Maybe you are one of the lucky ones, but making a speech or giving a presentation still gives me the jitters, even though I have done many over the years. My heart will start to thump away like mad and my voice often goes a little shaky when I start out. Nevertheless, like most things in life, this nervousness can be overcome and most of us can put on a decent performance, providing we prepare properly and follow a few basic steps.
For example, I always learn my opening paragraph by heart but still write this out in full. I then start off by reading this from my cards or papers. This allows my voice time to settle down and the familiarity of the words helps to ease my nerves. Once the opening paragraph is out of the way I move on to just using notes for the rest of my talk. By then I’m usually fairly in control. A speech doesn’t sound right if you simply read continuously, word for word, from what you have written down.
I’m probably getting a bit ahead of myself, so I’ll start at the beginning of preparing for a presentation of some kind. Traditionally they are expected to have an introduction, a middle and an ending. This may sound obvious but watch a lot of inexperienced speakers and you will see how they do not always follow this format. Everything can then turn into a jumble, with no real flow or continuity and often you can’t be quite sure when they have actually finished, other than everything goes quiet!
Let’s look at these three parts:-
#1 Introduction ~ This is where you tell ’em what you are going to say.
#2 Middle or Main Body ~ Now you tell ’em
#3 Ending or Summary ~ And finally you tell ’em what you said.
To balance a talk properly 10% of your allotted time should be for the introduction, 80% for the main body and the final 10% for your summary. A thirty minute talk, for example, would have 3 minutes allocated to both the intro and summary and 24 minutes for the main body. It is always preferable to finish a minute or two earlier than to overrun your time.
Many speakers find it difficult to guage their time. As a rough guide the speed ought not to drop below 120 words or exceed 150 words per minute, other than in exceptional circumstances.
Firstly a look at the introduction for the presentation (i.e. tell ’em what you are going to say). Some suggestions:-
I ~ Start with something which is particularly Interesting or unusual, something your audience may not be expecting. Try and think of a way to grab their attention
N ~ Demonstrate the ‘N’eed for the audience. Try to make it personal for them all. Convince them that they ‘need’ to give you their attention. Show the importance of the topic for each member of your audience.
T ~ Give the ‘T’itle of your presentation.
R ~ Indicate the ‘R’ange of your talk. Say what you will be including and what you must leave out. Tell them how long your presentation will last and whether you will be answering any questions
O ~ Establish the ‘O’bjectives for your talk. Explain to the audience what they will know, or will have learnt, by the time you have finished, and how you expect them to react to what you have said.
Use this introduction to set the route which you intend to navigate, so they will be aware as to what you are going to tell them.
#2 Middle or Main Body
Now we move on to the Main Body of the talk (i.e. tell ’em). Here are a few things to consider:-
(a) The stages of the development of your theme should be very clear in your own mind.
(b) Only make those points which are fundamental to your objectives.
(c) To help you emphasise your points use (i) examples, (ii) analogies and (iii) any visual aids or objects that can be shown.
(d) Be sure that your linking summaries are both accurate and adequate for the purpose.
(e) Don’t labour any arguments with repetitions. Instead illustrate and reinforce your points wherever possible (perhaps with i, ii or iii as above)
(f) Present your arguments so that only the main or important points will be remembered. Your system of priorities is important.
#3 Ending or Summary
Finally we have the Summary (i.e. tell ’em what you said)
Don’t end suddenly or stop too abruptly. Your finish must be part of the overall plan. The closing sentences of a well delivered talk will tend to linger in the minds of your listeners. Capitalise on this, and make this to your benefit.
Use your summary to briefly repeat and restate your main points, but try to vary your language. If there are any conclusions to be drawn – draw them. Do not introduce any new material, evidence or arguments in the closing stages. You are simply reiterating what you have already said.
# How Do I Say It?
What I have written above are just the bare bones of the subject, hints and tips that may be of help. Let’s, however, presume that you have completed the draft of your presentation. The question then arises of, ‘How do I say it?’
The most successful method of preparation involves a combination of memory and reading skills.
Use your memory, as I said earlier to learn the opening paragraph. Also learn off by heart your final paragraph (remember this will tend to linger in the minds of your listeners). It therefore makes sense to know exactly what you are going to say to make that final lingering impact.
Your notes are a reading aid and should be constructed as such. Whether you use cards or plain paper plan the layout. Print the words so that they are easily read and use letter sizes that will enable you to see them easily at a distance. Coloured inks and sketches also help.
Regarding your notes: it is a good idea to also have one Master Sheet which sets out clearly the stages of your presentation. This enables you to be aware of the overall plan and sequence of what you saying. If you should then indulge in anything off the cuff or get side tracked, it will help you to see where your are up to and put you back on course.
Once you have prepared your talk rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Make your friends listen, say it in front of a mirror, perhaps your dog or cat would like to hear, record it on tape and so on.
By repeating it over you may well find that you have to amend your notes. Sometimes the written word doesn’t have the same effect when said aloud. It is important to stress that proper preparation will create confidence. It is only a lack of confidence that prevents any of us from becoming effective speakers.
# The Delivery Of Your Presentation
I’ll finish up with a few points on the delivery of your presentation. Read over your notes, not into them. Never apologise either for yourself or for the subject matter. Speak in your natural accent and don’t project your voice only to the back of the room. Talk to those in the front as well and look at your audience, talk to them and hold their eyes individually. If you are addressing a smallish group you must make eye contact with them all at sometime during your presentation. Make it a two way exchange, even if the words are only coming from you. And try to avoid ‘umms’ and ‘errrs’ and repeating loose phrases such as ‘you know’, ‘you see’, ‘basically’, ‘personally speaking’ etc. etc.
It’s not too difficult to make a presentation or give a talk if you do your homework first. We can achieve most things in life if we really want to. It’s simply a matter of effort and preparation mixed with a desire to succeed.