Ten Tips To A Dynamic Presentation

by Stephen Boyd | June 10, 2008

Uneasy about that next presentation? Taking your speech to the next level—possibly even from dull to dynamic—is as simple as incorporating these top ten speaking tips.

First, get off to a good start by using an attention device such as a quotation, story, or startling statement. I might start a presentation on overcoming stage fright with a quotation from Maggie Kuhn, “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes.” A startling statement might be, “The divorce rate for couples with a special needs child is over 80%.”

Second, know as much about your audience as you can. The more you know about the audience, the more effective your presentation will be. Talk to people who will be in your audience. Ask questions of the person who requested you to speak. Go online and find out as much as you can about the group from a relevant website. Obtaining as much information as possible about the audience will also encourage you to think more about specific audience needs as you prepare your speech.

Third, practice your speech at least three times. To get better at golf, you have to practice. To get better at tennis, you have to practice. To present a great speech, you must practice! Practice once when you have a rough draft, practice another time when you have the content pretty well completed, and then do a dress rehearsal. Go through the speech as though you are in front of the live audience. If you don’t practice, then your actual speech is a practice session; too much is at stake for you to practice in front of your real audience.

Fourth, choose material that you get excited about. It is hard to have enthusiasm for material that is uninteresting to you. If you have several examples or case studies to choose from and they are all equal in value to your topic, pick the ones that engage you the most. Audience members can see and feel your excitement—or your indifference. If the audience can tell you do not buy into the material, then they won’t either.

Fifth, pick out friendly faces to speak to. Don’t concentrate on the people with frowns or those who fold their arms when you begin your speech. Look at the friendly faces who are smiling at you. Of course, you have to smile as you begin in order to stimulate the return smiles. If you try to win over an indifferent or negative person, your energy will be depleted and you can lose your concentration. Friendly faces will also help you overcome any nervousness you may feel at the beginning of your presentation.

Sixth, always include a story no matter what your topic. Great speakers from the past have been storytellers—from Jesus to Abraham Lincoln to Bill Cosby. We can’t resist stories. Translate business principles or key ideas with stories. Watch what happens in a conversation or a speech when you begin with, “On my way home from work, the car in front of me…” You have hooked the other person because you have begun a story. You can use a story to get the attention in the opening, to illustrate a point, or to sell an idea. The story should relate to something in your speech. A story cannot stand alone.

Seventh, use gestures to describe and reinforce. You must use your arms and hands to help communicate your ideas. We must show what we are talking about as well as say it. In telling your story, use gestures to describe what happened. To drive home the point from the story, you must reinforce it with purposeful movement of the arms and hands.

Eighth, include few main points: three is a good number. Six or eight points are too many for the audience to remember, so people may get discouraged and quit listening to you. We respond well to the number three; we can remember three. Three is familiar: three strikes and you are out; ready, aim, fire; morning, noon, or night; Tom, Dick, or Harry; introduction, body, and conclusion of a speech. If you limit to three, you will have the self-discipline to be more concise and focused.

Ninth, be comfortable with your notes. Practice with the notes you will use in the presentation. Know where your key words or phrases are on the card or page. Look at your note just before you need it so that you will not appear to be attached to your notes. Don’t write out your speech word for word. For example, to tell a story, all you need is the trigger phrase that will remind you that a particular story is next.

Finally, have a strong ending. People remember best what you say last. Don’t say “That’s all,” or simply trail off at the end, or say a weak, “Thank you.” Have a powerful ending. In a persuasive presentation, you might present a move to action statement. A fine persuasive ending is “What I want you to do as a result of my presentation is…,” filling in the blank.

In an informative speech, share an appropriate pearl of wisdom. If I were ending a speech on communication skills, I might say, “When a Purdue student asked Majorie Randolph, Vice President of Human Resources for Disney, ‘What is the main reason for your success in the business world?’ her response was, ‘I speak up.’ In whatever career you choose, may you always be willing to speak up.”

Certainly taking classes, reading books, and listening to excellent speakers will help you improve your speaking skills. Putting these ten tips into practice, however, will help you take your presentations from dull to dynamic.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at http://www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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