Tips and Techniques for Speeches and Presentations

How to make a speech 'sizzle'

1. Preparation - fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

-Preparation and practice: research and prepare your speech well in advance and rehearse it at least five times in front of the mirror or until you feel you know it. Great speakers know their speech inside out but look as if they are delivering their words off the cuff. Knowing and being comfortable with your 'lines' means you can focus on eye contact, delivery and engaging with your audience.

-PowerPoint and other support materials: never rely on these or use them as a crutch. Your slides or audio-visual materials should support and help illustrate what you are saying but never be a substitute for you. The best way to test how reliant you are on these aids is to ask yourself what would happen if your PowerPoint broke down - would you be able to continue effectively without it? If you couldn't, you need to kick the habit and re-think your presentation.

-Tailor your material to your audience: if it's an after dinner speech, you need lots of humour. If you are speaking on an expert subject, make it informative, interesting and engaging.

-Keep it short and entertaining: 10 minutes is enough to keep people riveted and leave them wanting more! Use the remaining time up in your question and answer session. Think about it, who ever complained about a speech being too short?

-Test-drive your speech: on a partner or close friend and ask them for feedback and timing.

Check your microphone and equipment works: there's nothing like a technical hitch to put you off your game so make sure everything's in working order and audio levels and feedback issues have been checked so that your audience can hear you.

2. Speech-writing and delivery tips and techniques

-Use an attention-grabbing title: apart from hooking and attracting people to hear you speak, a good headline grabs people's attention, gets them curious and interested and can help build the event and the audience's excitement.

-Plain English: the best speakers bring simple language to life. Don't alienate and bamboozle your audience with jargon, management speak or pretentious and complicated technical speak. People who do this either don't understand their subject well enough to communicate it in simple terms or have had a creative by-pass' and are born to be boring. Here's a great example of meaningless, alienating twaddle: "Neoclassical endogenous growth theory and a symbiotic relationship between investment in people and infrastructure." - Gordon Brown, former British prime minister

-Opening and closing lines should pack a punch: metaphors, drama and using misdirection make great speech openers and ice-breakers and are a powerful way to hook your audience, link to your message and set up the key points you want to make.

-Pause to create dramatic effect. It will keep people listening and give your speech impact and energy. Remember, to also pause before you start speaking, it's a great way to calm you and your audience.

-Pace: don't rush your words but also don't be afraid to change the pace of your speech to add emphasis, drama and impact to your message. It will also help to keep your audience engaged.

-Pitch: occasionally alter the volume and tone of your delivery. Speaking quieter or louder and being more cheerful or more serious all adds dramatic effect and keeps the attention of your audience.

-Enthusiasm: if you are enthusiastic about your subject, then your audience will be too. Enthusiasm gives a speech energy and strength so don't leave home without it.

Eye-contact engages your audience. Create spots in the room at the back, sides, centre and front of your audience and run your eyes regularly across them. Find three or four individuals in different parts of the room that you can direct the occasional line and hand-gesture to.

-Hand movements: which help you express your words and meaning are great, but make sure they look natural. We've seen some pretty silly-looking CEOs gesturing like manic robots because they've been told to do so by their PRs. It looks hilarious and turns you into a complete 'wally' and 'chump' in the eyes of your audience and the people you want to impress and influence!

-Move about if you can: if you have the room to move about and use the floorspace where you are speaking, do it. It's a great way of keeping people's attention, particularly if you've got a dry topic. It also allows you to make your presentation more upfront, close and personal for your listeners.

3. Structure and content of a speech

-Start with a structure: decide on what your main message is and then start breaking it down into three key points you want to make. These can be further broken down depending on how much detail you want.

-In short: the beginning should tell your audience what you are going to say, the middle: telling the story and the ending: telling them what you've said.

-Tell people something new, interesting and memorable.

Bring the story to life with examples and real-life experiences: a great way to get people listening to you is to weave a relevant stories or examples of yours or other people's experiences which bring the presentation to life for the listener.

-Incorporate memorable 'one liners' and colourful metaphors: these help to grab the readers attention, keep them interested in what you are saying and make your speech memorable. Here are some example: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail," Speak softly and carry a big stick and you will go far." - Theodore Roosevelt

-Use short, sharp sentences for dramatic effect. Examples of short sentences: 'Failure is not an option' and 'The time is now'.

-Apply positive adjectives and adverbs. Instead of for example: "We face many challenges" say "We face many exciting challenges"; or "We will work on our problems" but "We will work together to solve our problems".

-Use alliteration to make words memorable and quotable: for example: 'Broadband Britain', 'Britain's best business bank', 'the digital divide', and 'formidable, fashionable, functional.'

-Make comparisons: with other organisations, competitors and people's situational experiences and highlight what can be learned from them.

-Use three-part sentences to create dramatic effect. This technique is called a 'tricolon', for example: 'Government of the people, by the people, and for the people' and 'We came, we saw, we conquered'.

-Repeat your key words for dramatic effect. British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill's famous speech is a good example: 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fighton the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets...'

-Use memorable one-liners. For example: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Sir Winston Churchill

-Opening witticisms: these are good for warming-up the audience at the start of your speech or presentation. Here are some good examples: "I don't mind how much my minister's talk, as long as they do what I say." - former British prime minster Margaret Thatcher.

-End with a high impact statement: that reinforces your opening line. If for example, you were delivering a speech on the importance of business change, you might end with a famous quote: "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." - George Bernard Shaw, and "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." - James Baldwin.

4. Don't apologise for being there!

Your audience has great expectations of you, don't disappoint them at the first hurdle by telling them you aren't very good at speaking, that you don't know why you've been asked to speak, that you are nervous or any other excuse.

Transcribing Speeches - Phrases To Avoid

Speech transcription is a valuable tool for keeping a record of what exactly was said at a seminar, classroom lecture or speech. Once the spoken word is turned into a readable format, it becomes easy for listeners to review what they heard.

In some professions, such as law, transcription is vital. This is especially true during court proceedings, when a line of witnesses may be questioned in relation to a case. The transcription method that you choose, and the type of data that you want to include/exclude from the transcript depends on your profession and goals. For example, a student may want only a brief summary of what was taught in an academic lecture, while an anthropologist or linguist may want to include details about the length of vowels, pitch or volume, as well. This article advises you on how to transcribe general speeches and seminars.

Avoiding Unnecessary Utterances

If you compare a prepared script for a speech, with a transcript of the speech that was actually delivered, you will be able to clearly see the difference between written and spoken English. In some cases, the difference between the written speech and what was spoken can be immense, as speakers often ad-lib while speaking, giving their listeners spontaneous examples and quotations.

Many transcribers often unnecessarily include self-referential expressions like 'as you will' and 'so to speak' in their transcribed writing. This is known as word patronage. This section shows you how to inspect your writing for anything that smacks of spoken English, and modify it to sound more professional.

Spontaneous speech is usually riddled with qualifications and equivocations. While transcribing a speech recording into an essay, it may be easy to get rid of utterances like 'er, um, uh, well or you know'. However, it is important for writers to also purge their writing of other unnecessary utterances, words or phrases; which while adding immensely to the word count, may not provide much to an argument or description.

Here is a list of some common hedging phrases, which transcribers and writers should consider omitting from prose:

  • As I see it
  • From my point of view
  • In my opinion
  • It seems to me
  • Be that as it may
  • Other things being equal

While such sentence fillers are understandable in spoken English, whether rehearsed or impromptu, they are actually quite meaningless words usually uttered when the speaker was trying to collect his or her thoughts, and thinking of what to say next. Such phrases usually clutter a speech, and often confuse or discourage the listener. As readers expect speech transcripts to be direct and dynamic, content writers should avoid using such self-gratifying phrases in the written form.

Today, the development of transcription software and services has made transcription much faster and easier to do than before. No longer do people have to sit by a tape recorder, typing down text on a typewriter. One can just use transcription software or hire a transcription services company, and get the hard work done quickly and efficiently.

Master the Microphone - Become a More Professional Speaker

Speakers should practice at home using a microphone and when one is available for a performance, use it. Many speakers will avoid the use of a mic because they don't know how to use it. The use of a microphone is to the advantage of the speaker and to the audience. Without a microphone, the voice can't be varied enough to get that personal tone, friendly and persuasive. If a microphone is used properly, a speaker can use a softer voice and can better emphasize the points of the speech.

A microphone, properly used, mellows and enhances the voice. The microphone, along with amplifiers, speakers and other attached equipment, changes the entire tenor of a presentation. You can lessen the strain on your voice if you will let the microphone do the work for which it was invented.

When I present a program to a small group where a sound system is not available or when I don't have an accompanist, I bring my portable karaoke machine, a microphone stand and a microphone which can be used as a hand-held unit That allows me to get closer to my audience. Never approach such a karaoke unit with an open mic because it will screech at you. If you approach, be sure to hold the mic away from the unit or switch the mic off.

How should you test a microphone? I guess you would blow into it or tap on it - right? Wrong! Never tap a mic or blow in it, especially if it's mine. Tapping on the mic or blowing in it may damage it. You should arrive early for every presentation so you will have time to check out the room setup and the sound equipment. The mic is an important part of that equipment. You may find a custodian, a technician or the person who sets up and operates the equipment to help you test the mike. If you can't find anyone like that, ask some audience members in different parts of the room to give you feedback as you test the microphone.

The microphone stand may need to be raised or lowered. This sounds simple, but not all microphone stands are alike. Some stands have buttons, some have to be twisted. Some need a lot of strength to be moved. I usually try to find a man when strength is needed because men have all the right muscles You may need to adjust the height to suit you so get acquainted with the procedure so you can adjust it without fumbling.. Make sure you can do this task with ease so that if you have to deal with that before you begin your speech, you will not be awkward in your effort.

The turning on or off of a a microphone seems simple enough - turn it on when you begin and off when you finish. If you use the mic as a hand-held unit, place the unit back on the stand when you finish. Learn to do this smoothly. Be sure that the microphone is on before you begin to speak. Although these actions are not complicated, you would be surprised how many performers forget to do them We have all heard the embarrassment of someone saying something confidential which everyone can hear because the mic was left open.

Speakers and performers should keep the mouth close to the microphone, whether they use it as a hand-held unit or on the stand. Singers should remember to keep the mouth close to the mic, But when the high note comes, the microphone must be moved slightly away from the mouth or if the mic is on a stand, the singer should step back a little or the note might come out strident.

Remember - the microphone is your friend. Time spent learning its proper use is worthwhile.

Courses in Public Speaking - Top 10 Things You Should Know Before Presenting Your Speech

While the exact content or tone of public speeches may vary, many of the top communication skills and techniques are the same.
Students that take courses in public speaking tend to learn the following ten tips and techniques, to help improve their confidence and delivery.

1. Practice your speech in front of an audience. Before the big day, it can be helpful to practice your speaking and presentation skills in front of friends or family members for support and feedback.

2. Test your audio and visual equipment ahead of time. A common reason why presentations can go wrong is with faulty equipment. This will help you focus solely on your speech, without worrying about the visual aids.

3. Make your speech fun for the audience. Presentation skills courses will help you to try to connect with the audience, using humor when necessary or relaying facts that are relevant to their lives. This will help keep them interested in your message.

4. Focus on a strong opener. Courses in public speaking will help you learn how to begin your speech with a way to capture your audience's attention. A startling fact, a personal story, or amusing anecdotes are all good ways to achieve this.

5. Practice your delivery. A good speaking skill is the ability to deliver your speech with a confident, yet conversational tone. You don't want to sound like you are preaching to your audience.

6. Don't forget about body language. Well-placed gestures can draw the audience into your message and help emphasize a point.

7. Slow down. A major factor that you will notice through your courses in public speaking is the tendency for amateur speakers to rush their speech, usually due to nervousness.

8. Don't apologize to your audience. If you make a mistake, just keep speaking. Chances are that no one will even have noticed your flub, and if they do, it will make you appear more confident if you keep going.

9. Anticipate your audience. Any information that you can gather ahead of time on your audience will help you tailor your speech to their needs.

10. Videotape or record your presentation. It's remarkable how much you can learn from courses in public speaking and when watching your own speech later. This will help you make adjustments if you are speaking too fast, using pauses inappropriately, or making other mistakes that you might not be aware of at the time.

The best courses in public speaking allow students to work at their own pace. This is why speaking courses that are downloadable can be so helpful, as they often include speaking tips and techniques available from public speaking experts.

10 Sure-Fire Steps to Writing a Speech Outline

Your boss has asked you to give a speech at the annual meeting. Now you wonder why you accepted. Panic is setting in; what should you do? To get started, prepare an outline. Your confidence will increase the more you think through your message before getting behind the podium. Here are ten simple steps for writing an effective speech outline.

1. Use a two-to-five-word phrase to describe the topic of your speech. Make sure the phrase is broad enough to cover the topic and narrow enough to stay focused.

2. Turn the theme into a full sentence. For example, 'the courage of dissent,' while a great theme, is not a sentence because it lacks a verb. You could write, 'In a world stressing community responsibility, leaders must remember the value of dissent.' When you turn the theme into a sentence, it becomes your thesis statement.

3. Ask a question about the thesis. Usually several questions come to mind. Take for example the question, 'Why?' Why is dissent so important? That question may lead to a message about individual freedom and ethics. The question, 'what?' would lead to a definition of the concept of dissent. For our example, we'll use the question, 'How?'

4. Answer the question with a key word. What are some single-word answers that come to mind? I think of 'ways,' 'means,' 'forms,' 'manners,' and so on. The word you use to answer the question is your classification key word. It will always be plural because it represents a group of things. For our example, let's take the key word 'forms.'

5. Turn your key word into a transitional sentence. This sentence will describe the main points of your speech. Here is a possible transitional sentence formulated from our key word 'forms': 'The need for dissent may appear in various forms throughout your leadership career.'

6. Prepare from two to six main points (three will often make a balanced message). Each of your main points fits into the classification described by your key word. In our example, each point will be a 'form' of dissent.
(1) Leaders oppose immorality.
(2) Leaders defend the weak.
(3) Leaders resist corruption.
(4) Leaders struggle against their own inner demons.

7. Under each of your main points, add supporting points. Avoid adding material that has nothing to do with the main point. Take the second point above: 'Leaders defend the weak.' Your supporting points might be expressed as follows:
A. The crowd does not defend the weak.
B. Government does not defend the weak.
C. Business does not defend the weak.
D. The weak cannot defend themselves.

8. Write your conclusion. The conclusion is the place where you bring everything to a center and where you appeal to your audience to do something.

9. Write your introduction. This may sound counter-intuitive but you can't tell people where you are going until you know yourself. Most of your introduction is already written because it includes the thesis statement and transitional sentence. Add a gripping story and your introduction is ready.

10. Finally, rehearse your delivery. Go through your outline several times, aloud, until you become familiar with your own voice. When you give your speech, don't read your outline. Relax. Look people in the eyes. The message you have outlined will flow like a conversation.

Markers, Stickers and a Long Table: A "Just-In-Time" Learning Activity

It can be a real nightmare for a trainer when participants complete learning activities much more quickly than anticipated.

I found myself in that predicament this week when I was facilitating a workshop on "Managing Your Stress and Time Before They Manage You!" Two activities that were each supposed to take an hour were completed in one hour. There was an entire hour calling for additional content.

For the last exercise, the participants had paired up to take turns discussing how they had handled a very stressful situation earlier in their lives. When they came back from their break, they were then to discuss the keys to their success with other pairs at their tables.

My original plan was to conclude this activity by having each table report out their composite keys to successfully handling stress. However, I knew from feedback about the Creativity workshop they had attended the previous day that the participants really enjoyed creating projects.

Luckily, we were in a room that had a very long table at the front. It occurred to me that we could deepen their learning and make the report out activity much more interesting if, rather than verbally reporting their keys to successful stress management, the groups drew them on flip chart paper.

During the break, I laid out five pieces of flip chart paper on the table in a way that the groups would have sufficient room to work. I had three boxes of Mr. Sketch Scented Markers, which made it possible for me to place a nice variety of colors next to each piece of paper.

When the participants returned to the room, I gave them 10 minutes to discuss the pairs' results and 20 minutes to draw a picture that depicted their table's ideas.

You should have heard the energy and enthusiasm in the room as they met with their tables to discuss their results and then to plan what their drawing would be- and who would draw it. The participants in one or two groups took turns drawing on the paper and then labeling what they had drawn. Some groups volunteered someone to do the drawing and then stood around that person to offer additional ideas.

The drawings they came up with were wonderfully creative and insightful. The representatives from each table who described their table's drawing also had a lot of fun giving their reports to frequent applause.

The drawings were so good, in fact, that I was able to use them for an additional activity. It just so happens that I had also brought along a package of happy face stickers

I took the five pictures and hung them on the walls to create a gallery walk. Then the participants were instructed to take the stickers and place them next to the stress handling strategies on each drawing that would be most practical and useful to them in the future.

When they completed the gallery walk, I asked the participants to write down on an action plan the stress handling strategies they had selected.

It was serendipity that the table was long enough for the five groups to spread out and that I had the markers and stickers with me. This ended up being a wonderful accelerated learning activity that built on what they already knew and added to it in a highly interactive, creative and colorful manner.

In the future, I plan to bring stickers, index cards, envelopes, and markers so that I have materials to create additional learning activities when necessary. I also definitely plan to incorporate this learning activity into future workshops on a variety of topics.

Digging For Laughs: Sources Of Humor For Public Speakers

How was your last speech received by your audience? If you talked with them an hour, a day, or even a week after you gave the speech no matter how good their listening skills were, do you think that they would remember what you had said? If the answer is no, then you've got some work to do. I have some good news for you, don't worry about learning new presentation tips - fixing this problem might be as simple as adding some humor to your speech.

You Are The Funniest Subject

Often when we want to add humor to our speeches, we'll go on a hunt looking for topics that we believe that our audience will find funny. The truth is that one of the funniest topics is already staring back at us when we look in the mirror: ourselves.

We have all had a unique set of life experiences that have gotten us to where we are. We also go through a set of routines each and every day that our audience probably also goes through. We can draw from both of these groups of experiences and by adding just a bit of exaggeration we can transform events from our past into humorous moments for our audience.

Boys vs. Girls Always Gets A Laugh

No matter how hard we try to be sensitive to the other gender, it seems like we are always making mistakes. These mistakes more often than not result in miscommunications or misunderstandings between men and women.

Considering the fact that your audience will probably be made up of both genders, using the types of miscommunications that can occur between genders is a great source of humorous material. Everyone will have had a similar experience and so getting your audience to laugh will be very easy.

Read The Newspaper, Get A Laugh

The key to creating humorous material that will really get a laugh out of your audience is to make it as topical as possible - use current events whenever possible. Your local newspaper or TV channels are a great source of this type of material.

The trick to making this type of humor source work for you is to be careful to make sure that everyone in the audience will be aware of the story that you will be referencing. Stay away from the industry specific stories if you have a general audience. Try to stick with the stories that have made the front page of your newspaper.

What All Of This Means For You

We all know about the importance of public speaking and so we want each of our speeches to be remembered by our audience. One of the most effective tools that a public speaker has is humor. The more humor that you can pack into your next speech, the better the chances are that your audience will be able to remember what you said. All of this means that you're going to have to find good sources of humor that you can use.

I've got good news for you: great humor for your next speech is all around you. It turns out that poking fun at yourself is a great way to get your audience to laugh. The differences between men and women is another fantastic source of humor material. Finally, just by opening a newspaper you can find a lot of comedy in current events.

It takes time, energy, and effort to work humor into a speech. It's worth the effort because of the benefits of public speaking. The results of working humor into your next speech make this well worth the effort. Next time that you are asked to give a speech, take some time and do some digging - the humor that you find will make your next speech just that much better!