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  • Writer's pictureJody Glynn Patrick

How to craft and deliver a great presenation

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

A successful speech transforms the listener. It takes the audience on a journey and imbues them with passion or reverence for the topic and/or speaker. But how do ordinary people catapult themselves to “expert” or “guru” roles just by opening their mouths? Here’s their speech formula, the key to cloaking your fears.

The secret to framing a speech is starting with the end result in mind. How much does the audience already know about your subject, or want to learn? What is the desired takeaway? What do you want each person to think, feel, or to do after listening to you? Can you embed an “aha!” message that changes a listener’s perception, behavior, or knowledge base?

Simply put, you want your listener to “get it”. But if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want them to “get”, or if it is not relevant to their lives or dreams, fears or schemes, then you can’t craft a persuasive or captivating speech. Define your relevance – that’s the speech!

Open with a question or story. Some folks start with definitions or statistics (yawn). Human beings are biologically wired to listen to stories. An engaging narrative with a beginning, middle and end is your best tool to engage a rapt attention. So start with a quick story the audience will relate to, or a motivational question. Example: “What if I told you something this morning that would change the way you manage your finances this afternoon? If you could eliminate most of your credit card debt, what could that mean for your quality of life?”

Warning: Forget advice to start with a joke unless it is SO relevant that it can be a frame for the speech. Even then, a joke better be funny to everybody.

Don’t “write a speech”. Break down a speech into pods of three points you'd like to make and the supporting elements: facts/stories/lessons learned, etc.for each pod. For a timed speech, determine how many minutes to devote to each pod (1-3 or 5 minutes). That's your outline.

If you want, create a few graphic slides to use as trigger to 1) remind you what comes next, and 2) keep your timing intact. Time each slide accordingly. As PowerPoint automatically moves to the next cue slide, transition to that topic. Practice 10 or so times and you’ll be set to give up to an hour speech without any notes at all. And you might be versed enough to even dump the PowerPoint, which can actually increase audience engagement with you!

Don’t practice reading. Throw out a script. People hate listening to a speaker read. Look at the cue slide and practice telling or explaining it. Use cue slides to illustrate, not to inform. You do the work; let the slides serve as relevant eye candy – just enough to entice, not enough to distract from you and the persuasive message bites you’ve connected.

Don’t sneak your notes onto slides. It is just as bad to read from a slide as from a piece of paper at a podium. And no, the use of bullet points doesn’t negate the “no notes” rule. A 30-point font for room-wide visibility is necessary if you MUST use words (for example, for a verbatim quote). Even then, try to limit words to no more than 7 per slide.

Avoid sales messages, humble-brag, and taking credit for others’ work. Nothing turns off an audience more than marketing your company or self during a presentation. You don’t need your logo on every slide. Be sure the facts and sources you quote are correct — someone in the audience will be an expert and later call you on it.

Edit. Edit. Edit. When taking your audience on your journey, not everyone wants to know where you stopped for gas. Have you shared enough details to describe the scenery without cluttering up the view with unimportant trivia? Use metaphors and/or personal, human language to connect with the audience. Avoid “intellectual” language which actually will distance you from the audience.

Model passion for your topic. Project energy – movement, not frenetic pacing. Step out from behind the podium and speak from the heart, which conveys confidence and knowledge. Mentally divide the group into thirds and make sure you make eye contact with someone in each section several times over the course of your speech. In that way, tell your story to one person, not 100. It works to settle your nerves and keep the audience interested.

You get what you inspect, not what you expect. Test audio and video equipment and laptop. Bring an extra thumb drive. Ask folks to turn off cell phones by turning yours off as an example.

Relax and have fun. Do what you set out to do – inform, educate, influence, and enjoy great speech evaluations afterwards!

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