two students by tree in hard hats and vests

Public Speaking

Here are some quick thoughts on making presentations.

Structure (and suggested breakout of time)

  • Introduction (10%) - be sure to provide a very clear statement about your topic and the main points you will be covering
  • Body of Topic (50-70%) - the 'body' of your talk should be clear and have a logical flow
  • Conclusion / Summary (10-20%)
  • Questions (10–20%) - make your 'take home message' obvious (know ahead of time if questions will be taken from your audience)

Effective Voice

  • Inflection - vary your voice - do not drone on in a monotone
  • Volume - you need to be loud enough to be heard by everyone.  Varying your volume is an effective way to engage your audience. Using a louder voice is effective to get attention and starting the presentation, whereas using a slightly lower volume can make people sit up and listen closely to critical points
  • Speak (enunciate) clearly – usually you have to speak a little slower than you normally would in regular conversation
  • Pauses - pause before and/or after an important point, once again engaging the listener
  • Appropriate pace
    • if too slow people will get bored
    • if too fast people won't ‘keep up
    • vary your pace; cover background data at a quicker pace; go slow for critical points

Physical Presentation

  • poise/ posture needs to be 'formal yet comfortable'
  • gestures are an important and natural supplement to verbal communication.  Be expressive and 'speak with your hands' (don't stick them in your pockets)
  • eye contact is very important - look at your audience, not your notes or the display screen

Law of Primacy & Recency = Law of First & Last

  • Primacy & Recency – studies show that people best remember the opening and closing remarks from a presentation
  • The Opening - have an opening statement that has the audience wanting to hear your talk
  • The Closing - should be strong; it has been said that 25% of the impact of any presentation is in the closing remarks

Delivery Tips

  • Humour – most people respond favourably to humour, but take care that it is used judiciously and with good taste;  any jokes used should relate directly to the topic
  • Logical organization and easy to follow - you can create a lecture outline (on the board or on a screen) to accomplish this, or simply make a clear statement that outlines the key topics before beginning the talk
  • Repetition - Critical points should be repeated.  Rephrasing and repeating critical points is important
  • Be expressive – A presenter who is genuinely interested in the topic and is expressive can make ALL the difference.  Enthusiasm is contagious
  • Use simple and concise statements.  It makes it far easier for the audience to follow your talk

Electronic Media

  • Judicious use of media is important.  Some people utilize media simply because it is there or convenient while others use it as a screen of protection when they suffer fear of public speaking.  Media should be used if it enhances and does NOT detract from the presentation
  • Media should be kept simple
  • Be sure of your ability to use the media.  Remember, what you have to say is more important than the media used to present it.

Cautionary tips for presentations

  • Know your materials - do not be ill-prepared for your talk.  You should know your stuff and not simply have written it down with the hopes of reading it to your audience.
  • Speak with your audience, do not simply read your presentation.  We want you to talk to us, not read to us.  One sure way to avoid this is to put your talk into point form
  • Face your audience when you speak - do not turn your back to the audience. The audience is not engaged if the presenter is talking to the board (or screen) and not to them
  • Allow your audience to see your displayed materials - do not block information on the chalkboard, screen, or poster – for obvious reasons.  Be aware of where you stand and if you are blocking information
  • Present what you know, do not utilize words or data that you do not understand – if you do not fully understand the data/information you are presenting you may be in trouble.
  • Answer questions directly and succinctly, do not BS an answer. During question period you may be asked challenging questions, if you don't know an answer offer to look into it and get back to the questioner.
  • Watch out for inevitable "Um's", "Ahh's" and "Like's".  Speak slowly, rather than trying to "buy time" with "um" and "ahh".
  • Do not Apologize.  First, do not apologize at the start of your talk for being nervous, ill-prepared, etc.  We are expecting you to do the best you can - no apologies needed for that.  Second, if you make a mistake during your talk simply correct it and move on, we may not have noticed it

Final Points

Nervousness – everyone is nervous to some degree.  It's perfectly natural and okay - it just shows you are human!  In fact it is a good sign!  Good presenters find a way to turn nervousness into interest and/or enthusiasm for the topic.  Also, that nervous feeling begins to subside after a minute or two.

Most important

  • Be yourself !!  Work to your strengths.  If you are talented and comfortable with technology – use it (conversely, if you are not, minimize it).  If you are a good orator – emphasize that aspect of your presentation.  If you are a quiet type, then be slightly reserved (but happy) when you present.  You get the gist – Do what you do best!
  • We want you to succeed - we are all sympathetic to your situation and can relate to your thoughts, feelings and fears.  Just take a deep breath and do your best