Giving a speech or conducting a presentation is hard for any person to do; you need to engage with your audience and make them forget that they are learning. Do not misunderstand; you should be aiming to teach the audience as much as possible, but in such a way that no one is bored, nobody should feel like getting up and pretending to have heard every word.
From the moment you walk onto the stage, until your closing remarks, you will need to retain the full attention of your audience, and this all begins with the opening. Each audience will be different, which will cause you to change your opening, in order to suit the people you are speaking in front of. You can start your presentation with a quote, story, or anything that you believe will get the audience’s full attention. You will need to know how to get their attention fast, and you will need to maintain their attention – fully.
1. Now that you have the audience’s attention, you have to retain it.
One of the keys to proper structure is your objective. What is your presentation about? What are you selling? Who will benefit from those products or services? Why would they want your product? What is so special about your service compared to a competitor? These are all questions the audience will have, silently; however, it is your duty to provide these answers, out loud.
If you are selling something, make sure the audience knows what it is, how it can benefit them, and how they can purchase that product or service. The key is to drill your objectives into the audience’s mind. When the presentation is over, the audience should know so much about your product or service that they could give you a stellar presentation on your own product!
2. Story! Point! Action! What a Presentation!
In order for the audience to know all about your product or service, you must provide them with a great story, point, and action. The voice in which you do this must be interesting. If you are monotone, you will lose your audience almost immediately. Yes the audience is there to learn, but they are not in the room to be bored. Move the audience; get them involved. It is a good idea to joke when you can, be serious when you have to, and always remember to get your point across.
You can get the audience to follow your story as long as you tell it in a way that is entertaining. The story will change from time to time, which is why all you need to remember is when it took place, and where. For example; you could be detailing a story pertaining to your presentation that coincides with a story that took place on a camping holiday in Wales. Most people will be able to relate to and remember a camping holiday in Wales. So pick a story that pertains to your message and go with it. Regardless of when the story occurred, or where, it must be on point.
Your story is irrelevant if it does not tie into the product or service you are selling, or the point that you are trying to make. If your message for the presentation was to drum up support for a local volunteer project, it would be a good idea to tell a story that relates to volunteering. After all, this is the action that you want the audience to take – volunteering.
3. Writing down a speech is not a good idea, and you should never do it!
When you try to remember a speech, you won’t, and when the speech is over, the audience probably won’t remember it either. When you use a personal story, this is something that you will not forget. After all, you lived through it, and even if you do forget some things, the audience will never know. However, if you have a pre-written speech and you forget, your tone and body language will definitely give your mistakes or mishaps away.
Remember that during your presentation, your voice must be perfect. The voice (tone) of your speech can change from time-to-time; this keeps the audience alert and moving along, instead of becoming bored and disengaged.
4. Restate your objective
Remind the audience why they are there, and remind them how to achieve whatever it is that you want them to achieve. If you do not accomplish what you set out to, your presentation was not only ineffective, it was pointless. You want to make sure whatever you promised the audience that you were going to achieve, you did. The questions that the audience had, you should have answered. If you did not, you have failed at this presentation. Remember that the audience will want to know What’s In It For Me (WIIFM), and you need to remind them exactly what that is.
Whatever it is that you told your audience you were going to cover, you have to follow through with. If volunteering is what the presentation is about, you must cover the aspects of volunteering that you promised the audience you would cover. The audience should never be left questioning whether you kept your promise and answered the questions for them; instead, they should be left knowing what exactly it is that is in it for them.
5. This is it; the End.
If you have done everything correctly, your closing should be simple, and a large percent of your audience – if not all – should be doing whatever you have called for them to do. If you want them to volunteer, they should know that, and your closing will reaffirm it.
Remember that your opening is important, but your closing has to be just as strong. You have maintained an appropriate tone and speaking style throughout your presentation, so you want to finish properly. Do not add any negatives now; this defeats the point of studying your audience or the company that you are speaking to, or the cause that you are speaking on behalf of. You want to finish just as strong as you started. If you want to end with humour or another funny story, that is fine. You could also end with a one-liner or powerful phrase. The key word pertaining to your closing is powerful. There is no other way to end a presentation.
This approach is appropriate for all types of presentations, regardless of audience size or presentation length. If you have a room with twenty-thousand people, and you give a six-minute presentation, you will use the structure above; the same structure will apply for a ten-minute presentation given to five people in a small room.
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