So you’ve landed that job you wanted; congratulations! Now comes the fun. Whether you’re comfortable in front of a group or have taken a speech class in college, presentations and speaking opportunities are a part of some positions. So if you anticipate speaking before an audience, this multipart series is for you.
Know that with a short talk (eg. 3-5 minutes), you have roughly the first 20 seconds to drive home the action you want the audience to take and the benefit they can expect from doing so. Limit your subject since all you can expect to really get across is 1 or 2 main points. With longer talks, meant to secure action, you can make about 3 or 4 points.
As you prepare, value and develop your individuality and distinctiveness. They’re the spark that will add life and sincerity into your presentations. Let’s look at the other facets of preparing for your presentation in bullet point form.
Where to Begin
- Imagine success! Never undertake anything you want to accomplish thinking about defeat.
- The best way to develop courage is to act like you already have it. We’ll talk more about this in part IV.
- Know what you want to accomplish with this presentation. You’ll be giving a speech to do one or more of four the following things: persuade/get action, inform, entertain, or impress/convince.
- (Obviously!) Assemble and arrange your ideas beforehand. Assuming you’ll have some visuals in the form of a Powerpoint file, I suggest making a table in Word with column 1 as the slide number. Column 2 includes the points you want to make with the keywords in bold. Each slide number corresponds to the points to be made from the right column while that slide is showing. Bold your text for any questions you’ll ask the audience, and add a special bullet. This will help you easily see the question to ask. Here’s a sample presentation notes sheet I came up with.
Choosing a Subject
- The only way to gauge the interest value of a subject is to ask yourself how interested you are in it.
- Fit the purpose and topic of your presentation to the audience and occasion. Consider why you’re choosing a topic and why it has meaning for the intended audience.
- After introducing yourself, it’s best to open with a compelling story. People like to listen to stories. A presentation will be more interesting if it’s rich with human interest stories, and a top source for those is your own background/experience.
- You can start a story from your experience by saying, “Here’s what happened to me,” or “…this is my story.”
- Be as descriptive and visual as possible. Paint a picture with words.
- Stories have a beginning, build, climax, fall, and resolution/wrap up.
- Use specific names and a lot of concrete and explicit details.
- Work a little dialog (from experiences) into your talk—what people said in the course of what happened.
We’ll talk more about the structure of a great presentation and the development of ideas in the next post.
The content of this series is mostly drawn from Dale Carnegie’s book The Quick & Easy Way to Effective Speaking and a bit from Nancy Duarte’s TEDx presentation.