Professional speakers say a well-prepared, carefully drafted presentation can reduce your anxiety at the podium by as much as 75%. Unfortunately, many people do not know where to begin. They feel intimidated at the thought of organizing what seem to be massive amounts of material and data. Overwhelmed, they put it off until the latest possible moment and then rush around frantically trying to throw their talk together.
This panicked scenario is not conducive to professional advancement. But it can easily be avoided if you follow these 10 simple steps.
Follow these steps before beginning to write:
1. Learn about your audience. Ask your host to clue you in to local customs, people, places and events. Sprinkle these references though out your talk. You audience will be touched that you made the effort to tailor the talk to them. If speaking abroad, open with a few words of gratitude in the local language (properly pronounced, of course)
2. Adapt your speech to the time of day. If you are one of many speakers on a day long program, pay careful attention to when you will be presenting. If you’re first, your audience will be most attentive and awake. You’ll be setting the tone for the day. If you are after lunch, the audience is likely to be drowsy. Keep the energy high and don’t turn the lights off to show visual aids. Your audience may fall asleep! If you are last, prepare to shorten your speech if the event is running behind schedule.
3. Brainstorm. Get all your thoughts down on paper. Censor nothing. This frees your mind, gets your juices flowing, breaks procrastination and propels you into action.
4. Determine exactly how much you will need to write. The average person speaks comfortably at about 150 words per minute. This means a 20 minute speech will contain approximately 3,000 words on 10-12 typewritten, double-spaced pages.
Now begin writing!
Studies show audiences will remember only 10 percent of what they hear so keep it simple. You don’t have to tell them everything you know about the subject. Simply choose several key points and back them up with lots of examples and illustrations. If you’re speaking for an hour or less, make no more than 3 key points.
A good speech has six components. They are:
- An opening anecdote
- A topic sentence
- A thesis statement
- Some background information
- The supporting points (three or less)
- The conclusion.
5. Opening anecdote: prepares the audience to listen to the rest of your speech. Think of it as an icebreaker or warm-up. If the occasion is not serious, begin your speech with humor. You don’t have to be a stand-up comic. Mildly amusing will do. Thought-provoking quotes are always appropriate openers. Research shows that the audience will most likely remember only the first and last 30 seconds of your speech. Don’t waste your time with meaningless “Thank you’s”.
6. A topic sentence: is nothing more than a simple statement of what you are going to talk about. Nothing is more annoying than a speaker who takes forever to get to the point.
7. A thesis statement: is the main idea you want your audience to remember. It is your theme, central core, and dominant point of view. Every speech must have a thesis. Otherwise it would be nothing more than a rambling mish-mash of ideas. A well-organized speech cannot have more than one thesis. Everything you say must tie into this central idea or you risk confusing your audience. Begin your thesis statement with: “I feel…”, “I think…”, “I believe…”, or “In my opinion…”
8. The Background information: gives your audience a chance to get to know you better. It is a very brief story (no longer than a paragraph or two) about why you are interested in this topic. Keep your opening anecdote, topic sentence, thesis statement and background info very brief. All four should take no longer than two minutes to complete
9. The supporting points: comprises the main body of your speech. Here is where you give examples, present data and tell stories to support your thesis. Keep your message clear and memorable by limiting your supporting points to 3. Your brainstorm session will be a great help in providing data for this part of the presentation. Be sure to illustrate your supporting points with lots of practical examples. People remember points with stories attached to them. To avoid losing your audience be crystal clear about how each point ties into your thesis. For longer presentations don’t add more points. Just add more supporting data, stories or workshop exercises. Your last point should be your climax. Give your most shocking statistic, moving story, or key benefit.
10. The Conclusion: should be a distinct entity separated from the climax by a pause. Its only purpose is to repeat the thesis, give a brief summation of your supporting points and tell the audience that the talk is over. Your conclusion should be no longer than a minute. It can be a story that drives your point home, a brief reiteration of the points you made, or a memorable quotation that ties into your thesis.
Copyright 2014, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved.
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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors and public speakers. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training, communication skills training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit www.SpeakToInfluence.com.
Copyright, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. 10 Stress-Free Ways to Prepare a Successful Presentation.