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Back to basics: quick and easy ways to develop a great presentation; Part 4: deliver your message clearly and enthusiastically.

To keep the audience with you, be clear, loud, and enthusiastic.

Earlier, we discussed the essentials of preparation: 1) a strong, audience-focused message; 2) persuasive support for your message; and 3) organization of your material so it is easily absorbed. Now let's look at basics of delivery.


Apart from laziness, two attitudes may interfere with clear articulation. The first says, "I am bigger and cooler than you"; the second, "I'm smaller, and I wish I could disappear." Both result in a flat, hard-to-follow delivery.

If you are of the "cool" school, remember that listeners do not enjoy deciphering your speech. You are not a Western movie hero but the servant of your audience and your message, so move your jaw and lips.

If you are from the timid camp, remember that no matter how small you become, your job of delivering your message will not go away. You might as well do it properly. So, raise your chin, look them squarely in the eye, and speak up.

Clear speech has good, resonant vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and sharp, audible consonants (b, c, d, f, etc.). The most demanding action for distinguishing vowels is raising or lowering your jaw: high jaw for [i] (as in see) and [u] (as in do), mid for [e] (as in say) and [o] (as in so), and low for [a] (as in car). Consonants, on the other hand, require many rapid and precise changes involving lips, tongue, and teeth.

Few people mess up the beginning of words, but many swallow consonants at the end. In addition, lazy or cool speech may skip consonants in the middle of words--say, b and l in problem, turning it into prom. The solution is simple: Just say yes to every consonant that should be there!

Of course, clarity will suffer if you speak too quickly. Don't choose a tempo mechanically but slow down for important points and whenever you feel articulation is becoming a struggle.


Speaking too softly is mostly a mental rather than physical problem. If you have a problem in this area, think back over previous presentations. Did you have misgivings about the persuasiveness of the material? Or were you afraid of some of the people in the audience? In either case, your solution is strong preparation, as suggested in Parts 1-3 of this series. That should make you feel better about even the most difficult audience members, because you will have considered and answered their questions and objections.

To get the proper volume, you need not shout. Just project to the people in the back of the room, and everybody will hear you comfortably.


Many people have told us they prefer something like "appropriate emotion" to red-cheeked "enthusiasm." Unfortunately, for those who need help in this area, "appropriate emotion" often translates into "no emotion"--because they don't find any emotion appropriate in business.

Examine your own attitude. Do you think a "technical" or "business" presentation must be delivered in a "technical" or "objective" manner? It just does not work. Even those audience members who see themselves as the embodiment of reason are still people with human emotions and reflexes, and not business computers making automated abstracts of your points. They need to see and feel your commitment to your subject and to them.

Make it easy for yourself. First, stay reasonably close to your audience. (This will turn them into individuals rather than a threatening mob.) Second, make eye contact with one person at a time. With that kind of connection, you will find it only natural to talk to them with animation, as you would when speaking to friends.


Cheryl and Peter Reimold have been teaching communication skills to engineers, scientists, and businesspeople for 20 years. Their latest book, The Short Road to Great Presentations (Wiley, 2003), is available in bookstores and from Their consulting firm, PERC Communications (telephone: +1 914 725 1024, e-mail, offers businesses consulting and writing services, as well as customized in-house courses on writing, presentation skills, and on-the-job communication skills. Visit their web site at

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Author:Reimold, Peter
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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