Public Speaking Tips – 4 Ways to Avoid Presentation Disasters

I once heard Jerry Seinfeld joke that, because the fear of public speaking outranks even that of death, the average person attending a funeral would rather be “the guy in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Put to you this way, you’d probably want to get over your fear of public speaking (if you have one) in a hurry. This is particularly true in the workplace where public speaking is frequently a part office life. For some people, the thought of leading meetings or making formal presentations can be terrifying. Some are so terrified their muscles tighten and throats gets so dry they can hardly speak when just having to introduce themselves to a group of their peers around the boardroom table.

So it really doesn’t surprise me when people are more concerned about their presentation skills than about their writing abilities. I remember talking with the president of an executive’s networking organization. He told me that many of the people he deals with are more concerned about looking good when they present than they are about their writing.

But in the “strange but true” department, I firmly believe that anyone wanting to improve their public speaking abilities needs to understand: good public speaking depends on writing. If you think that public speaking is all about the well-timed joke, the confident delivery and the ability to conceal the fact that sweat is trickling down your midriff- think again! Sure, these traits are an important part of a successful public speaker’s tool kit, (anti-perspirant too, perhaps!), but there’s more to it than that.

Sweat aside, some of that confidence and timing stems from writing, as I know from recent personal experience. I recently appeared as a panelist on a business news television show talking about why you should avoid using business jargon.

Once I was well acquainted with the topic, I began mulling over what I wanted to say. But just thinking about it wasn’t enough to help clarify my ideas. I needed to sit down at my computer, organize and write down my thoughts before rehearsing out loud. I found that writing out the ideas gave me clarity and focus about what I wanted to say and the order I’d ideally like to say it in. (I say “ideally” because of course on a TV panel you can’t entirely control the flow of things.) But the written preparation was key to my successful TV appearance.

The fact is, for most people good public speaking starts with good writing. I don’t necessarily mean writing everything out in carefully constructed sentences either. Notes can work just fine. In this context, good writing is about organizing your thoughts.

So here are a few things to write down when you prepare for almost any kind of public speaking.

1. The Hook: Start with a good hook, whether it’s a powerful anecdote or some compelling information. Write down a few options; use the one with the strongest hook.

2. The Key Points: Write down your key points. Make sure you can articulate them clearly. If you find using notes isn’t enough to enable you to get your ideas across clearly, write out your key points in full sentences.

3. The Sequence: Make sure your ideas are logically sequenced with a good flow from beginning to end. Jumping around will make it difficult for your audience to follow. (Just think of all those wedding speeches you’ve had to sit through where this is so true!)

4. The Language: Is the language you’re using appropriate for your intended audience? Unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld, you want to be very careful with your choice of words and tone, especially if you’re delivering a eulogy.

The interesting thing is, most people say when they write something down, they remember it more easily. So why wouldn’t you take the writing as seriously as being able to look out at a crowd without having your knees knocking?

No matter how great your eye contact, no matter how well your gestures underscore the points you want to make, if your ideas are not delivered in a clear, articulate, logical fashion, you won’t achieve that success you’re aiming for. And careful written preparation is what makes it more likely.

Bonus: Preparing in writing might even help with that nervous perspiration problem!

Dr. Sandra Folk is founder of the Language Lab, an organization specializing in improving the communication skills of business executives and employees worldwide. Sandra understands how poor communication skills can damage an organization’s reputation or diminish your professional image.

As an innovator in online training, the Language Lab offers a variety of business writing and presenting courses to meet the needs of second language learners (ESL) and native English speakers. Knowing how to communicate in Plain English is an important focus of these courses.

How to Present Successfully

Delivering a presentation requires a lot of confidence, but the whole process is much smoother if you prepare well. There are several things you can do to make sure your presentation runs smoothly and has the effect you wish.

Firstly, think about the aim of your presentation. Do you want to provide information, or do you want to change people’s opinion of something? Are you presenting to a group of workers or to a group of board members? The aim of your presentation and your audience should influence how you present your information. For example, board members may just want concise facts and figures, whereas workers may need a more motivational presentation filled with stories and jokes.

A good point to remember is that no-one likes to sit through a boring speech. This means that dozens of powerpoint slides filled with text are out of the question, and try not to just read off a screen. If you can, memorise what you’re going to talk about or use some bullet points to help you keep talking. If your presentation sounds natural and you can modulate your voice, change your tone and make eye contact with members of the audience, you will keep them interested.

Practice really is key to giving a good presentation. It allows you to learn your subject well and prepares you for many eventualities. What do you do if someone asks a question during your talk? The more you practice the more confident you will sound because the presentation will become automatic. This allows you to focus more on being a good presenter on stage, on projecting your voice and thinking about your breathing.

Using props during a presentation is a great way to keep the audience interested. Pictures, flip-charts and cartoons give them something to look at and somewhere new to direct their attention. They can also help to emphasise your point and make what you’ve said more memorable.

Finally, make sure that you look the part on the day. Some presentations, for example to students, are informal and it’s OK to dress casually as the audience expects this. A presentation to board members on the other hand probably requires a suit. If you work in a creative industry a suit might look a little out of place. Again, think about your audience and the points you’re trying to get across and dress accordingly.

Present Your Business Proposal Effectively With Powerpoint Presentations

Business proposal is important for individuals who wants to set up a new company, or promoting new products and services to your future clients; or selling effective business ideas in a profitable price for your prospective buyers. The most common problem that every presenters encounter is that delivering such a lengthy business proposal could actually turn off audiences’ attention. You must deliver relevant messages within short durations. There are several ways to boost your presentation effectively with Powerpoint presentation slides.

You do not have to include everything in your slides.

All of the contents are included in your business proposal handouts. Your audiences might have (or not) read your handouts in advance. Based on the handouts, you need to summarize the contents from every chapter before putting it into your slides. For example, if you want to show your main objectives or mission statement of your company to your audiences, list out 2-3 objectives per slide. On the other hand, you need to improvise for the elaboration of these main objectives beforehand in order to capture your audiences’ attention. In other words, it is pointless of you if you include every contents from your handouts into your slides; which produces non-interactive communication with your audiences.

Use simple layouts and suitable fonts in your slides.

Basically, you use any layouts for your presentation. If you want to make it simple and clear, it is advisable to use plain colored backgrounds with black colored Arial or Century Gothic font. Make sure the font size is greater than size 40. Avoid complicated backgrounds that could distort the whole display in your slides.

Minimize the use of complicated multimedia in your slides.

If you are preparing Powerpoint presentation on your own, embedding multimedia such as video and music could be distracting to your audiences. Furthermore, you need more time to improvise for the video contents. This could only make you feel more nervous and therefore, it will affect your speech presentation.

You can import your colored graphs and charts from Excel to your slides if you have related data in your business proposal. Please use primary colors for your graphs and charts before placing it on your white-colored background slide. For effective display, make use of custom animation to present your related graphs and charts to your audiences.

Bear in your mind that these simple steps matter for better slide enhancement, though you find these steps are rather tedious. It is worthy that these steps would increases the probability of your clients could buy from you.