Listeners First!

In-person speech & Presentation Delivery Tips from a Chicago-based talk shop In-person speech & Presentation Delivery Tips from a Chicago-based talk shop

Hosting a party anytime soon? Getting ready to open the door with a warm smile, open arms, food, and drinks? You’ve planned for what it takes to get people talking, connecting, and simply having a good time without their gadgets.

Presentations are no different. They are events where you want your listeners to feel welcomed and cared for from the moment they walk in the door. A smile, open arms, food and drinks help—and they certainly don’t hurt—but what’s gold is delivering the information in a way in which the listeners can process and absorb the information or message with the least amount of effort. Where they feel you are there with them and for them. Do this, and they’ll stay with you and your 60-minute talk about Tax Form 1234 R-1.1.

First Things First: Rehearse

  • Practice, practice, practice out loud. Simply thinking through the content is not enough. Trust me.
  • Nail the introduction and conclusion to ensure the presentation flows. This allows the audience to sit back, relax and take in what you have to say.
  • Audio-record your presentation, or at least parts of it. Monitor your rate, pauses and use of fillers, such as um, uh, etc. Concentrate on your speech clarity and use of pitch variation. Remember: Clear is smart.
  • Video-record yourself. Monitor the following: posture—stand up straight, but not too stiff; body movement—move, but not frantically; hand gestures—use them, but in moderation. Remember: You don’t want your body language to distract the listeners from your information/message.

Engage & interact with the audience.

  • Engage your listeners from the get-go. Perhaps start with one of the following:
    • A joke to break the ice
    • A rhetorical question to direct their attention to your topic
    • A personal story to initiate some connection
  • Look at the audience and talk to everyone, not just those on one side of the room.
  • Avoid reading from your notes or slides. Concentrate on speaking to your listeners. They will stay more engaged, I promise.
  • Read the audience. If they look disengaged or confused, talk with them rather than at them. Fielding questions is a powerful technique for getting everybody back on track.
  • Use pauses strategically. Use them to highlight specific points and give your listeners time to process the information.
  • Incorporate pitch variation at the start of every new topic. Let’s say your presentation goes something like this:
    • Today, I want to talk about…
    • The first step to success is + explanation/details
    • The second step is + explanation/details
    • Not only does this help you achieve your goals, but it also ___ + explanation/details

Each of these phrases marks the start of a new topic. Adding pitch variation helps guide the listeners to anticipate what’s coming next. They’re with you and more likely able to process the information/message with more ease.

Like Any Memorable Event

Make sure to create and deliver your presentations with your listeners in mind. This goes for meetings with colleagues to share information, clients to promote a product or organization, and other professionals to demonstrate your area of expertise. Steve Jobs was a master of knowing how to accomplish his goals while keeping his listeners engaged. You might want to check out Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Must Read Summaries.   

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