(Continued from 1)
One of my students did a presentation on supporting the Lions
Club eyeglass collection program. At the beginning of the speech,
she flipped the lights off. Can you imagine sitting in the dark
during this class? she asked. When she flipped the lights back on
seconds later, the speaker had the full attention of every class member.
Donít overlook the conclusion. This is your last chance to make a lasting
impression. Be sure to drive home your main points. Give a quick summary
and end with a strong statement or thought-provoking question.
Leave an echo in the room.
Once you have your outline set up, then go back and fill-in-the-blanks.
Consider various ways to make your point or points. Remember that visuals,
anecdotes, and quotations transform chunks of data into memorable information
your audience can digest and use.
If you think back to Show and Tell in grade school, then
youíll remember that itís far easier to explain when you have something
to display. Some presentations require visuals. For example, itís virtually
impossible to demonstrate how to press flowers unless you have the tools
to do so. On the other hand, some speeches can be delivered without visuals.
Still, visuals do add variety and make the information easier to follow
and digest. Consider posters, overhead slides, or PowerPoint.
Anecdotes are simply little stories to back up the information presented.
Everyone enjoys a good story. Draw from your own experiences and add short
narratives to highlight your key points. For example, one student gave
a speech on eating smart. The speech would have been very standard had
the student not told the class how she used the smart eating approach
to drop 100 pounds over two years time.
A solid quotation can be used to start or end a presentation and to back
up your own ideas. Simply check a cataloged quotation reference book or
look online at Quoteland
or at Quotation
Dictionary. For example, I put quotation in the search
bar at Quotation Dictionary and found nine quotes on quotations including
A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the
hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority.Brendan
Once you have the outline and supporting materials gathered, you need
to practice out loud. Although some studies indicate that mentally throwing
free shots between basketball games increases basket rates, going over
a speech in your head is not the same as giving it out loud.
Try to practice with an audience. Give your presentation for your family
or for some friends. Ask for specific feedback.
-What did you find most helpful in my speech?
-What parts were hard to follow?
-Which examples or visuals helped most?
-Do I need to add more visuals?
-Did I interact well?
-Did I do or say anything distracting?
If you canít find an audience, then practice in front of a mirror or
tape your presentation (audio or video are both helpful). Although you
may feel silly talking to your mirror or cringe when you hear or see the
tape, you really will learn a lot about your speaking style and skills
if you sit back and evaluate.
Slip into the Speaking Zone.
Always get plenty of sleep the night before you speak. Eat lightly beforehand.
Wear comfortable clothes. This is not the day to sport brand new heels.
Breath deeply before you step up to the lectern. It may help to close
your eyes and mentally picture a favorite place like a spot in the woods
or a sunny stretch of sand at the beach.
Say something nice to yourself before you step up to speak. You would
never dream of looking at the person next to you in class and sneering,
Iíll bet your speech is going to be terrible. No one will be interested.
Youíll probably get a bad grade. But, many students will say those
kinds of things prior to speaking. Little wonder itís hard to get up and
give a speech after hearing words like those in your head. Replace those
thoughts with: "You know your material. You worked hard on the presentation.
Everyone is looking forward to hearing what you have to say."
You Can Do It!
If youíre working toward a degree, then youíll probably have to take a
speaking class or give some presentations in specific classes. Draw on
your years of experience to come up with ideas. Draft
an outline with introduction, body, and conclusion. Add color to the
presentation with visuals, anecdotes, and quotations. Practice out loud.
Finally, relax. Youíll do just fine, and youíll get better every time
you step to the front of the room.
Cyndi Allison is a lecturer in the communications department at Catawba
College and a freelance writer for national magazines.