Presentations: Tips to help you do better

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“More people are afraid of speaking in public than they are of death.”

Wow. Don’t you wonder what question they asked to get that answer? I’m sure it wasn’t “Would you rather die or give a speech?”

Throw away the statistics and surveys. What’s probably true is that a lot of people are scared of speaking in public. If that’s you, here are some tips to make your speeches better and your preparation easier.

Preparation drives out panic.

You have a choice. You can spend your time imagining how awful you will do. Or you can spend your time preparing a great speech. I suggest option B. Remember that the people who asked you to speak thought you had something worth saying. Believe them.

PowerPoint is the enemy.

Unless you’re giving a technical presentation that requires graphs, forget PowerPoint. That will eliminate one thing you have to plan. It will also eliminate one thing you will have to worry about during your presentation. That will make it easier connect with your audience.

Stories are your friends.

Human beings love stories. So tell them stories. Make a list of stories you want to tell your audience.

Organize your material

Identify your key points. Go over your stories and identify the points they make. Just ask yourself, “Why do I want to tell them this story?”

Select one story for every four minutes that you have to speak. That will work out well for most business speeches which will run 20 to 30 minutes tops.

Come out punching.

That’s the advice of Patricia Fripp, one of the best speakers ever. Draft a short, powerful opening. Make a provocative statement. Ask a question with a surprising answer.

Close with a summary.

Say something like, “Here’s what I want you to remember from today …” Then list your key points. That’s all. It’s way easier than trying to remember a powerful close word for word.

Practice while standing up

That’s how you’ll speak. And don’t practice in front of a mirror. Your gestures will come naturally with your stories.

On the day of the program

Get there early. Walk around the room. Get comfortable with your surroundings.

Test any equipment you will be using. Since you won’t be using PowerPoint, you won’t need a laptop or projector or remote control. Keep it simple.

Standard advice you can ignore

Do not begin with a joke unless you’re a good joke teller. Do not imagine your audience naked. It’s one more thing you have to think about. Just tell your stories.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Making a great speech is not that hard if you treat it as a natural human activity. Take it easy. Tell your stories. Accept the applause.

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