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8 Timeless Tricks for Great Presentations

        posted by , January 31, 2013

There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.
~ Dale Carnegie
Whether it’s a short talk for your weekly staff meeting, a presentation to a customer or speaking at a conference — all of us want to give presentations in a way that engages our audience and gets our message across.

We want to give presentations that are compelling and useful. If we pull it off, it can do wonders for our careers.

Some think that presentation skills is all about natural talent. However, a few simple techniques can make any speaker more compelling.

These 8 timeless approaches will help make your presentations interesting and informative.

1. Start with a bang

The last thing you want to do is to put your audience to sleep in the first 2 minutes of your presentation.

It's the oldest trick in the book — start your presentation with a bang and grab the audience's attention from the start.

Common techniques include making a bold promise, asking an intriguing question, telling a funny joke or stating an amazing fact. Be careful to lead from your strengths, don't tell a joke if you're not good at it.

It's also a good idea to use your opening comments to set the theme of your presentation.

2. Have a Message

He only made three errors, firstly, he read the speech from a prepared manuscript, secondly, he read it poorly and finally, it wasn’t worth reading.
~ Winston Churchill, critiquing the speech of a political colleague
Don't leave your audience wondering — so what?

Think about what message you're trying to convey. Make sure your presentation is more than a list of facts and questions. You need to tell a story that has a point.

3. Solve problems for your audience

Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.
~ Napoleon Bonaparte
If your message doesn't solve problems for your audience — why are you speaking to them? Make it clear how your message solves relevant problems.

Alternatively, you can try to scare your audience. Fear is another powerful motivator (scaring people isn't nice).

4. Vary your delivery

Include an amusing anecdote, some interesting facts, questions to the audience and a few jokes. Keep things moving in new directions.

5. Keep it short

No one ever complains about a speech being too short.
~ Ira Hayes
William Harrison was the 9th president of the United States. His inaugural speech was so long that it killed him.

Harrison was 68 years old when he took office. He gave his inaugural speech on a cold, wet day. Not just any inaugural speech, the longest inaugural speech in US history at 8445 words.

He didn't even wear an overcoat or hat. As a result, he caught pneumonia and died on his 32nd day in office. A short constitutional crisis followed his death.

Not only can a long speech take your life, it can bore your audience. Even great public speakers can't keep an audience fully engaged for any longer than 30 minutes.

Keep your presentation a length that's appropriate for it's content. It's always safer to keep it brief.

6. Use direct, candid language

Industry buzz words and flowery adjectives will put your audience to sleep.

It's important to come off as professional. However, presentations aren't about showing off your vocabulary, they're about communicating.

Direct speech with an honest intent to communicate works best.

Which sentence puts you to sleep?

Slowing adoption is the requirement to create new IT processes to exploit big data sources, along with the perception that these investments themselves represent extremely risky initiatives.

We're slow to adopt big data projects due to the perception that they're risky.

7. Deliver, repeat and repeat again

If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.
~ Winston Churchill
Repetition gives your presentation structure and rhythm. It's the surest way to drive home your core message. By varying your delivery, you ensure that repetition isn't obvious or annoying.

8. Prepare

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
~ Mark Twain
The more preparation you do for each presentation the better it will go. Try your jokes on your husband or wife. Visualize the presentation and practice it time and time again.

This is the 8th installment in the 9-part series of posts called How to Give Magnetic Presentations.

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