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Education & Training how to

Public speaking: teeny, tiny touches; great big walloping improvements

Small improvements make a big difference to the total professionalism of your presentation. Think of these teeny, tiny touches as your chance to go from Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia to Pierce Brosnan in James Bond.
By now you know the top five golden rules for effective presenting. A quick recap:
  1. Don't start with your proposition. Position the problem before you sell your solution.
  2. Use pauses, which provide punch for your points.
  3. Stories trump statistics when illustrating important ideas.
  4. Dead voice = dead audience. Vocal variety keeps them with you.
  5. Shorter is better than longer. Make an effort to keep you talk tightly structured and succinct.
Got 'em? Good. Now let's go a step further.

Try out these pointers if you're a painstaking perfectionist with an eye for improvement:
  1. You needn't suffer from premature enunciation

    Next time you're in a boardroom scenario, watch and see how often this happens: A speaker is called to the front of the room to present. They deliver their first words (usually something like, "Okay, um, hi everyone..."), while still rounding the table and looking at their own shoes.

    You can do better, and it's simple. Round the table and come to a stop. Take a second to make eye-contact around the room and connect. Smile. Then begin.

  2. Peripheral points dilute the juice!

    Strong speakers develop one clear point. The more 'and-that-reminds-me' moments you include, the more you dilute your juice! Give it to them pure, proof, perfectly undiluted by other thoughts.

  3. Be the light! ...Don't walk through it

    It's one of the most common errors in corporate presenting. Don't walk through the projector's light. Most professional speakers do not set up their projector in the middle of the room. They set it off to the side, so that they are the show, and the slides are merely visual support.

    You may even want to consider whether the slides are adding any value at all. For more thoughts on that, go to Presentations are not about Fact, but Impact.

  4. Be cautious of killer crutch-words

    Some favourites include: "Like", "Um", "Ahhh", "Actually", "In fact", and "you know". Use them often enough, and, like, the people listening will, you know, start to actually count them... You know? Your effectiveness will be diminished.

  5. Don't finish with a fizzle

    End with a thought-provoking quote. End with a clear set of instructions. End with an inspiring story, or a moment of over-the-top performance. But don't end with, "Okay, thanks, I guess that's about it..." Polished presenters don't think of a conclusion as 'merely running out of points'.

    A conclusion is a structured and strategic part of the whole, to be created with thought and delivered with panache. Arguably the best way to conclude is with a quick summary of your main points and then a clear set of instructions for your audience as to what they should do next.

    Naturally, there are more artful options, but this is solidly effective. The most important thing is that you actually bother to design a conclusion, whichever option you choose.
Sometimes, a smattering of polish is all it takes to set the professional apart from the fumbler. Think of it this way: it's a teeny, tiny bit of effort for a lot of applause!
    
 

About Douglas Kruger

Douglas Kruger has won the SA Championships in both a sporting pursuit and an intellectual one. He is a three-time winner of the SA National Skateboarding Championships, and a five-time winner of the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking. He is also the author of three books. See him in action, or review his books and articles, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Follow @DouglasKruger; email .
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