I. Know your audience and focus on what benefit you/your group can deliver for them
Tailor your messaging to fit their worldview and values. Frame each part of your presentation to tell the audience how they will benefit from your desired action (joining your IBA, volunteering, giving money, etc). “Make the front end of a presentation about the audience. Focus on their issues and concerns and tell them what you [you] can do for them.” –Jerry Weismann

II. Begin with the end in mind
Determine what your desired outcome is before composing your show. What action(s) do you want participants to take? What are the key points (no more than four) you want them to remember? Feature them prominently — orally and visually. Repeat them in your conclusion. 

III. Plan an opening that will compel attention
A success story, a surprising anecdote, a remarkable fact, a participatory act are some ways to grab their interest (important when speaking before people who may not have come specifically come to hear you).

IV. Structure your talk around a few simple points and reinforce them
Especially your conclusion / call to action

V. Tell a story
This may not be literal, but your presentation should tell a story that introduces challenge(s) /antagonist(s) and ultimately presents your group as a solution. Once you have the basic concept, fill in the details (here’s how we will solve problem X and thwart antagonist Y).

VI. Engage Participants
Break free from the podium or props. Speak to all audience members by taking turns planting yourself at the right, left and center of the (but avoid continual movement). Face your audience when you speak and make direct eye contact with people. Vary your vocal inflection and volume. Use gestures, and let your personality out! Ask your audience questions (but be sure to watch your time and keep things moving).

VII. Effective slides
Your key messages and story shape your presentation. Once you’ve developed your outline, you can determine whether visuals will add to your presentation and, if so, what points should be illustrated, graphed or referenced on your slides. Don’t let your existing slides determine your structure. Jason Friedman of Friedman Associates notes:

“People have a hard time remembering more than three messages… When presented with a choice, people will read a slide instead of paying full attention to a speaker. So, keep slides text-light, and give your audience an opportunity to read your slide before you continue your talk.” We know silence can be uncomfortable for novice speakers, but allowing a few seconds for the audience to process what’s on the screen will help hold their attention when you speak.

  1. Include only necessary information. With each “bullet” point ask yourself: “Is this really something that needs to be highlighted?” If the answer is not a resounding yes, you’ll probably improve your talk by omitting it.
  2. Most slides should be largely visual, not text. Some text-oriented slides can serve as useful markers/transitions for you and your audience, but do not read your slides! Practice your presentation until the slides are nothing more than markers to cue you.
  3. Use a maximum of six lines of text (but rarely more than three) and use brief bullets, not sentences. Aim for headers using bold sans serif fonts 40 point or larger. No type should be smaller than 28 point–cut words . A citation or other detail can be placed in speaker’s notes in Powerpoint or other program, should you want the ability to reference it (place your laptop monitor facing you if you need to reference speakers’ notes while audience sees the slide show).
  4. Slides should have plenty of open space (excepting full-screen images) and leave ample room around the edges.
  5. Use a simple template/background with consistent colors and fonts. White or pale tones on dark background is best for projection.
  6. A good test for the flow of your presentation is to go through your slide deck reading only the titles and see if they tell your story.
  7. Feel free to use your / your hosts’ name and logo, where warranted and for opening and closing slides, but branding every slide is annoying.
  8. Transitions between slides should be simple. Special effects rarely add any value.

VIII. Preparation

  • Prepare your presentation by doing it, out loud, exactly as if the audience was there. No other form of practice prepares you. Get feedback from a colleague or friend once you have practiced enough to feel comfortable — at least a few days in advance of your presentation.
  • Visit the site in advance if you can. Arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of start time to test equipment, ensure room is properly configured,  display any materials, sign-up sheets, etc. It’s tough to focus once people are streaming in. You’ll need time to figure out what to do if a power cord is missing, computer and projector won’t talk, etc. Avoid the stress of this happening 10 minutes before show time and allow yourself time to mentally prepare, and start with a calm and confident presence.
  • Make sure you find a remote control and that it functions in advance so you’re not glued to your computer. Set up a laptop or monitor so you don’t need to look at the screen (don’t turn your back on the audience).
  • AMIBA staff typically travel with an outlet expander, remote control, spare batteries and an HDMI cable–each has prevented big problems at least once.

Public speaking genuinely can be fun once you’ve mastered your material and feel comfortable. Practice is the only way to get there. Please let us know any way we can help you prepare!

Thanks to Jason Friedman of Friedman Associates for some of the material presented here. For those wanting to dig deeper, we recommend Presenting to Win (2008 edition), by Jerry Weismann,


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