Delivering memorable speeches and presentations

The effective delivery of a powerful speech or presentation is just as important as the underlying message. An audience may be convinced or persuaded by a poor presentation if the message is sufficiently compelling. However, an audience is more like to be entertained, informed, convinced, or persuaded if the speaker is likable, engaging, and not annoying or irritating. It is essential for a speaker to be remembered positively if they want to build future relationships with an audience.

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Speeches are given to larger audiences with whom the speaker may not necessarily have a relationship; presentations are given to small audiences where the speaker does or wants to have a relationship.

A successful speech or presentation is a package of words and techniques that deliver entertaining, informative, convincing, or persuasive messages to an audience memorably. Whereas the words must be chosen carefully based upon the wants and needs of the audience, the effectiveness of the delivery is as much based upon physical skills, content organization, and handling of questions and answers.

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Physical skills:

The physical delivery should be on point and time with no distractions.

Establishing eye contact one person at a time creates a two way communication channel that draws the audience in and reduces nervousness:

  • Gives the appearance of control
  • Establishes thought patterns based upon audience responses

Coordinated voice and gestures enforce messages:

  • Vocal projection and animation – changes in speed and tone emphasize points
  • Physical animation – gestures emphasize points and project enthusiasm

Stationary feet project confidence:

  • Establish a central position and posture
  • Use gestures to control nervousness
  • Walk around to the audience or to visual aids

Podiums create a barrier effect and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary:

  • Don’t touch
  • Use big gestures when behind them

Content organization:

Extemporaneous content should describe stories and incidents, either prepared in advance or composed on the spot, that is delivered without a script or notes.

Prepared content should be organized to inspire the audience. Scripts work best for speeches to larger audiences and for formal presentations where precision is essential. Notes should be used as a guide:

  • Collect thoughts by point and then address the audience with eye contact
  • Don’t read verbatim
  • Use pauses to make the points more distinct

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Visual aids support spoken words:

  • Keep simple
  • Visualize the verbal messages
  • Use blanks for pauses
  • Explain the highlights then the details
  • Use up to seven bullet points that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, with up to seven key words per point

Lighting and music must not distract but can change the mood of the audience:

  • Relax and soothe
  • Stimulate

Questions and answers:

Asking for questions engages the audience. The speaker should clarify when questions will be invited – throughout or at a designated point before the summary and wrap-up. For large audiences, questions can be submitted on cards, but must be treated fairly.

Use questions as an opportunity:

  • Acknowledge the questioner and thank them for their insight
  • Restate the question back the the audience – rephrased to help frame or clarify the original
  • Respond rationally and unemotionally
  • Relate to the material

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A successful speech or presentation is not accident. It requires knowledge of the background and expectations of the audience to whom thoughts have been prepared and translated in words that are delivered memorably.

Delivering memorable speeches and presentations requires understanding the personal styles of the audience.

 

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