is the sixth in a seven-part series of articles on presentation
skills designed for persons who don't make or supplement their living
from professional speaking.
6 of 7: The Presentation…
1 | Part
2 | Part
3 | Part
4 | Part
5 | Part
6 | Part
presentation itself has three components:
- The Planning
Phase. After assessing the situation and audience, you're ready to
plan your presentation. First, you'll want to research and develop
the main points of your program. Then, using this raw material, you
will identify your central theme, develop each point to support that
premise, organize the content around these main points, and prepare
- The Preparation
Phase. In this phase, you'll take the substance of your presentation
and bring it to life by structuring it in accordance with several
fundamental public speaking principles such as "The Universal Speaker's
Law" and the "Magical Rule of 3." Then, you'll further enliven it
by illustrating your points with humor, quotations, analogies, anecdotes,
and other tools.
- The Delivery
Phase. This phase involves issues such as personal style, use of audio/visuals
(if any), incorporation of "games and gimmicks," use of participative
exercises, and many other techniques beyond the scope and space constraints
of this course.
In my (hopefully)
forthcoming book, "Presentation Skills for the 'Unprofessional' Speaker,"
we use an analogy to demonstrate the three phases of a presentation:
Creating Frankenstein's Monster. The Planning Phase is
presented as Scene One: The Graveyard...digging up the body parts. The
Preparation Phase is presented as Scene Two: The Laboratory...stitching
all those parts together. The Delivery Phase is presented as
Scene Three: The Public Square...where Frankenstein's monster is brought
to life and must confront the public. Here we'll stick to the essentials...
phase involves an extensive amount of research using authoritative reference
materials and, increasingly, the Internet. You want to amass as much
information on your topic as you can reasonably find in the time available
for research. For the most part, you can't find too much information...you
can always pare it down later to fit your time frame. After establishing
your central theme, you can organize the content using several techniques
such as mind mapping, storyboarding, affinity diagrams, wheel charts,
and, my personal favorite, manila folders! I've found that, for ethos-type
educational programs that are linear in structure, a simple system such
as manila file folders works quite nicely. However, I've often had to
resort to the "stacks of paper on the ping pong table in the garage"
technique, though that one is much too complex to present in an introductory
course such as this. : - )
next step is to restructure your outline into a "presentable" format.
Two techniques known to all professional speakers can be used in this
step. The first is "The Universal Speaker's Law" which says:
(1) Tell them what you're going to tell them, (2) tell them, and (3)
tell them what you told them. In other words, every presentation should
have: (1) an introduction, (2) a body, and (3) a conclusion. The introduction
should include a dynamite, attention-getting opener and a brief summary
of what you're going to tell them. The conclusion should include a dynamite,
thought-provoking closer following a brief summary of what you told
leaves the body itself and another speaker's "law" to consider here
is what is known as the "Magical Rule of 3." Simply stated, if
you limit your presentation to three main points, you'll never go wrong.
This is not an absolute maxim, but it is one that always works for a
very simple reason...most people can't remember more than three things
you tell them. If you want your presentation to be memorable, then limit
your "message" to three points.
concepts are discussed at length in my seminar and (hopefully) forthcoming
book. Finally, although the substance and form is now there, to make
your points clear, understandable and memorable, you have to provide
illustrations. If you observe most professional speakers, they make
their points real and memorable using anecdotes, humor, quotations,
and so forth. Numerous examples and resources are cited in the (hopefully)
forthcoming book (do you sense a message here?).
Delivery Phase involves concepts such as personal style, enunciation,
and use of repetition, body language, and use of audio-visuals. Each
of these is discussed in the seminar and companion manual. In this section
of the abridged, online version, we'll focus on two areas...things you
should NOT do, and techniques you can use to bring Frankenstein's monster
to life. First, here are three "DON'Ts":
- Don't recite.
For most of the public speaking that you're likely to be doing, don't
try to memorize a speech. One of the most boring presentations I ever
saw was a guy who had memorized a 20-minute speech. Similarly, I used
to attend a church where the pastor was noted for his ability to cite
lengthy Biblical verses from memory...at least that's what I was told
by the three people who remained awake. A presentation that comes
across as "canned" is perceived to be insincere and trite.
- Don't read.
Think for a minute...when was the last time somebody read to you?
If you're like me, it was probably your mother who read to you at
bedtime. And, what was the purpose of her reading to you? I rest my
- Don't start
with a joke…or at least be REAL careful. The true mark of a real
'unprofessional' speaker is a person who feels compelled to start
their presentation with a joke. Nine times out of ten, that joke is
either not funny or, if it is, you've heard it a dozen times during
the past month...if a popular joke is going around, most of your audience
will have heard it. Also, ninety nine times out of a hundred, the
joke has nothing to do with the presentation, such as, "Before I get
started, I heard a funny joke the other day..." Humor is a principal
tool of my speaking style, but it has to be used properly and in the
right context to be effective.
Finally, here are
THIRTEEN techniques you can use to liven up and illustrate the points
of your presentation:
Quotations can be a great tool for not only supporting a premise or
point, but also as a brainstorming tool to develop presentations. For
more information on this, take a look at my article elsewhere on this
site: "Quotations: They're Not Just for Drunks Anymore."
I do a seminar called "The Five Habits of Highly Effective Leaders."
In distinguishing between management and leadership, I use a quotation
as an analogy: "Efficient management without effective leadership
is like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic." An analogy makes
a point more memorable.
If you're making a presentation on politics, you'll want to define a
Politician: Someone who will borrow $20, repay you $10, then say you're
even because you both lost 10 bucks! Or, how about an Auditor: Someone
who goes in after the war is lost and bayonets the wounded. Or, an Attorney:
Someone who goes in after the auditors are through and pick the pockets
of the dead. Caution: be wary of how you use these definitions...believe
me, if you're speaking to attorneys, they won't appreciate attorney
jokes...besides, they've heard them all before.
If you listen to the well-known professional speakers, most of them
build their presentations around humorous or inspiring anecdotal stories.
In the unabridged (hopefully) forthcoming book version of this program,
we give you a number of anecdotes you can use and show how you can use
your own experiences in your presentations.
One caveat: if you use a rhetorical question, be prepared for someone
to actually respond. I once sat on the front row to hear an absolutely
gorgeous speaker start her presentation with the question, "Did you
ever have a sexual fantasy?" Without missing a beat, I responded, "Does
right now count?"
These are usually statements you make about yourself or an action you
took. They work best when you poke fun at yourself, although Don Rickles
has made a career of insulting his audience. Just be careful how you
Statistics are too often used improperly in a presentation but, if used
effectively, they can make the subject matter more interesting, understandable,
and memorable. For example, I've often cited a university study that
alleges that, at any given time, 20% of the audience listening to a
speaker is thinking about sex. You can have fun with that statistic!
A point to keep in mind is that the audience doesn't care about "data"...just
what the data means, why it's important to them, and what they should
do about it. In other words, present statistics as information, not
There are a number of books and Internet sites along the lines of "On
this day…." I once did a September 28 presentation on quality management
and mentioned that on that date in 1930, Lou Gehrig committed his first
error in 885 games...almost six years without an error. On the date
you are to make a presentation, check on of these references and see
if there were any historical events on that date that you could tie
into your material.
Remember the "coming out" episode of the TV sitcom "Ellen"?
I have a large file of cartoons for all occasions. In one presentation
I do, an element of the program involves interpersonal effectiveness.
I use an overhead with a cartoon of a man on a couch with his psychiatrist.
The caption has the man saying, "If you weren't so stupid, you could
tell me why people automatically dislike me." An important caveat with
cartoons is that, if they are copyrighted (and they almost always are),
you must get permission to use them. In many cases, you will have to
pay a fee ranging from $15 to $150.
& Gimmicks. I have several "tricks" that I've used for years. For
example, when I do this presentation, to illustrate the "Magical Rule
of 3," I put up an overhead with six playing cards and ask the audience
to think of any one of the cards. Then I replace the overhead with another
one that has five cards and I ask them if their card is missing. No
matter which card they chose, it is always missing! How does this work
and how does it tie into the "Magical Rule of 3"? My seminar and (hopefully)
forthcoming book explain (rats!).
Exercises. You have to do something about every six minutes during
your presentation that require some sort of audience participation or
response. There are lots of exercises you can do and plenty of sources
of information on this subject. A good one is "Games Presenters Play"
by Lilly Walters & Jeff Dewar.
I'm not Gallagher or CarrotTop, but I have a few props I use in my seminars
and presentations. A great one is used by Stephen Covey in his "7 Habits"
workshop and involves a jar, sand, gravel, and rocks. Dealing with priorities
and "putting first things first," by filling the jar with sand and then
gravel, you'll find that there's not enough room left for all of the
big things in life (in this case, the rocks). However, if you put the
rocks in first, and then pour the gravel, then the sand into the cracks,
you'll find that everything will fit if you "put first things first."
following these simple tools of the trade, you can indeed dramatically
improve your public speaking.
1999-2000 by William C. Wilson, Jr.
All Rights Reserved.