Tips for improving your presentations

Dan Magill, of Toastmasters International, gives his top tips on how to improve your presentations 

A presentation will go down well with audience members if:

  • They weren’t led down any blind alleys.
  • They didn’t find any of the language difficult to understand. 
  • Everything was clear, intuitive and linear.

Given this, let me share some ideas to help you give the best presentations you can to support your business.

Preparing your speech 

Most experts say that, when delivering a speech, there is nothing more important than the audience. I completely agree with this. However, we need to be a little selfish and decide exactly what it is that we want to achieve first.

Before you start writing, think about your desired outcome. For example, what do you want to happen for you off the back of your presentation? After this, everything else you do should have the audience experience at heart. 

Avoid blind alleys

Now that you have a clear focus on what you want to achieve, you need to ensure that every word in your speech is geared toward that target. When you’ve finished writing, go back through and identify any areas which feel like they go off on a tangent, or don’t contribute to taking the audience exactly where you want them to go. 

This doesn’t mean taking out humorous asides or anecdotes which you feel enhance your speech. But if there’s anything in there that could lead the audience down a blind alley and confuse them, remove it.

Make it easy to follow

When writing a speech, it can be easy to start using elaborate language, long fancy words and complicated sentence structures; imagine how intelligent it will make you look.

However, your audience would far rather listen to a speech filled with simple language and short sentences. This isn’t a case of ‘dumbing down’ your speech. It’s simply that the clearer the language we use, the more like an everyday conversation your speech will be – and that’s what audiences find most engaging. 

Focus on clarity, comprehension and chronology

When writing your speech, or at least when editing it later, always put yourself in the position of an average audience member. Are there any points at which they could become confused about what you’re saying? If you take something out at the start of the speech, could that have a knock-on effect on something you still have in at the end of the speech?

Keep a tight focus on the clarity, comprehension and chronology of your speech. 

Offer help

You’ve identified what you want to achieve from your speech; now you must place the entire focus on how you can best serve the audience, whilst remaining in pursuit of your desired outcome.

If you’re selling a product, service, idea or experience, the audience doesn’t want to just sit and listen to you telling them how great it is – they want to know what it can do for them. Of course, you may want to relate a personal story, or experience, in a speech, but you must remember always to come back to how this will benefit your audience members.

If you are clear on your objectives, treat your audience with respect and keep all of these tips in mind, your listeners will get an enjoyable and valuable presentation.

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