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


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.



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