Giving speeches and presentations in person or on video can be intimidating. Presentations Coach Bob Turel explains to Dennis Zink and Fred Dunayer how to be an effective and engaging speaker. He goes on to explain how these same techniques can help in all sorts of group discussion situations.
Published: Monday, May 18, 2015.
IN MY EIGHTH-GRADE English class, I had to memorize and write without error this famous Shakespearean speech made by Mark Anthony. One misspelled word, misplaced comma or period, and I would fail.
Today, through websites such as TED and TEDx talks (TED.com and TEDx.com), you can watch well-known thought leaders such as Bill Gates talk about “Innovating to zero” and lesserknown people such as Ken Robinson, whose speech on “How schools kill creativity” has been watched by over 32 million people since June 2006.
My question to you is: Do you enjoy speaking to groups, making presentations, introducing yourself, making a 30-second elevator speech? The odds favor that you would probably rather die than make a speech to a large group.
I love making speeches to large groups, the larger the better. But it wasn’t always this way.
I recently interviewed Bob Turel, a 40-year veteran professional-development trainer and a SCORE mentor with our Pinellas chapter. Here are some excerpts from our podcast about how to make effective presentations. (The podcast “Been There, Done That with Dennis Zink” is available on iTunes.
Q: What is an effective presentation?
A: I would define an effective presentation as anytime you’re wanting to get your message across to an audience and, in fact, you do. There are a lot of different ways to do it, but the bottom line is your audience has to not only perceive but be able to understand whatever message it is you’re imparting.
Q:: Do you have any set amount of time that you would suggest to prepare for a 20-minute presentation?
A: A 20-minute presentation is probably about average for when you’re speaking before a chamber of commerce or some kind of a board or internally in a committee for a company.
I recommend using your smartphone in video mode every time you practice. This way, you’re objectively seeing what you’re practicing. If you have an audience or someone there to help you, hopefully they’re giving you feedback and you’re able to see the areas in which you can improve.
As a general rule, if you’re going to do a 20-minute presentation, you want to be able to practice that presentation at least 10 times. That’s a significant investment in time, but you’re better off running through it so that you really know the essence of your speech. You don’t have to look down and read it when the time comes.
Q: What’s your opinion about using a PowerPoint presentation?
A: I’m not a big believer in PowerPoint anymore. I’m old enough to have been around when PowerPoint came out, and like most people I really got into it. Now, my philosophy is, if it supports the speech or the presentation, use it sparingly. And not with all the frills and fancy stuff that happens with flying in and transitioning out.
PowerPoint should be graphical and it should only support the points you’re making occasionally, infrequently, throughout your presentation. I suggest no more than three bullets per slide, and each bullet shouldn’t have more than four or five words.
The point is they are prompts. I’m the show. I want them to watch and listen to me.
Q: One of the things that we’re asked about all the time is making an elevator pitch or an elevator speech. What do you suggest?
A: You really want to grasp the concept of 30 seconds because you have about seven seconds, 10 at the most, to grab your audience’s attention. If you don’t do it by then, by the time you get to 30 seconds or, for goodness’ sake, all of a minute’s time, they won’t even be paying attention anymore.
The idea is to condense your thoughts, to be crystal clear and as concise as possible.
Q: What about memorizing your speech?
A: Like an effective actor, if you memorize your lines, if you really know them, you’re able to get the essence. You’re not necessarily reading them line for line, but what you’re able to do is use your face, your body, the tone in your voice to emphasize the entire point you’re making throughout your presentation.
The whole purpose of memorization is to have it (the content) in your gut so that you’re able to speak with aplomb, variety and passion about your subject.
If you don’t know your subject, then you’re going to be looking down at a piece of paper, saying, “Hold on a minute, guys, I need to refresh where I am.”
It’s better to memorize, to practice as I’ve indicated, and then you walk onto that stage speaking from your heart, your soul, wherever you’re coming from.
Q: When you look at your audience, are you looking at anyone in particular or focusing on someone in the back of the room?
A: It’s an interesting concept in looking at people. When you look at your audience, I always divide it into three. I pick someone in the right field section, to use a baseball analogy, and I look at that person. The concept is if I look at you and there are 10 people around you, they all feel like I’m looking at them. Same thing goes if I were looking to my left — whoever is around would feel like I’m looking at them as well. You pick a person, you look into their eyes, you don’t spend a lot of time there, but it makes it look like you’re making a sincere attempt to communicate with that person and the people in their immediate surrounding area.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for nonprofessional speakers facing an audience? A: The biggest challenge in nonprofessional speaking is fear. Q: What do you recommend to overcome the fear?
A: Join Toastmasters. You want to be able to practice on a consistent basis with people who are going to give you supportive feedback. Nothing helps you gain control like practice.
If you think you can do it but you’ve never done it, you’re going to find a real nervous energy about speaking. Practice helps you become better at it, but not necessarily a professional.
I prefer instead of using the word overcome to use nervous energy. If you’re willing to look at fear and say, “That’s just energy, that’s just me being a little bit flighty because I don’t usually stand in front of 200 people.”
But if you’re willing to move, to learn how to breathe properly, if you’re willing to do things that are going to help you relax and actually transform the fear into powerful energy, once again through practice, you won’t have to overcome it. You’ll actually incorporate it.
In case you’re wondering how I did memorizing the “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech in eighth grade, I passed.