Five Steps to a Successful Speech

iStock_000012372602SmallDo you dread making a speech? If you do you have plenty of company.  Studies have shown that fear of public speaking, or Glossophobia, affects three out of four people.  In fact, it ranks as the number one fear, with number two being death – a finding that once prompted comedian Jerry Seinfeld to remark that the average person going to a funeral “would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Today, digital communication is the norm, and while email, text and social media present their own special problems, they are a lot less daunting to the average person than presenting to a group.  The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to ease this fear and become an effective spokesperson for your business, whether your audience is one person or 1,000.

When planning your next presentation, keep these five elements in mind:

  1.  Work backwards. Don’t begin writing a presentation until you have determined what you want the end result to be.  What do you want to move your audience to do?  Is your purpose to inform or persuade, or both?  Identify key points you want your audience to take away, and make them easy to remember.
  2. Know your audience. How many people will be in attendance?  What kind of work do they do?  What is their level of understanding about your subject?  What do they want to hear – and what might upset them?
  3. Be understandable.   Regardless of the level of understanding of your audience, it’s always best to speak in conventional English and avoid technical jargon.  Use analogies, anecdotes and descriptive words to make your points.  Although the temptation is to rush through your presentation to get it over with, remember to take your time and keep your tone measured and friendly.
  4. Be yourself. Be honest, open and sincere.  Tell a story about yourself that relates to the content of your presentation.  Gesture naturally, and move around a bit, if possible, even if you stay close to the podium.
  5. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  None of the above will mean anything if you haven’t spent enough time preparing.  Relying too heavily on a PowerPoint presentation or notes during a speech can be deadly dull.  Instead, rehearse your speech until you can present it comfortably.  Have a friend, family member, or co-worker listen, time it and offer a critique.  Anticipate any audience questions or points they are likely to challenge.

Speaking well in public is a skill, and like any skill, the more you practice, the better you will be at it.  You may well find yourself looking forward to your next presentation!

Posted by Margot Dimond

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The Importance of Being Understood

Earlier in my career, my boss asked me to teach an in-house class on writing.  While I was discussing the importance of using clearly understood words and phrases, one man questioned the entire premise of the class, saying that in order to impress others, it was imperative to use the same terminology used in his profession.  “Otherwise, it’s too simplistic,” he said.

Today, with multiple forms of communication available, attitudes have changed.   Most business people realize the importance of communicating clearly in both writing and speaking.  Unfortunately, it’s easier for some than for others, and one of the main barriers to clear communication is the prevalence of jargon.

JargonJargon – defined as the specialized language of a profession or other group of people – is not all bad.  It can be a handy shorthand within the specific group of people for whom it was intended.   The problem arises when you are speaking to an outside group or even to a group of newcomers within your profession.  That’s when jargon can cause confusion or misunderstandings.  Ultimately, it can have a negative effect on your audience, who may think you are either trying to impress them or are being evasive by hiding behind expressions and acronyms they don’t understand.

Rarely will anyone say anything, however, and this is the real problem.  While you are chattering away, dropping an acronym here and a technical term there, your audience is probably not going to be listening to you.  After the first acronym, they will be drifting away, trying to determine what that stands for, and after a stream of unintelligible jargon, they will often become irritated or lose interest completely.

The use of jargon is not always intentional.  At our firm, we often train clients for media interviews or presentations, and in most cases they don’t even realize they are using jargon.  They have been in a profession or job for so long they think everyone understands their special language.  They have to spend some time untangling their jargon in order to connect with the audiences they want to reach.

Making the effort to remove jargon from your presentations is worth the effort.  When you communicate clearly in everyday language, you are more – not less – likely to impress people.  They will be impressed with your sincerity, thoughtfulness and leadership, and, most important, they will understand you.

Learn to Speak Layman with Lisa Dimond Vasquez.

YouTube ScreenshotPosted by Margot Dimond

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Are PowerPoints Passé?

PowerPointsAs is the case with any public relations firm, we have done our share of preparing PowerPoint presentations.  Although many of our clients prefer using a PowerPoint to going PowerPoint-less, we believe it has become an overused tool, one that is actually more of a crutch than an aid.

We do realize that there are benefits to PowerPoint presentations:

  • PowerPoints are simple to use and offer a quick way to organize your thoughts and turn them into an effective presentation.
  • PowerPoints emphasize the key parts of your presentation, making it easier for someone to catch the critical points, especially if you are presenting a highly detailed study, report or survey.
  • PowerPoints offer countless design templates that can add value to your speech while keeping the attention of your audience.

But there are drawbacks as well:

  • Instead of a visual aid for the speaker, the speaker becomes an audio aid for the slides.
  • It’s easy to become dependent on a PowerPoint illustration when you could actually find a more creative and interesting way to make a point by forming a mental picture using words.
  • To be sincere and authentic, you can’t appear to be too scripted.  But with a PowerPoint presentation, you often can’t avoid looking scripted.

That said, we recently saw one of the most entertaining presentations in a long time given by a local leadership trainer.  Thinking back, we remember she used a PowerPoint, but we really didn’t even think about the presence of it until now.  The point being :  A good presenter is a good presenter, whether he or she uses a PowerPoint or not.

On the flip side, what if the Gettysburg Address had been delivered with the aid of a PowerPoint?  Check out this PowerPoint presentation of the Gettysburg Address, developed by Peter Norvig, Director of Search Quality at Google, to imagine what Abe Lincoln might have done if he had used PPT rather than the power of oratory at Gettysburg.

If you plan on doing a PowerPoint presentation, you can find some good tips in this article by Brad Phillips in PR Daily.

PowerPoints

 

Posted by Lisa Dimond Vasquez, principal, DoubleDimond Public Relations, LLC.

 

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