So you want to be a speaker and give a presentation
You think that it’s easy and all you have to do is get up on the stage and give your talk.
There is so much more to be done and think about before you can even think about getting up there.
As you prepare your introduction, carefully plan the opening technique you want to use to grab the audience’s attention. Whether you start with this technique or with the component identifying your topic briefly doesn’t matter. Just go with what works. Then follow these two components with a quick overview of what’s to come to get your talk off to a strong start.
When presenting information or telling stories, we need to:
Capture a listener’s attention
Share information, ideas, or opinions
Give the important details
Make your information memorable
Get your audience (family, friends, colleagues or strangers) to agree, to take action, to change their mind, etc
Speakers often overlook the part about grasping the audience’s attention. They just start talking without creating any interest for the audience to want to listen. The key point to keep in mind here is that if you don’t grab your group’s attention upfront, you may not have it for the rest of your presentation.
So, with the in mind, here are some tips.
Quote someone else – A quote is a line said by someone else that helps set up what you’re going to talk about. When using a quote, you want to accomplish two things: Cite the source of the line and tie the quote to your topic.
Tell a joke – A touch of humour in good taste is a great way to break the ice with an audience; that is, to ease the tension and relax everyone. The key, as with a quote, is that the joke must be tied to the topic you’re going to talk about. Otherwise, it serves as a distraction and can turn an audience off regardless of its humour.
Share a story – A short story — with the emphasis on short — is another clever way to kick off a presentation. To work, the story needs to make a point or contain a message that you can tie to the talk that follows.
Make a bold statement – This technique involves a brief, thought-provoking statement that sets up your topic. If you say it with a strong voice, it commands attention and gets the group ready to hear what will follow.
Get the audience to participate – With this technique, you start your presentation by having the audience do something, from a brief exercise to responding to questions. This technique gets people’s energy levels up. However, don’t choose an activity that creates such a ruckus that getting the audience to focus back on you becomes difficult. Manage with care.
Ask a rhetorical question – A rhetorical question is a thought-provoking question that you ask the audience but don’t expect them to answer out loud. When you ask the question, you want to answer it either within your introduction or a short time later in your talk. Otherwise, the question serves only to confuse people.
State noteworthy facts – With this type of introduction, you provide the audience with some interesting statistics or other facts that stimulate thinking and help set up your presentation. This technique works well when the facts you report are not common knowledge yet are relevant and stimulating. Just be sure to keep the statement brief so that you don’t clutter your opening with too many easy-to-forget details.
Make a list – This introduction involves using a shortlist of at least three items that have something in common. It usually works best to say the list and then state what the items or people have in common with one another.
Give an interesting example – In this technique, you start with a demonstration, showing something or describing a situation that illustrates what your topic, and especially its core message, is about. To be effective, the example must be relevant and fairly brief. The example isn’t the actual talk, but it sets up the presentation that will follow. A good example of this technique is the showing of before-and-after pictures from the use of a product or service.
The main body of your talk
The main body of your talk needs to meet the promises you made in the introduction. Depending on the nature of your presentation, clearly segment the different topics you will be discussing, and then work your way through them one at a time – it’s important for everything to be organised logically for the audience to fully understand. There are many different ways to organise your main points, such as, by priority, theme, chronologically etc.
Main points should be addressed one by one with supporting evidence and examples.
Before moving on to the next point you should provide a mini-summary.
Links should be clearly stated between ideas and you must make it clear when you’re moving onto the next point.
Allow time for people to take relevant notes and stick to the topics you have prepared beforehand rather than straying too far off-topic.
When planning your presentation write a list of main points you want to make and ask yourself “What I am telling the audience? What should they understand from this?” refining your answers this way will help you produce clear messages.
In presentations, the conclusion is frequently underdeveloped and lacks purpose which is a shame as it’s the best place to reinforce your messages. Typically, your presentation has a specific goal – that could be to convert a number of the audience members into customers, lead to a certain number of enquiries to make people knowledgeable on specific key points, or to motivate them towards a shared goal.
Regardless of what that goal is, be sure to summarise your main points and their implications. This clarifies the overall purpose of your talk and reinforces your reason for being there. Follow these steps:
Signal that it’s nearly the end of your presentation, for example, “As we wrap up/as we wind down the talk…”
Restate the topic and purpose of your presentation – “In this speech, I wanted to compare…”
Summarise the main points, including their implications and conclusions
Indicate what is next/a call to action/a thought-provoking takeaway
Move on to the last section
Thank the audience and invite questions
Conclude your talk by thanking the audience for their time and invite them to ask any questions they may have. As mentioned earlier, personal circumstances will affect the structure of your presentation.
Many presenters prefer to make the Q&A session the key part of their talk and try to speed through the main body of the presentation. This is totally fine, but it is still best to focus on delivering some sort of initial presentation to set the tone and topics for discussion in the Q&A.
It’s important for a presentation to be well-structured so it can have the most impact on your audience. An unstructured presentation can be difficult to follow and even frustrating to listen to. The heart of your speech is your main points supported by evidence and your transitions should assist the movement between points and clarify how everything is linked.
Research suggests that the audience remember the first and last things you say so your introduction and conclusion are vital for reinforcing your points. Essentially, ensure you spend the time structuring your presentation and addressing all of the sections.