your presentation…giving you a sensible order and logic.
Objectives stop you from rambling…keeping you on track and on message as you present.
And objectives give you a framework for success…ensuring that you stick to your mission.
Your objectives should be short. Precise. And to the point. They should be measurable.
You should have a good idea when you have achieved them.
Above all…don’t have too many objectives. Perhaps three or four for a good presentation.
With your objectives covered, now it’s time to look at research.
You’ve prepared your presentation objectives. You are ready for some research.
It’s time to get to know your audience. You should ask yourself who is in your audience? What do they do? Who or what do they represent? What special interests do they have? What do they already know? Why are they here? What do they want?
The list goes on. Suffice to say, you need as many answers as you can get.
The way to get your answers is varied. And it will take some time and effort. You can secure most of your answers by speaking with the event organiser.
Or you can speak with one of the speakers from a previous year or a previous event. You could speak with a colleague who has presented at the event.
Or, maybe, speak with a fellow presenter. Find out what they know.
Your aim is to secure enough information on your audience to help you build engaging content, engaging structure and engaging argument.
And once that’s done, you can consider the next stage: planning and preparing your presentation.
You’ve finished your audience research. You have a view on their interests and their expectations. You are at a good stage to start planning and preparing your presentation.
Thinking of your mission and your objectives does a title for your presentation come to mind? Titles are important factors for getting your audience involved.
Aim to make your title interesting, lively and exciting. Try to stress a benefit to your audience. Instead of, Changes at Company X Today, you could try, Why Changes at Company X Today will Gain Market Share Tomorrow.
Plan, in outline, how you will meet your objectives. What evidence or insight will be needed at each stage? What images, video or films will be needed?
When will they be needed? Then, prepare as much material as you can: evidence, research, facts, figures, stories, news cuttings, images, videos, charts. It’s all useful.
Your target is to have too much material. You don’t want to hunt out key evidence later. Borrow materials from work colleagues. Borrow earlier work from your other presentations. Mass it together. Group it. Re-arrange it and get a sense for how it all hangs together.
With that done, you can face the fun of preparing your first draft. A script. A mind map. Or a slide deck. But before you do so…you should consider the points you want to make.
Points in your presentation are important. But they are not so important that you need lots of them.
It’s the biggest mistake people make with their presentations. Too many points. Too many bullet points. Too many lists.
Your audience can not absorb too many points. If you wanted them to…you might have them read a report. Read a white paper.
So, in your presentation aim for three main points. That’s your target. One or two more might not hurt anyone. But do make sure that each point is self-standing. Your points mustn’t depend on others for their very survival. If that’s the case…then they are not really points. They are sub-points.
Sub-points are great. They can support and bolster your main points. They can provide a degree of deviation or interest. As pit props in your presentation structure they have merit. You can use them with confidence. And if you need to delete them on the day. You can do so.
Each of your points and sub-points should have supporting evidence and explanation. Charts and maps can help to explain. Stories, anecdotes and vignettes are important.
Images, videos and soundtracks are useful tools. They help build understanding of your points. And they help build a memory of your presentation.
And that’s vital when you want to achieve your mission.
To help you further, you can also consider a theme for your presentation.
You have planned and prepared your presentation. You have a title. You have three or four points to make.
Consider a theme.
A theme is another device to link in all of the points, evidence, stories and illustrations that you provide.
When you provide a link between all these elements you help your audience to understand your presentation. And remember it.
You can provide your own theme for your presentation or use one provided by a an event organiser. Perhaps, for a customer service event, you might have a theme of, Putting Customers First.
All your main points, stories and examples can reference Putting Customers First. In doing so you provide a special link throughout your presentation.
And, importantly, you also set your presentation in the context of others during the same event.
Now, with all this work done, it’s time to rehearse your presentation.
You’ve finished you planning. And your preparation. You have researched your audience. You know the points you intend to make and you have a theme that runs through your presentation. Now’s the time to rehearse.
Presentation rehearsal makes you fully familiar with its words, content and structure. That familiarity is vital when you present. It will make you relaxed and confident. And, importantly, it allows you to appear very knowledgeable.
Audiences warm to a knowledgeable speaker. Rehearsing isn’t difficult. But it does require time and patience. The objective is to become familiar with your presentation. You don’t need to learn it line by line. What you do need is somewhere quiet. And private.
An empty office, perhaps. First things first. Sitting down, read your presentation—silently. Then read it again. Standing up, read your presentation—again, silently. Then read it a second time.
Once that’s done, read your presentation out aloud. And, then read it out aloud again. Read it again. But this time move around the room. Relax. Become animated. Point to your slides. Look at your pretend audience. If there’s a mirror in the room, take a look as you present.
That’s rehearsal. Aim to become fully familiar with your presentation, and you are ready to edit.
The time spent reading and rehearsing your presentation is vital. But it’s not just a matter of building familiarity with your material. It’s also a matter of building in some serious editing time.
You need to edit your material. There are 3 main reasons.
Editing ensures that you keep on track for the points you want to make. Make each point. Illustrate the point. Provide examples and move on.
Your presentation has to be coherent with the right structure and flow. A beginning. A middle and an end. Editing ensures that you hit the right time plan. Not too short and not too long for your audience.
And editing ensures that you have the right words. The right sentences. You want to keep your words short. And your sentences short. Longer words and sentences will either trip you up or confuse your audience. And when your audience is confused they are not listening any more.
Look out for proper names and other words that require some pronunciation practice. Mark these words. Or bold them in the text. Then you are ready for them. You can’t ignore the importance of editing your presentation.
Editing keeps you on the right track. Making sure your presentation is coherent. Editing keeps you to the right timescale. Not too short. Not too long. And editing ensures that words and sentences are easy to say and easy to understand.
You are now ready to think about how you organise all this work.
With your editing all finished you have a perfect opportunity to organise. Organise your presentation.
First, check over the basics. How does the title look? How about the theme? Can you easily spot your beginning? And your end? A good beginning is very important to you. Make sure that it’s not overlooked. It has to set the scene, and the tone. It has to lay out your credibility as a speaker, and it has to lay out the structure that you then follow.
Your structure is best kept simple. Aim to explore each point with all your supporting evidence, illustrations and stories. Summarise. Then explore your second point.
Summarise points one and two and then explore point three. Summarise points one two and three. Then you can conclude your presentation.
Your conclusion should be memorable. It’s what you want your audience to take home with them. Your presentation’s conclusion can take many forms: A wide-ranging summary. A call to action. Inspiration. A historical reference. Humour. One thing is certain. It won’t be rushed; it’s your final opportunity to make your points memorable and it’s got to be thought through.
Most presenters will use a combination of at least two of these when they conclude. If you intend to read from a script, then make sure that your copy is printed in a legible font and a readable typeface.
Start each sentence on a new line. It will help with your pauses and your breathing. If you have several pages in your script, then number them so they don’t get mixed up.
If you intend to use cue cards, then keep the words brief and bold on each card. The odd word or phrase will prompt you. And that’s all you need.
You could try a mind map. A pictogram or an illustration to prompt you. Pictures can prompt you much more easily than mere words.
If you intend to use a PowerPoint slide deck, then make sure that there’s not too much detail on each slide. Use pictures and images wherever possible.
Bullets can be used best to signal the direction of your argument or the point that you have just made.
Now that you are organised, it’s a good time to plan for the inevitable questions from your audience.
Being ready and prepared for audience questions is key to your role as a speaker.
Audience questions give you another opportunity to re-make your main points. To re-make your proposition. To re-make your arguments.
Preparing is easy. First of all: write down ten question that you reckon will be asked of you. Then write down their answers. Don’t be too detailed. Answering questions is not an opportunity for you to digress or meander off-topic. It’s another chance to hit the main points. Remove any confusion. And then re-state the point.
Once you have your first ten questions, think of a further ten questions. Do the same thing. Write them down and then prepare some answers.
Become familiar with the twenty questions and answers that you have now prepared. Don’t try to learn them. You want familiarity only for answering questions.
It’s likely that your list of twenty questions will cover over 90% of the questions that an audience will ask. But be alert to the needs of certain audiences.
Consider industry or regional influences. Be alert to the news. Business news or trade news that might influence the questions you are asked.
Taking questions is a great way to round off your presentation. Your answers will reinforce all your main points and help your audience to remember. Now, what to wear for the presentation?
So, you are now ready to present or give your speech. But, what’s the dress code for the event?
What will people be wearing? It sounds so petty. But it’s a question we ask over and over again. There’s no getting away from it.
To find out the dress code – just speak with the event organiser. Establish whether there is a dress code this year or even last year.
As a presenter you want to be one step ahead of your audience in the dress code. If the sales audience is dressed casually you might consider a jacket. If the customer care audience is in business dress you might want to wear a smart business suit.
Aim to dress for power, prestige and confidence. Select your wardrobe to suggest a powerful speaker brimming with authority on your subject. Select your wardrobe to indicate that you are a prestigious speaker at the top of your game. Someone worth listening to.
And, select your wardrobe with your own confidence in mind. If this was a job interview how would you dress? Dress to feel confident. When you are confident with your attire you will be confident with your own ability. Confident with yourself.
That’s all you need. Next step, breathing for presenters.
Breathing. It’s essential. Don’t stop!
Your breathing plays a huge role in the success of your presentation. Rapid or shallow breathing is characteristic of nervous energy.
Slow and measured breathing is characteristic of control. That’s the characteristic you want. Prepared, ready and in control.
Complete some breathing exercises before you speak. Breathing deeply, draw in some air slowly and then exhale slowly.
Repeat a few times before you begin your presentation. Have your arms by your side. If you can stand, then do so.
Alternatively, stay sitting but sit up straight as you complete your breathing exercises.
When you begin your presentation you might need some focus on your breathing. That’s normal. Make a point. Pause and breathe. Then speak again.
After a while you will be quite comfortable with the routine. Your breathing is both affected by your confidence and in turn can influence that confidence. We will look at presentation confidence next.
Your confidence and your breathing are two sides of the same coin. One is lost without the other.
Before your next presentation take some time to remind yourself why you are presenting. Why it’s you on the podium. Why you were asked to speak.
Remind yourself that you are an expert. You know your stuff. You are fully briefed and in control of the presentation content.
This will boost your confidence. And, importantly, it will boost your breathing.
Controlled and measured breathing. Not flighty nervous breathing. Confidence and breathing. Together they make the winning team for successful presenters. Next, we look at how to engage your audience.
With confidence in yourself comes engagement. Engagement with your audience.
You want your audience to believe that they are having a one to one conversation with you. That’s one to one many time over for a large audience.
And because your audience believes that it is having a conversation with you then you have the opportunity to take them on a journey of engagement.
That journey begins with hearing and listening. It continues with understanding and participating. And it ends with remembering and doing.
Your job as a presenter is to make sure that you do everything you can do to make this journey happen. Your audience must be able to hear you without interruption. You must speak at a pace that encourages listening.
You have to build your argument and illustrate your points to foster understanding. Your techniques must enable participation. With questions for the audience or audience votes for example. And you must ensure that you keep hitting the main theme, the main points and the main message of your presentation.
That’s engagement. Next, your presentation voice.
Once you know how to engage your audience, your voice is suddenly very important. When you want your audience to hear you. When you want them to listen to you. When you want them to understand you…the power and importance of your voice is obvious.
It’s your main asset. And it has to be used well.
Take some time, when you rehearse, to practise tone and pitch changes. Push up the volume at times. And at other times lower your volume.
A modular changing voice pattern will prove more attractive to your audience than a monotonous flow.
Introduce a level of changeability into your voice and you can expect to become a better speaker. But there’s a word of warning.
Don’t push your voice. If you become hoarse or there’s a tightening in the throat, it’s likely that you are going beyond your natural range. Tread carefully. Making some adjustments will take time. Aim for small changes at first in your speaking voice. Next, the pause.
Your pause is as valuable as your voice itself. Some speakers might go as far as saying it’s more important. It was Britain’s eminent Shakespearean actor, Ralph Richardson, who said, “The most precious things in speech are pauses.”
Pauses in your speech help you to complete two functions. Control breathing. And, build effect. Your breathing, as you’ve already found out, is pivotal to your success as a speaker. Natural pauses assist your breathing. They give you time to draw breath. They ensure that you are not out of breath with a long sentence. And, with better breathing comes more control over your own confidence. You are less prone to panic when you manage your breathing.
But it’s not just about your breathing. The pause is vital when you want to build effect. When you want to build suspense. A well-timed pause will have your audience wanting you to finish your line. They might even try to guess the line themselves. Either way they are captured by the effective pause.
Captured because it encourages their captive listening. Captured because it encourages their understanding. And, captured because it boosts their participation. Next, setting the pace of your presentation.
Most presenters will speak too quickly. And speaking too quickly is a problem. It’s a problem for you because it will affect your breathing and your confidence.
And, importantly, it’s a problem for your audience. It’s a problem for them because when you speak too quickly they will struggle to understand your points.
You might speak too quickly for a number of reasons. You might be nervous. Tackle it. Remind yourself why you are the presenter today.
You might speak too quickly because you have too much material for the time available. Tackle it. Edit your material and time yourself in rehearsal, speaking at a consistent rate of about 150 words a minute.
And you might speak too quickly because you have too many slides. You can tackle that too. It’s not really a question of the slides themselves. Many successful speakers might have a hundred slides for a half hour presentation. Others might use only ten or fewer.
The problem is content again. When you build text on your slides you might be drawn into reading that text at a rapid rate. Don’t do it. Tackle the text. Remove it from your slides and remind yourself why your audience is there today. They want to listen to what you have to say, that’s going to be useful to them. Next, eye contact in your presentation.
Essential for engaging with your audience, effective eye contact helps you to build the perception of having a one to one conversation with your audience.
One to one many times over. Don’t be tempted to scan your audience left to right or right to left. Don’t be tempted to scan them row by row or aisle by aisle. No. Take a structured approach.
You will know some of the people in your audience. Start by looking one or two of them in the eye. Make your point. Hold their gaze and then move on to someone else and another point. Then you can move on to familiar faces in your audience.
They might be people whom you’ve spoken to at the Morning interval. People you’ve met over lunch. Look them in the eye. Make your point. Hold their gaze and then move on.
Then you can try the unfamiliar faces. Repeat the exercise. Don’t be tempted to chase a lost cause. Where someone refuses to look up, doesn’t want to look at you or hold your gaze don’t push it. Some members of your audience might find eye contact unbearable. That’s fine. There’s always someone else. Next, your use of presentation rhetoric.
Rhetoric—it’s the study of effective speaking and writing. And that study dates back to the orators in the city states of ancient Greece and Rome.
“Rhetoric paints with a broad brush,” said American satirist George Carlin. And so it does. But it also paints for an audience.
Your audience is your first consideration when preparing your words for a presentation. Consider their situation, their needs and their concerns when you prepare your speech. The rhetoric will follow.
Common rhetorical techniques include repetition, association and humour.
Repetition. Audiences become more comfortable with an idea when it’s familiar. By repeating a word or phrase several times you can boost that familiarity.
Association. You can link your ideas and concepts to those of others. You can link them to historical dates or events. You can paint an association with metaphors or similes—all designed to add context to your spoken word.
Humour. When you tell a humorous story or a joke you invite your audience to look at something from an alternative viewpoint. They can re-appraise their own take on something with a new light. It’s an effective technique that needs practice.
Your range of rhetorical techniques is vast. Your speech objectives might be very different but rhetorical techniques will always prove adaptable to your needs. Next, timing your presentation.
Timing is all-important to a speaker. “Always be shorter than anyone dared hope,” said Lord Reading, the 20th century statesman. You have four main areas to get right.
First. Give yourself time to plan. There’s no point accepting a speech opportunity tomorrow if you won’t be ready. Accept an opportunity when you know that you have time to plan. Will you have time for an hour’s preparation for every minute of speech. If you don’t then you might not be ready. Time to plan.
Second. Plan to the time available. If your conference organiser wants half an hour including questions then that’s what you plan for. That’s what you rehearse for. That’s what you edit for. Plan to the time available. Plan to time.
Third. Run to time. You’ve practised. You’ve rehearsed and you’ve edited your material. Now you run to time. Keep an eye on the clock, be confident and be wary of interruptions or questions that meander from the point. Run to time.
Fourth. Plan for quick time. You never know what’s going to happen at the Board meeting or the seminar. But you should be ready. So, when the Chairman of the Board or the seminar organiser asks you to speak for 15 minutes instead of half an hour—know what to do. Keep your introduction. Keep your conclusion. Pare down your middle. Keep all your main points but skip some of your sub-points. Keep some of your supporting stories and illustrations. But skip the secondary ones. Whatever you do though, don’t try to speak twice as fast. Planning quick time.
So, the four areas. Time to plan, plan to time, run to time, and planning quick time. There’s also a bonus.
Plan for tangent time. It’s common for a meeting organise to ask you to speak for a bit longer. A bit longer than planned. Perhaps the second speaker after lunch has been delayed by ten minutes. When you are asked to extend, you should know what to do. Think about re-introducing some of your edited material. Plant a good question with your host. Then answer it in an extended question & answer session.
That’s being ready for tangent time.
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