5 Steps in Speaking Effectively to Groups

Many professionals are required to present information orally as well as in writing and if you are in management or marketing you may speak before groups even more frequently than you write. This article offers ideas on how to prepare and make successful presentations.

  1. Watching the Time: How do you make sure you can present your information effectively in a limited amount of time? Robert Wismer discusses this concern of speakers who give technical presentations to management and shows how to stress key information at the stages in the presentation when the audience is most receptive. His final recommendation that you practice a presentation seven times before delivering it may seem excessive, but the advice is worth following if you are not yet skilled in making oral presentations.
  2. Delivering Your

    Message: Although Bert Decker focuses on helping managers and executives speak in public, his insights can help all of us who have to do so. In the author’s words, when you give a presentation you are

    both the delivery system and the message itself.

    An oral report involves verbal, vocal and visual elements, not just turning written words into spoken ones. Also maintaining eye contact with your audience is very important.

  3. Practice,Practice,Practice : Most experts stress the need for practice before making a presentation, but Susan Dressel provides an anecdote illustrating the possible dangers of overpreparing.You should tie yourself in a straitjacket if you plan every syllable and action in advance, give your talk in a robot-like manner and leave little flexibilityto respond to cues from your audience. some preparation is unavoidable. To practice your presentation in such a way that your confidence, spontaneity and personality will all work for you when you get up to talk.
  4. Lively and emphatic : Morey Stettner follows up on Dressel’s concern that you should make facts come alive rather than make them in a monotonous manner. He Chides the “its-okay-to-be-boring-as-long-as I’ve-got-the-facts” attitude that some of us might entertain. The trick is to know which facts should be presented and to highlight them with dramatization. Stettener feels your presentation should contain no more than three points.
  5. Handling The Mob: No one wants to face an unfriendly audience, but it can happen, often through no fault of your own. Gilda Carle’s narrative of how one speaker handled an awkward situation is instructive and reassuring. We can use visual contact or “eye-along” as an effective tool for softening negative attitudes among listeners. Eye-contact alone is not enough, however-responding to hostile listeners also involves appreciating their point of view and talking with them in a language they can relate to.

Tying it all together: John Baird pinpoints 10 shortcomings encountered in public speaking, six of which result from poor preparation. Three potential problems – nervousness, poor delivery and a lack of concern for the audience – are found in the delivery stage, while handling questions is the final challenge.