Giving Presentations: Public Speaking Secrets in a Nutshell

A high level manager contacted me in a panic. He was upset that his supervisor had asked him to give an important presentation in three days. He needed help - fast.

Occasional speech-givers make many errors. Three that are very common are poor speech-writing, inadequate knowledge of the topic, and undeveloped presentation skills.

When writing a speech, think of it from the listener's point of view. Try to get the listener to be involved immediately, whether by telling an appropriate joke or story, reciting a statistic, or asking a theoretical question.

Explain why the information is of value to the listener. Will it help them improve their bottom line, play a better game of golf, understand foreign policy so they can explain it to their neighbors, or make the community safer? Why should they listen to you?

Organize the material with just a few main points. Is it clearly organized and within the time frames permitted? Are there stories, charts, or other attention-grabbing methods used? Is it interesting?

End the speech with a brief review of the topic, and one of many closing techniques. One is a clear call to action, whether the desired action is sending an e-mail, going to a community event or something else.

Know your topic well, especially if you are presenting to others who also know your topic. Prepare with additional resources you can include if needed. Think about probable questions you may be asked, and know the answers. If absolutely necessary, tell the audience you do not know the answer, but will get back to the person if he leaves you contact information. (Very few people will provide this.) Sometimes you can refer him to a more knowledgeable source, as well.

Presentation skills are enhanced with considerable practice. To overcome "stage fright", or at least reduce it, think of yourself as a teacher, not a "speaker". You know something the audience does not, which is why you are up there giving this presentation.

Practice using a tape recorder or other device. Listen to yourself. Do you sound knowledgeable, enthusiastic and clear? Is your pronunciation easily understandable? Is your contact information on your hand-outs (if you have any)?

the audience will be watching you as well as listening. If you are using visual presentation materials, are they easy to read and understandable? Do you look enthusiastic or at least comfortable?

There is much more to giving presentations well. The tips above, however, will make your next presentation more polished and professional. You only have one chance to make a great first impression. Be ready!

Katie Schwartz, CCC-SLP, is the owner of Business Speech Improvement (http://www.BusinessSpeechImprovement.com). A certified speech pathologist, she specializes in working with corporate employees on their speaking skills. Courses offered included accent modification, listening skills for managers, public/persuasive speaking, brainstorming facilitation, speech therapy, lip-reading training, and much more. Ms. Schwartz is an enthusiastic public speaker and the author of three books.

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