Your Presentation Skills

You have been asked to present a proposal at a team meeting, to lead a briefing session with clients, or to make a speech at a community event. Speaking in public is inevitable, and you do it more than you think. The most important quality you can bring to your speaking (or anything else) is a positive approach.

The purpose of speaking is to clearly communicate your ideas.  Your goal is to help change people’s thinking or actions.  In your talk, your aim is to educate, inform, or enlighten; or to convince, persuade, or sell something – an idea, service or product. An effective talk combines all three. The difference has to do with how much of each element you choose to use, what subject you are talking about, and who your audience is.

In over 25 years as a professional speaker and trainer, I have made thousands of presentations to diverse audiences. My speaking has ranged from interactive workshops, leading retreats, facilitating meetings to after-meal keynotes. The one thing that they have had in common are the components. There are three components or parts to effective public speaking. I like to think of them as a menu in a restaurant.

They are:

  • The Beginning: Start with an appetizer – a soup or salad. In speaking, we start with being introduced or opening with an introduction.
  • The Middle: This is the entrée, or the meat of what you are going to say – your points and sub points.
  • The End: This is the dessert – your conclusion, summary and requested action.

The next time you are asked to make a presentation be it an informal one to your project team or a formal one in front of a potential client make sure that it has a discernible beginning, middle and end to maximize your effectiveness and help you overcome any fears by knowing that you have a solid structure.

The most popular question I get asked is: am I nervous when I speak in public? The answer is YES! But, over the years I have learned to change my perspective and see this stress as an energizer to excite me rather than an enemy to cause me fear.

It is commonly believed that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. This means, according to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, that at a funeral you would rather be in the coffin than doing the eulogy! The best way to reduce your stress when you are public speaking is to breathe deeply. This does two things for you. It will help you to relax and slow down your presentation and make sure you take a deep breath between the three components of your talk.