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Presentation Skills for the "Unprofessional Speaker Part 3"
By Bill Wilson   Printer Friendly Version

This is the third in a seven-part series of articles on presentation skills designed for persons who don't make or supplement their living from professional speaking.

Part 3 of 7: The Situation…
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

When asked to make a presentation, the first thing that often runs through the panic-stricken mind of the "unprofessional" speaker is, "What am I going to say?" A more purposeful response is: "Why have I been asked to give this presentation?" Therefore, the first step in the presentation process, before a word has been put to paper, is to determine the purpose of the presentation-it's goals and objectives.

Obviously, the structure, content and style of the presentation will vary according to the nature of the event. For example, wouldn't you agree that, if you were asked to make a speech about an individual that was being honored, the tone of the presentation would be dramatically different depending on whether you were speaking at a retirement "roast" or a funeral?

Most presentations take one of three forms, as illustrated by Aristotle's "Appeals":

  • Ethos - the purpose is to inform or instruct, as one would as an instructional course leader, and is based on thought processes.
  • Logos - the purpose is to persuade or motivate to action, as would a politician, clergyman or salesman, and is based on behavior modification.
  • Pathos - the purpose is to inspire, entertain or otherwise elicit feelings and emotions, as would a motivational speaker or stand-up comic, and is based on changing attitudes.

Keep in mind that many, if not most, presentations incorporate more than one facet of each of these "appeals." For example, Winston Churchill used both pathos and logos, Zig Ziglar focuses on pathos and ethos, Brian Tracy on logos and ethos, and so forth. Also, you can be effective using whichever "appeal" best fits the situation or your personal style.

Personally, I loved to hear both Carl Sagan (who most often used an "ethos" appeal) and Zig Ziglar speak, though their styles were completely different. So, be aware that there is no one best form of presentation...each can be effective, in its own way, depending on the situation and the speaker's personal style of communication.

One other observation regarding the situation in which you are speaking, and one of the most common mistakes made by "unprofessional" speakers...remember to ALWAYS finish on time. This is particularly true when you are speaking at a meal function such as a luncheon or dinner. Never ask "How long have I got?" but rather, "When does your meeting usually end?" These types of events are notorious for dragging on forever. If you have a 30-minute presentation scheduled for 12:30 p.m., but you aren't able to begin until 12:45 p.m. (and the group usually adjourns at 1:00 p.m.), cut your program to 15 minutes. If you follow the advice in this short course, you'll be prepared to do this and, believe me, the participants will love you for it!

Copyright 1999-2000 by William C. Wilson, Jr.
All Rights Reserved.

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