This rant is for some of my students and those who wish to become better public speakers or need to develop a presentation for work or school.
Understand, I am not providing these suggestions as a “cure all” nor am I proposing they would replace a well taught Public Speaking class. They are simply observations I have made over 45 years of teaching and speaking publically.
The first thing I am going to say, irritating many, is that technology in the form of presentation programs such as Power Point CANNOT replace you as the knowledge conveyor. These are a tool and must be incorporated into a well designed presentation, THEY CANNOT DO YOUR JOB. Think of all the power point presentations you have sat through and you’ll understand. Don’t forget that the most powerful tools you have are your eyes and when you look at an individual they pay attention. Anything that prevents you from maintaining that relationship detracts from your ability to teach.
1st , Learn your material and organize it logically. This is for the benefit of the audience but also to make your efforts easier. It is far easier to remember what comes next if it’s in a logical sequence.
2nd, Make sure you have visual aids and that they are incorporated into your presentation TO CONVEY KNOWLEDGE. They should be used in the natural flow of your presentation to gain attention or to illustrate significant points.
3rd , Once decided upon make sure your visual aids are clear and large enough to be seen from the rear of the presentation area.
4th , Develop an opening that will gain attention and focus your audience on what you have to say. Some prefer a joke but be aware a bad joke puts you on the defensive. I prefer a fact or series of facts that force the audience to pay attention. E.g. “did you know that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free any slaves until the war was over and then only rebel slaves?” This will get most people’s attention as they always thought it was what freed the slaves.
5th , Never use note cards or notes. These only become a crutch and take your eyes off of your audience. Instead type a bullet list, in 20 point font, of the key subjects you are to cover. If you know your material this will be sufficient to get you back on track and can be laid on the podium where you can glance at it and return your attention to the audience.
6th , Practice, Practice, Practice. Always practice with a HUMAN audience; Preferably someone sufficiently knowledgeable to correct you. Do not talk “at” them instead try to explain the material. Have them watch for repetitive phrases, eh, ah, Like, etc. Have them watch your posture and mannerisms.
7th , After you have selected your clothing look in the mirror. Is your skirt too short, neckline too low, shoes appropriate. Empty your pockets so you don’t have anything to “play” with.
8th , During the presentation. Look at individuals. Don’t look around the room. You’ve heard “eye contact” so many times you will form a pattern of sweeping the room. DON’T instead pick individuals to talk with. I said with, not to, hold a conversation even if it is one sided.
9th , Talking with individuals will establish a conversational pace. If you practiced with Human Beings the pace will regulate itself and time will never be an issue.
10th , don’t be afraid to speak with your hands. Point at a visual aid or audience member, slam your hand down to make a point, run over to the board and pound on a key point. These things will keep attention and at the same time keep you busy not getting focused on simply regurgitating facts. (I’ve been known to jump up on my chair and act like a duck)
11th , Do not “hide” behind the podium or chair. Walk to the extent of the area, even into the audience. When you are walking you aren’t making many of the other mistakes, don’t pace, walk. I usually tell students to walk toward who you are talking to. Not all the way, just a step or two, it gets their attention and everyone else focuses because they know you are making a point.
12th , Remember the first rule of effective speaking. Tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em – Tell ‘em - Tell ‘em what you told ‘em. Then get off the podium and let the next person do their thing.
13th , Don’t forget, you can only do what you practiced for; If they haven’t gotten it they won’t. I used to have an award for my students called the “hammer and nail” award. It was a hammer with a nail welded to the end sticking into a board. I would begin the class asking if anyone could hammer a nail into a 2x4. I would give them a piece of 2x4, a hammer, and a nail. When they stopped hammering I’d ask why. They would always say because the nail was in the wood. My lesson was that once you have put the nail in the wood STOP HAMMERING. During classes when a student kept trying to convince everyone after they had obviously covered the material I would stand up and present them with the award.
14th , You will eventually develop your closing repertoire but in the beginning be content to say,” this is what I’ve explained, If you have any questions I’ll be glad to answer them or youcan email me at --------.
THAT'S NOT ALL BUT I HOPE I’VE HELPED SOME OF YOU - GRUMPY