Inspire and Engage Your Audience With These 10 Presentation Tips

photo credit: Graduation via photopin (license)

photo credit: Graduation  (license)

In today’s digital age of global communication, competition for our attention is intense and increasing by the second so great words and content matter. Over the years, I’ve listened to hundreds of presentations and speeches in different countries, and in different contexts, from simple and personal to more complex and corporate. In the end I always come back to this basic question: ‘How can I move, inspire and engage my audience with my words?’

Recently I was coaching a woman for a presentation that she was giving at the United Nations in New York. She was extremely nervous before and during the rehearsals but her content was so powerful I knew she would rise to the challenge. She invested many hours in to her presentation, did her homework and rehearsed with me in front of the camera many times. She developed a really strong speech with some powerful content using her own experiences and stories about her family. On the big day she moved several people in the audience to tears and she did this by ticking off the ten point plan for developing content. 

The 10 Point Plan

1. Do your homework.

The key to writing memorable content is preparation. If you give yourself enough time to prepare and research properly without pressure, you’ll be able to organise your key messages clearly.

2. Focus on what you want to say.

The first thing to do is to find out more about your presentation. Why is it being held? Who will be in the audience? How will your presentation fit in to the event? Once you have the context for your speech you can then start to think about the content.   One thing that can help with this is to ask yourself some simple questions with the idea to help build your content. What is the one thing you are most proud of? What are three lessons you’ve learnt in life? What is the one thing that has helped you succeed? What would you most like to be remembered for?

3. Have three key messages.

Your key message is the one thing you want to say or convey to your audience. Start by summarizing it into a short paragraph and then reduce it to one strong, clear, memorable sentence. Essentially, this is the coat hanger on which the rest of your speech will hang. It’s a theme you can follow throughout your speech.

4.Write to speak – don’t write to read. Cut the jargon!

Use everyday language that people understand so that an audience can easily identify with it. A useful metaphor I use in training is to use $5 words not $15 words. $5 words come from everyday language. Write the way you speak.

5. Bring to life with stories, anecdotes, and examples.

Stories are gold and are nearly almost the most memorable part of a speech. One of the things I really enjoy is hearing the stories clients tell about their lives. Be confident in telling your own story because it’s what makes your presentation interesting to the audience. If you are developing a business presentation you may not want to include stories about your life – but it is still really important to connect with your audience by providing anecdotes, examples, and stories about the workplace, or the task. Step aside from your work and think about what you may have in common with your audience.

6. Provide context and back yourself with great statistics.

Well-presented statistics can be really persuasive in a presentation. The trick is to select the best ones on your topic and align them with your key messages and stories. Sometimes statistics can provide a great opening for your presentation.

7. Develop a coherent structure and stick to it.

Keep it simple. A good speech needs to have a great introduction and a powerful middle, and a memorable ending. Pinpointing three key messages forces you to keep your speech succinct and to really know your topic.

8. Hook your audience with a powerful introduction.

Start with a bang to get the audiences attention. For example, ask a question, sing, or use an appropriate prop. Ask yourself this question every time. ‘What response do I want in the first thirty seconds? Think back to all the speeches you’ve listened to and what made the most impact and why.

9. Tie it all up with a strong ending.

Tie it all up with a bow. This will leave the audience wanting more and eager to talk to you and read more about you. Think about how you want to be remembered.

10. Review, read it aloud and edit, edit, edit.

I can’t stress how important it is to review and rehearse a presentation. By doing so you have the opportunity to present something that is powerful. Get feedback from people you trust, video yourself and play it back so you can correct habits. Edit content so that your words are memorable. 

When giving any presentation whether it’s a business pitch, a special occasion speech, or a job interview, you have the opportunity to add value to people’s lives. Imagine having people recall what it was you said and your key messages. Imagine if you had people describing how great your presentation was for months afterwards. By using my Fresh Eyre ten-point plan for developing content you’ll not only feel confident in front of your audience, your words will ring on for years to come.

Maggie EyreMaggie Eyre is a communications consultant and media trainer, and the Director of Fresh Eyre, a niche training company specializing in teaching presentation and media skills. Maggie has over 30 years’ experience in business, public relations, education and theatre. Her work has been recognized in Time magazine and in international media from the UK to Dubai, and she has trained many prominent figures, most notably Helen Clark, current Administrator of the UN Development Programme. 

Her book, Speak Easy, The Essential Guide to Speaking in Public will help you build your confidence and speak in public with ease and flair. Use the links below to order your copy: