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A Crash Course in Public Discourse: Giving an Effective Presentation

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Three things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes…and public speaking.

While all of us will speak in public at some point in our lives, very few of us do so regularly enough to become at ease with it. Most of us would like to display comfort and confidence while presenting to an audience.

Public speaking is sometimes unavoidable. Industry professionals, entrepreneurs, those dreaming of owning their own business one day, or those who hold high positions in their organizations can attest to that. Whether you’re prepping to speak to investors, on stage to an audience, or virtual attendees in your digital marketing webinars, you want to be prepared.

​You don’t have to be perfect to give a compelling presentation. You only have to do two things:

  • Get the audience to understand the information you present, and
  • ​Keep them engaged.

Does that sound easy enough? We have some tips to help you achieve the two major aspects of nailing an effective presentation.

​In addition to knowing the information you’re presenting, consider adding the following elements:

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A Structure and The Rule of Three

Aristotle observed that people easily remember three things at a time. Think of the three things you hope people will remember from your presentation and drive those home.

​Additionally, you can always stylize your presentation after Aristotle’s Rhetoric, a three-pronged approach to speeches:

  • Tell the audience what you’re going to tell them.
  • ​Tell them.
  • ​Tell them what you told them.

Any way you style your presentation, ensure it follows some organized structure. Develop an opening, body, and closing. The opening should tell them who you are. The closing should leave them with their next steps (the call-to-action or CTA).

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An Icebreaker

Break the proverbial ice by helping the audience get comfortable with you and each other. Ask for a show of hands to a question you’ve prepared, or use an online poll (make sure to show or talk about the results). You might even ask an in-person crowd to “make some noise.”

​Alternatively, get the participants to engage with one another one-on-one or in small groups. Ask them a discussion question where they reveal their opinions, something they’ve done, or something they think should happen in a particular scenario.

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A Hook or Open Loop

Surprise them or offer an unfinished element to keep them anticipating what’s to come. It could be secret information, a discount, a freebie, or an announcement. Remember to deliver on anything you allude to.

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A Story

Storytelling is making its way into all facets of pitches. Your presentation is a pitch of some sort.

​Talk about the history of your business, you, or anything relevant to your presentation. Your story will help your audience relate to what you’re saying, pique their interest, and develop a relationship with you.

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Simple Visuals

A picture is worth a thousand words. And many people receive information better with visuals. So, it stands to reason that you want some in your presentation.

Don’t go overboard or jumble up your information with too many visuals. Simple graphics might be all you need to get your point across.

​Consider using pictures (even behind-the-scenes or those of people in your field), drawings, or videos. Use good quality pictures, avoiding pixelated or blurry ones. Your presentation-building software might have a good stockpile of images for your in-person or sales webinar presentations.

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Request and Reward Participation

Insert participation segments about every 10 minutes at most. Ask the audience questions or prompt discussions. It introduces excitement and exercise into what can be a spectator sport.

Despite your best, spirited efforts, your audience might shy away from participating with your prompts. Consider offering rewards to encourage participation.

​Anything from samplings of your product to candy to books and coupons motivates listeners to engage with a presenter’s questions.

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Appearance: Smile, Eye Contact, Gesture

Your outward appearance matters to your audience. You want to come off as knowledgeable and approachable.

Start with a smile that radiates to your eyes. Yes, your eyes are just as important as your mouth in a smile. They can convey a different message if they aren’t smiling, too–you’ve prepared a good presentation and have a lot to smile about.

Speaking of the eyes, look out into your audience now and then. If you’re in front of an in-person audience, try picking out at least three people in different areas of the room to look at occasionally. It will help your audience feel like you see them.

​The bigger the gestures, the more comfortable you look. Talk with your hands using grand gestures. Even pacing on stage makes you look like you’re in a laid-back conversation with the audience.

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Practice. A Lot.

Practice your speech in front of a mirror, family, or co-workers. Practice again and again until you can do it in your sleep.

​Winston Churchill supposedly practiced for hours and days for speeches lasting no more than 10 minutes, so practice unashamedly. Consider splitting your speech into segments and practicing each at least 10 times.

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Making it Memorable

What makes a great and memorable presentation? Is it a good script or an eloquent speaker?

There is no one thing. The effectiveness of your presentation will depend on your audience and subject matter, so make sure you understand both.

​One thing is for sure–you don’t have to be flawless to deliver an effective presentation. Remember to make your points easy to understand and engage your audience. Read more about creating an effective webinar here.

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