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Spice Up Your Speaking Presentations
By James Ocque
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 James Ocque
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe "Gourmet" Presentation
Once upon a time, there was a department manager at a satellite division of Convergys Corporation who would suffer a case of hives each year when it was time to give an annual report to corporate management. Each year, she would agonize over the thought of standing in front of management to describe the departmental performance under her control and to deliver a forecast for the coming year. As predictably as the coming of the seasons, the hives would appear at the presentation time.
Finally, the manager decided to overcome her fear and suffering; she joined a Toastmaster Club. Within a year, she had overcome the fear of making public presentations, and the recurring hives had stopped.
Does this sound like a fairy tale? I can assure you that it is not! This is only one of many success stories of people overcoming their fear of public speaking.
Barbara was the manager of the mailroom, the receptionists, desktop publishing and reprographics departments. In the past, she would wear a blouse or sweater with a high collar to hide all of the red blotches on her neck. By participating in the Toastmasters meetings and learning from the objectives in the manuals, she was able to relieve her fear of making public presentations. As she participated in the Toastmasters program, her presentation skills improved; her vocal volume increased; she was able to speak with a minimum number of notes; she was able to have eye contact with her audience; she could include gestures; she learned to talk to her audience as friends, rather than to talk at them; and her confidence grew.
After all of this training, it was the time to make the annual report again. As Barbara reviewed the data that she was going to present at the meeting, she developed the plan to make the presentation "gourmet." Instead of standing on stage in front of the management review team, she would use a visual aid to make it more interesting and memorable. Barbara decided to make a tossed salad while she was giving the presentation.
On the day of the presentation, Barbara came on stage carrying lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery. She also had knives, a cutting board, and a large bowl with her. As Barbara picked up the head of lettuce, she explained that it represented the largest department under her control. As she gave the data about the department, she began to tear apart the head of lettuce and put it into the salad bowl.
Barbara picked up the tomatoes and said that they represented the second largest department. Again, she went through the same routine. She cut up the tomatoes and put the pieces into the bowl as she talked about the performance of that department and gave its forecast.
This routine was repeated for each of the other vegetables as she prepared them and put them in the salad bowl. Each vegetable was related to one of her departments, and during the preparation of the salad, Barbara presented the details about each department as it was represented by each vegetable in her presentation.
As she mixed all the vegetables in the salad bowl, she made the point that the vegetables were good when eaten alone but tasted much better when eaten as a mixture in a salad. Barbara then said that it was like her departments; each one operated well alone, but they operated much better when they acted together.
By the time her presentation was over, Barbara had prepared a "gourmet salad." Hers was a different and memorable presentation.
However, this was not the end of the story. Barbara's presentation was the last one before lunch. As the corporate management team and the division managers sat down to eat, the first course served was the salad Barbara had just prepared.
Barbara told me about her presentation, and the salad was the topic of conversation during the lunch. Barbara's presentation was not soon forgotten, because the visual aid reinforced the message.
That "gourmet salad" was my inspiration for this book. Every presenter should be seeking the right words, the right type of presentation, and if possible, the right visual to enhance the message.
Barbara's accomplishments are like those of so many individuals who have participated in the Toastmasters Program; by persistent self-improvement, they have reached a successful conclusion.
A woman joined Toastmasters with the objective of improving her public presentation skills, without a specific end goal in mind. However, she has found herself as a voice in her community addressing the school board and other educational groups on public school issues. A successful manager of training joined Toastmasters and soon discovered that there was a difference between training and public speaking. This person started a company as a motivational speaker and has become very successful. A young man joined Toastmasters to help overcome a speech· impediment. He overcame his impediment, and as a result, he has won several speaking contests.
When a person learns to speak effectively in public, success can be experienced many times over, even by those who may or may not have a defined goal. Opportunities abound for you to enjoy your own success if you take the time and make the effort to improve your speaking skills.
Chapter TwoGetting Started
The starting point for making your presentation is knowing what you want to speak about. The easier presentations to prepare are ones you select because you are familiar with the topics. Examples of these topics include your work experience or job, your hobbies, current-event issues, unique experiences, insights you have learned, vacations, or trips taken. It is something that is important to you, and you want to share it with others.
The more difficult presentations to prepare are the topics that you are assigned. Your management or the organization may request you to make a presentation on a certain subject or from a specific viewpoint. An example of an assigned presentation that I recently experienced was when I was asked to speak at an awards banquet. The organization wanted a motivational presentation.
It is your responsibility to make your presentation interesting for all who attend. Your audience is not concerned whether the preparation was easy or difficult to prepare.
The end of the preparation is the "gourmet" presentation to your audience. It is the easiest step; all of the other steps must be completed before you walk on stage to give your presentation. The actual presentation is the result of preparation and practice, practice, practice.
The process of preparing a presentation includes several interchangeable steps. (See the preparation and presentation checklists in the Introduction for a list of the steps.) The presenter may begin at any step listed and then complete the steps that come before or after that step. You may start the process by writing the body or conclusion of a presentation and then complete the steps that would normally come before or after this step—or vice versa. However, each of the steps in the preparation and presentation checklist should be completed before your presentation is given.
As you begin your selection of a topic, you should answer the questions of what, why, who, and how.
What will I talk about? Why is this important? Who is my audience? How can I make my presentation effective?
Choosing A Topic
The topic of a presentation can be selected by the presenter or it can be assigned. If it is selected by you, the question becomes, what topic should I choose? The answer is, who is my audience and why is the topic important to them? If the topic is assigned, you still are required to know "who is my audience and why is the topic important to them?"
You may be an expert on the topic. This may be because it is your field of work or study. You may have an interest in a topic, but you do not know all of the details on it; this topic will require research to enable you to make an intelligent presentation. How do you know how much research is enough? A rule you may apply is that you know enough when you can answer all questions that might arise from your presentation. However, you may be asked a question that you do not know the answer to. When this happens, tell the audience that you do not know but you will find and send them the answer.
The topic that is assigned to you may require you to interview experts or do extensive research to prepare this presentation.
Meeting an Objective
You should write one to three sentences associated with the objective that is to be achieved with your presentation.
It should state the topic of the presentation.
It should state the type of presentation: informative, motivational, persuasive or entertaining. (See chapter 4, Types of Presentations). It should state what the audience is to know or do at the conclusion of the presentation.
You should avoid a topic that is too general in scope: an overload of information will confuse your audience. The topic should be narrow in scope.
A very general topic would be "How to Use Desktop Computer Programs." If your presentation included all of the individual programs—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.—it would be a very long presentation, and it would overwhelm your audience because it would contain too much information.
You should narrow the scope of this presentation by presenting information on only one program at a time.
Supporting Material Selection
During the "getting started" phase, you should write down all the relative points and information pertaining to your presentation topic. These points can come from your knowledge of the topic or from your research. You may not need all of the points that you have for your presentation; if it does not clearly contribute to helping the audience understand the main topic, do not use it.
The next step after gathering all of the related material is to rank each point according to the importance it has to the subject or topic. Use only the top three or four points in a presentation. I recommend that you give each point a numeric value. The value should indicate the importance in clarifying the topic.
Writing the Presentation
You should make an outline of your presentation before you write it. The outline can be used as notes during the presentation. You can write the text for the opening, body, and conclusion in any sequence that you choose, but they will have to be written!
The entire presentation should be written (and probably rewritten several times) before it is ready to be presented. Choosing the most effective words is very important; as a speaker, you want to convey your message so it is easy for your audience to understand.
David Brooks, the 1999 Toastmasters International Speech Contest winner, is a strong advocate of writing the presentation in its entirety because it helps in selecting the right words to convey the right message:
If your words are incapable of getting your message across, then no amount of gestures or vocal variety will do it for you. Thus, when preparing a speech, your first objective must always be to carefully structure your information and look for the best words or phrases to express what you want to say.
The act of simply writing your presentation will enable you to eliminate rambling. It will also help you reduce the chance of being misunderstood by your audience because you have selected the appropriate words and supporting material. Writing your presentation will help you communicate your intentions to your audience, so that they will clearly understand the information that you want them to know or the action you want them to take. To deliver a good presentation, there can be no shortcuts. Remember, after the presentation is ready, practice, practice, and then practice some more.
Reading Your Speech
Writing your speech does not give you a right to simply read the presentation to your audience. If you intend to read your presentation, write a paper or book and let your audience read it at their convenience. Recently, I was in the audience when a university president read his presentation. I heard it, but I did not understand what the message was or the action I was expected to take. I was bored and consequently, I did not listen. Do not read to the audience; instead, talk to them.
A presentation starts with a topic.
Write the presentation objective and keep it in front of you at all times. The next step is to start collecting the supporting material. Select only the most important material that explains your message. Keep referring to your objective as you select the material to be included in the presentation.
Writing and outlining the presentation are the next steps.
You may find that your initial objective statement and the topic may change as you collect the supporting material or write the presentation. You may find that your original thoughts may be incorrect or in need of modification. Be flexible and learn from your research, and then change your presentation as necessary.
Select the type of presentation (See chapter 4, Types of Presentations) you want to use to convey your message. It will affect how your presentation is written and delivered.
Chapter ThreePresentation Structure
All presentations have a similar structure: an opening, a body, and a closing. The adage that you tell the audience what you will tell them (the presentation opening), tell the audience what you want them to know or do (the presentation body), and then tell the audience what you told them (the presentation closing) is very applicable. You are giving your audience a road map and the directions for the trip ahead.
The introduction of the topic of your presentation should be done very quickly. Psychologists have proven that the first thirty seconds and the last thirty seconds of a presentation have the most impact on an audience. Within those thirty seconds, you must "grab" the attention of the audience and tell them what your presentation will be about. Without a strong opening, a speaker can lose the attention of the audience—and never recapture it. You will lose the attention of the audience if your opening allows them to begin recalling their own memories or experiences and you continue to allow their minds to wander. Also, it is essential that you have a strong finish that restates the topic.
It is recommended that your topic have a theme. A theme acts as a rallying Call and as an aid to help the audience remember your presentation. It can also help you remember your presentation!
You need to keep pulling the thoughts and attention of your audience back to you every fifteen seconds. These attention-getters can be unusual (but appropriate) body movements, gestures, a loud noise, a presentation of a visual aid, a question to be answered by the audience, or a change in your verbal presentation; vocal volume and speaking pace are examples. Material cannot do it alone; the speaker's personality and delivery make it come alive.
Presentation Opening (Introduction)
The opening has a three-fold objective:
to introduce the subject of the presentation to "grab" the attention of the audience to personally "connect" with the audience.
The sequence of these three objectives can be interchanged; there is no strict rule as to which objective should come first. However, remember the audience is attentive for only the first fifteen seconds.
Introducing the Topic
The introduction should be brief and give a glimpse of what is coming, and should be very limited (one or two sentences). Remember, the topic will be developed in the body of the presentation. The introduction should be relatively short when compared to the body of the presentation.
Excerpted from Spice Up Your Speaking Presentations by James Ocque Copyright © 2011 by James Ocque. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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