The Key To a Great Presentation: Knowing Your Audience

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The success of every speech and presentation is down to answering one simple question:

Who is it for?

How you answer this question will determine the success of your presentation and the key to giving a great presentation is to be able to answer the one question that every audience member wants answered – what’s in it for me? i.e. why should they listen to you? How will they benefit from your presentation? How are you going to change their lives? You need to make sure that each and every presentation that you give is focused completely on your audience, it’s not about you, it’s about them.

In order to do this effectively you need to learn about the people who will be listening to you:

  • Who are they? What is their age range, gender, profession, cultural background etc.
  • What do they know about your subject? It’s important to pitch your presentation at the right level for the audience, too technical and they’ll be confused, too easy and they’ll get irritable. It’s also likely that you will get a mixed level audience and you will need to cater your presentation for all levels.
  • What are their expectations? Do they expect to be trained, informed, persuaded, motivated or entertained?
  • What is their language ability? Are you speaking to people whose first language isn’t English? Knowing the language level allows you to choose the right words to get your ideas across, you may also need to speak slower and this might mean that you will have to cut down the information you will be covering as it will take longer to say…

Before you write your presentation, ask yourself, who am I speaking to? The more you know, the better your presentation is going to be.

 

If you enjoyed this post then why not try more of our presentation tips:

 

image: PopTech (Flickr)

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Crafting an Evaluation that Educates the Whole Audience

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For every member of Cogito Toastmasters the evaluation section is the most valuable part of our meetings. As each evaluator delivers their feedback the whole audience has the chance to learn tips and tricks that will help them to become stronger speakers and communicators.

So how can you deliver an evaluation that is valuable for both the speaker and also for the whole audience?

It’s all down to the language that you use when you give the evaluation, and, more specifically, who you speak to. Sometimes we’re so focused on helping the speaker that we look  directly at the speaker and only speak to them. We say things like “I like how you did…”, ” I loved it when you…”, “I feel that if you try…” On one hand this is great as it shows that you’re truly prioritizing the needs of the speaker but there are some potential problems with this approach:

  1. Speaking directly to the speaker and giving them all that attention might make them feel uncomfortable i.e due to:
    • shyness
    • being uncomfortable when given compliments
    • discomfort when being told their areas for improvement.
  2. The rest of the audience is may feel left out as you’re not talking to them instead it may seem that you’re having a conversation with the speaker and if they feel ignored they might not listen to the great tips that you’re giving.

There is a simple way to solve both these problems, talk about the speaker in the third person, i.e. don’t say “you” or “your”, use the speaker’s name. For instance, instead of “your gestures were evocative”, say “David’s gestures were evocative, when he…”  or instead of “your speech can be improved by”  say “David’s speech can be enhanced by…”

By doing this you reduce the spotlight on the speaker, making them feel less like the centre of attention yet still giving the help that they need while at the same time you’ve included everyone else in the room and shared your tips and tricks with them.

Next time you’re giving an evaluation in  front of an audience, remember to extend your delivery out from the speaker to include the whole group.

 

This post is part of our series of tips to help you become a better evaluator. To learn more about evaluating, check out these posts:

 

image: InnovateOSU (Flickr)

Four Ways to Calm Your Presentation Anxiety

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One of the first things that we like to tell our new members when they give their first speech is that its okay to be nervous when speaking in public. In fact, nervousness can actually be quite helpful, it helps us think about all the possible problems and allows us to work out how to deal with those problems in advance.

It’s only when those nerves threaten to overwhelm us that the problems start. Here are four ways of thinking that will make you feel more confident in front of an audience and help you calm those presentation jitters:

1. You Are The Expert

Usually when you’re asked to speak it’s going to be about something that you’re working on or knowledgeable about, this gives you a natural advantage – you’re the expert, your role is to educate your audience about your area of experience. Not only that, there’s less chance of going blank because you’re talking in your comfort zone, this will also help to give you the confidence to stand up and share a topic that excites you.

If it’s a topic where you’re not an expert then learn more, get to know the subject so that if you’re asked questions about your topic you are ready to answer.

Remember: knowledge is power, knowledge is confidence.

2. You Can Train Your Brain

All the experts say that the more you give speeches to groups, the easier it gets. Unfortunately this is a bit of a chicken and an egg scenario – how can you get over your speaking nerves by giving more speeches if your nerves stop you from giving speeches?

The secret is practice. Practice is about eliminating reasons for you to be nervous or scared. Practice gives you the chance to find out what parts of the presentation are the hardest to remember, practice shows you the words or phrases that trip you up and practice shows you the areas where you know your stuff which allows you to concentrate on the weaker areas of your presentation.

Above all practice is training your brain to put aside your fears, the more you practice in the days or weeks coming up to your presentation, the more your brain gets used to you giving a presentation without problems so by the time you stand up to give the actual presentation your brain already knows that it’s going to go well because it went well in the practice sessions.

Practice early, practice often.

3. You Have Backup

Even if you have practiced your presentation until you can recite it forwards and backwards, sometimes there can still be a niggling worry in your head about going blank and forgetting what to say next. Don’t worry, you have a backup plan – your notes.

Write your notes on small cards, small enough to put in your jacket pocket. The key to effective notecards is not to write the whole speech onto them, instead write on them the main points, key words or phrases and difficult to remember facts or statistics.

Have a notecard for each section of your presentation, this keeps it simple, you will know which section you’re on so you will be able to find the section quickly. Write on the cards in big clear writing so that if you do need to use them you can read them quickly and easily.

4. You Have Support In The Audience

One mistake that nervous speakers make is that they don’t make eye contact with the audience, they look at their notes and by doing this you are missing out on one of the best confidence boosters that you can find, your audience.

Your audience want you to succeed, they want you to educate them and learn about your ideas and even better than that, there’s always some friendly encouraging people in your audience.

It can definitely be scary to see all those people looking at you and listening to you but the first step to feeling confident in front of any audience is to find the friendly faces and talk to them. Then once you get over the initial nerves and start to feel more confidant, find more people in the audience to talk to and share your ideas with them as well until you’ve brought in the whole group.

An easy way to help calm your nerves and find those friendly faces is when you get up to speak, pause before speaking and follow these simple steps – Breathe, Smile, Begin

Look at the audience and breathe in, breathe deeply, allow the oxygen to fill your lungs, to stimulate your mind and to relax you.

Smile and let the smile spread through your whole body because you’re the expert, you’ve practiced, you’ve got your backup notes, there is nothing to worry about, it’s going to be great. Smiling will also make you look confident and feel more confident. While you’re smiling look around the room, look for the people who smile back, these will be your first friendly faces. Talk to them.

Then, and only then – Begin.

It’s mainly the first few minutes of a speech that you need to contol your nerves, once you get through those first few minutes, you’ve very little to worry about.

 

If you enjoyed this post then why not try more of our presentation tips:

 

image: Symphony of Love (Flickr)

What We Can Learn About Presenting From TED Talks

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Let’s try an experiment.

  1. Go to TED.com
  2. Choose one of the many talks on the homepage.
  3. Watch it.
  4. If you find yourself losing interest, select one of the six videos in the “Related Talks” section and go to step 3.
  5. Once you’re finished the video, select one of the six videos in the “Related Talks” section and go to step 3.

Keep doing this for a 30 minutes or an hour. And then answer the following questions:

 

How many videos did you watch from beginning to end?
If you’re anything like me then you wouldn’t have watched all of them to the end. When I tried this I spent several hours looking at TED videos and of the 30 or 40 that I watched, I probably only finished 4 or 5 of them.

 

What made you switch to the next one?
It’s easy to say that it was because the subject wasn’t interesting but that is rarely the case because we all know speakers who can make even the driest and dullest topics sizzle and sparkle.

The real answer is that you lost interest for a number of reasons, including:

  • It didn’t grab your attention at the start
  • The opening grabbed your attention but the rest of it didn’t live up to the promise of the opening
  • The speaker treated it as a lecture not as a conversation
  • It wasn’t accessible, the speaker used technical terms and language that you didn’t understand.
  • The speaker spoke in a dull monotonous tone

Look at some of the videos you didn’t finish again and try to identify what it was that made you want to change to a different video.

This is the first lesson that we can learn from TED: how not to present

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise that we make these mistakes as well. To find out either ask a colleague or friend to give you feedback or else record your presentation and watch it back.

 

What made you want to finish some videos?

Look at the videos again:

  • How did the speaker grab your attention?
  • What methods did they use to keep you interested?
  • Did they speak in a language that you understood?
  • Did their passion and excitement for the topic intrigue and excite you?

This is our second lesson: learning from success.

 

Next time you’re writing a speech or presentation, look at how your favourite TED speakers present and try to use some of their methods to engage your audience.

 

If you enjoyed this post then why not try more of our presentation tips:

 

First published at Geek Speaking
Image: Steve Jurvetson (Flickr)

And the Winners Are…

There was magic and laughter in the air last Tuesday as five very creative and funny people took the stage and entertained us in both the humorous speech and table topics contests, making it very difficult for our judges to choose a winner…

Humorous Speech

In our humorous speech contest, we had three funny speaker battle it out for the speaking crown: Miao gave lessons to all the men in the audience about the difference between men and women, Jean-Marie showed us how to deal with our fears and Kevin demonstrated his talent for procrastinating especially when it comes to speech-writing.

And the winners were:
1st Place: Kevin
2nd Place: Jean-Marie
3rd Place: Miao

Kevin and Jean-Marie will go on to represent the club at the Area 7 Humorous Speech Contest on October 7th

 

Table Topics Contest

In the Table Topics contest the contestants were challenged to explain the situation where “A man is lying dead, face down in the desert. There’s a match in his hand. What happened?” and they delivered wonderous imaginative stories to solve the mysterious situation.

And the winners were:
1st Place: John
2nd Place: Kevin
3rd Place: Jean-Marie

John and Kevin will go on to represent the Cogito Toastmasters Dublin at the Area 7 Table Topics Contest on October 7th.

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Winning speakers John, Jean-Marie and Kevin with Club President Dermot

Are You Ready To Be A Champion?

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Every year, all across the world, 15,000 Toastmasters clubs hold their annual International Speech and Evaluation contests, this is the first round of a contest that will result in one person being named the World Champion of Public Speaking.

And there’s a lot of people who really really want to become World Champion, they can spend months writing, practicing and refining their speeches, testing them out on multiple audiences and tweaking them until they have that perfect formula.

It’s hard work but it pays off and Jim Key is a great example of this. In 2001 Jim Key won his way through the first five levels of speech contest to get to the World Final and came 2nd. After being so close to winning, in 2002 he tried again, he got through to the World Final again and got 2nd place again. He may have been frustrated but he didn’t give up, as in 2003 he was back again and this time he won. And if you think that’s good,  Jock Elliot fought his way to the World Finals 8 times and finally won in 2011.

Every contest is adventure for anyone who takes part as you never know how far you might go but there is one thing guaranteed you will be a better speaker and communicator afterwards.

To get you in the mood for the contest, from Friday onwards we’ll be posting the World Championship winning speeches on our Facebook page.

Come along to our contest on March 8th to see some potential World Champions as they eloquently deliver their speeches and charm, inspire and entertain you.

 

image: pixlars (Flickr)

Celebrate Innovation at Our Next Meeting

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On the 23rd February 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was published for the very first time. The technology that printed the book, the printing press, has been ranked as one of the top innovations since the invention of the wheel.

Our next meeting is this Tuesday 23rd February and our theme will be Innovation and throughout the meeting we will celebrate the people and ideas that changed the world.

We’ve got a great line-up for the evening, strong speeches from Derville, Jean-Marie and Stefan, the always inventive Dermot will give everyone the chance to get up and speak during Table Topics and our special guest, Stephen, will guide us through the meeting.

The meeting begins at 7.30pm in the Lantern Centre so come along and help us celebrate the spirit of innovation.

For more details of our meeting click here.

 

Image: Thomas Hawk