July 9, 2012 by msashtonwriter
Sometime in your career you will be asked to give a talk. It may be in a small meeting of peers and coworkers or it may be in front of a large audience of strangers.
Here are six things to be aware of when making a presentation or giving a speech.
1. Grammar – Use correct grammar. Duh! Of course we need to use correct grammar but you would be surprised at how many times I’ve heard people use verb tenses that don’t agree with the subject of the sentence. Write out your speech beforehand and read it aloud a few times. This will help you catch most of the mistakes privately. Ask a roommate or friend to listen to the speech and give you feedback or note any grammatical errors.
2. Filler Words – Unnecessary words that do not help convey your point can be distracting. Avoid the use of “uh, ah, you know, like, and I mean.” In order to avoid run-on sentences, insert a one-second pause between sentences instead of using “and” or “so” to connect two or more sentences. Take a short breath between longer sentences, and allow your audience to take in what you have said. Articulate clearly and pronounce words correctly. Before you take the stage practice saying any difficult words you plan to use.
3. Body Language – By this, I am referring to unintentional cues you give such as looking at your notes, not making eye contact, slumped shoulders, hands in pockets jingling money, or slouching on the lectern. Practicing in front of a mirror will help you discover your own quirky movements.
4. Gestures – These are intentional movements you use to make a point or illustrate the importance of a word. Make your gestures large enough to be seen by the person sitting in the back of the room. Step away from the lectern when using the lower part of your body; otherwise your movement will not be seen.
5. Vocal Variety – Avoid monotone and jazz up your presentation by varying your tone (emphasis or emotion), pitch (high or low voice), and rate (fast or slow). All these help keep an audience interested in what you are saying.
6. Your Topic– Your focus should be on your audience. An interesting topic is important, but should be relevant to your listener’s needs. Prepare ahead of time. Write key points on small 3×5 note cards to remind you of what is next. Only use them if necessary.
7. Props – Not every presentation will have or need props. However, visual aids and paper handouts make a talk more interesting, help the audience follow along and give them notes, email addresses or website URLs to refer to later.
I know this is a lot to remember-especially for a beginner. You may want to start by giving your presentation at home by focusing on only one aspect at a time. Go through your presentation the first time listening for grammar usage and filler words, then go through it again noticing body language and gestures; on the third time through pay attention to your voice. By the time you have gone through your speech the fourth time, you will feel at ease, know your material well and be able to manage props effectively.
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