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Secrets of power presentations.

The following is an excerpt from Peter Urs Bender's recently published book "Secrets of Power Presentations". Bender feels that communication is so critical to advancing your career, that he offers clear, succinct, step-by-step methods to achieve this goal. This article is just a taste of what the book includes.

The five quintessential elements of a power presentation: 1. The Speech; 2. Body Language; 3. Equipment; 4. The Environment; 5. Preparation. Herein are highlights from the section "The Speech",your ideas and your message.

We strongly advise managers everywhere to acquire a copy for personal reference throughout their business (and personal) lives. Copies available from The Achievement Group (416) 491-6690.

The Speech

The content of your presentation is important. Yet, it is not only what you say that makes the difference,it is how you present it that determines if and how your message will come across. Understanding is the test of effective communication. If your concept is not grasped, you did not do a good job.

To Inform

This is the most common objective. When you inform, you are sharing knowledge. Be careful to talk only about data that is relevant to the audience's needs or wants.

To Entertain

I believe the best and safest humour is a story or anecdote from your own personal experience. It is better to throw eggs at yourself than at others. Personal anecdotes and self-deprecating humour are the most sincere way to win an audience over. They will trust you more if you poke fun at yourself and laugh at your faults or failures. If you do not think you have any, just ask your spouse or closest friends!

Touch The Audience's


Help your audience get in touch with their emotions: make them cry and give them a small lump in their throats. If you convey your emotions sincerely, your audience will react and feel the same way you do. If you get choked up, so will they.

Whether you plan to laugh or cry, know what you intend to do in advance. I suggest that you use laughter at the beginning and emotion in the middle.

Move Them to Action!

Ask yourself, what is the one thing you want the audience to do in reaction to your speech?

Say to each member of your department:

"If there is one thing we can do to improve our service,what would it? Please answer this questionnaire and return it to me by Friday."

"Call your ten largest customers and ask them what can be done to improve our product. Then let's compare notes and build a new strategy."

Familiar Language Builds

Rapport and Trust

Professional presenters know that one key to acceptance and respect is to look, talk, and act the way the audience does. This creates familiarity and builds trust.

Don't talk to your audience in a manner which creates unnecessary distance.

Don't talk down to them by using sophisticated words, foreign expressions or obscure quotations, unless you are sure they'll appreciate them.

Don't come across as arrogant in your knowledge of your subject and its terminology: communicate to listeners in language that they can understand.

Use Shorter Words and


The most powerful words in our language tend to be short. For example: love, war, sex, food, hate, fun, money, power. If a sentence is so lengthy that you have to stop to take a breath, it will be too long to be understood. Break long sentences and phrases into shorter ones. What words can you eliminate to clean up your speech? Do they cloud or clarify the message you are trying to convey? Work on this in your daily business correspondence and it will automatically rub off in your speech.

Be sincere as you attempt to relate to your listeners. Do not ever bluff or pretend that you have things in common with them when you really do not. If will show. Be sure that you have enough material for the length of your talk - but not too much! Never try to cover too many things or you will not hold your audience's attention. It is best if you keep your message as simple as possible. Repeat your central point several times and in different ways. If there is one rule here it's "less is more".

Have an Idea File

Your topic should be thoroughly researched. Keep an idea file solely devoted to your presentations.

You should have many times more material than time to cover it in your talk. In order to be an authority in front of your audience, you should know at least ten times as much about your topic as they do. In this way you are an expert in their eyes.

Develop a Catchy Title

Choosing a good title will give you focus as you prepare and it will arouse the interest of others prior to the event. Think of a "grabber" that is short, vivid, easy to say, original and memorable.

One way to do this is to write out your mission statement and then reduce it to the key words. Soon you will end up with a unique and powerful title.

The Right Structure: Have

Three to Seven Points

It is always best to keep your structure as simple as possible. You will not want too many main points, nor too many subpoints. Aim for no more than three, although for a longer presentation you might have up to seven. Your audience will not remember any more ideas than that anyway.

Start with the simplest and most general concepts, then progress to your more specific and complicated ones. Ease into it so you will not lose your listeners.

Develop a structure which can be easily memorized by you and your listeners, such as "our five key markets", "seven elements of successful leadership", "six components of effective time management", or "three ways to increase your sales".

Monitor The Audience's


When presenting, everything you do and everything you say may be received differently by members of your audience. Your message will not come across successfully unless you are sending the right signals. Constantly monitor your audience as you present. Obtain feedback as often as possible and make needed adjustments. If faces look puzzled, pause and ask if you have been clear. If not, try to say it another way. Listen to their reaction to your material. If they do not laugh at your jokes, ease up on the humour and be more serious.

If there is anything that seems wrong as you begin your presentation, or if people seem clearly distracted, top immediately to rectify the situation.

Reading a Prepared Speech

I strongly advise that you not read your speech from a text. However, there still might be a time when you will want to use a written speech. This could be when you are presenting in another language,during a highly technical session where you want to ensure accurate information, or when you are making a statement of every important facts at a press conference.

Think of the last time you heard someone read a speech. Most often it was boring. The reason is that the speaker's attention is concentrated on correctly reading the words in the text.

However, if you insist on reading a speech anyway,print your text in large, triple-spaced type. Use only the top two thirds of the page so that when you rest it on the lectern your eyes will not have to look down quite so far.

Indent all lines after the first line of each paragraph - this is the opposite of books. The opening sentences will stand out. Avoid splitting sentences or paragraphs over two pages. Put several periods at the end of each sentence to indicate pauses - otherwise your eyes will confuse the periods with commas.

When referring to numbers, do not spell them out unless you are talking about round numbers like "hundred", "thousand", "million", etc. For figures, use numerals e.g. 1,243,865. Spell out "dollars","percent", "degrees Celsius",and other common symbols.

As you read through each page, do not turn it over. This distracts and draws even more attention to the fact that you are reading the speech. Instead, gently slide the sheet to one side as you proceed to the next. Be sure that your pages are numbered in the top right margin.

Make note of all breath and emphasis marks right in the text of the speech.

Also, if a phrase is to be accompanied by a particular gesture or expression, make a note in the text.

If you must remind yourself to smile - or frown - draw a small face on the page. Or, use colours like red to emphasize certain words.

Put instructions in brackets, reminding yourself when to use visual aids. I also suggest that you note appropriate times to make eye contact with your listeners.

Above all, you must rehearse when you plan to read your speech. The reason so many speakers are incredible boring is that they stumble through their unrehearsed speeches without energy and polish. A prepared speaker who takes the time to practice reading aloud through the text a few times, can deliver with enthusiasm and energy to capture the interest and attention of the audience.

Another disadvantage of reading a speech,especially if you do not have a lectern,is that your nervousness will tend to be more obvious to the audience. They will see your hands shaking as you hold the pages. There may also be a risk that poor lighting will make it difficult to read the text. To be on the safe side, bring your own little flashlight.

If, by accident, you read the same sentence twice, you may get rattled and lose your concentration. So be careful when you read your speech! Rehearse it. If you think you have no time, you are wrong. There is always that taxi ride to the airport, or a few moments in the restroom.


Every speakers has experienced times when they temporarily lost their place or forgot an important thought in mid-sentence. Accept this as natural.

The way to minimize brownouts is to prepare in advance and become thoroughly familiar with a few important key points rather than many. The details will automatically follow when the main points are clearly etched in your mind.

But even with preparation you still might experience a situation where you suddenly do not know where you are, what you said or what is next! Do not panic.

Inexperienced speakers typically do the following during a brownout: they suddenly realize they are lost; panic strikes; they signal messages of great discomfort; they bite their lips,lower them a bit,tilt their head down and put on their most defensive look. The audience wakes up and everybody in the room notices that the speaker is lost!

You, however, will be different. You simply smile and go on to the next card. Not the one in front of you, but the one following. Look at the first word on it. This will be the point from which you will now continue. Just move on.

Of course you missed part of your speech. So what? Just follow my techniques - cheerfully, with a smile - and nobody but you will notice! Your audience will blame themselves for not following your thoughts. They will think they should not have had so much to drink the night before. Or they will blame themselves for day dreaming! For sure, they will think that it is their fault!

Let Your Visuals

Be Your Notes

When presenting, just look at them and then at the audience. This will help your body language as well. You will appear a lot more natural glancing at a flipchart than looking down at cards.

How To Begin Your Speech

Listeners today have very short attention spans. You must capture and hold their interest immediately.

Be sure that your opening is specifically tailored for the group and occasion. Create it just for them! Emphasize the listeners rather than yourself.

Make Them Participants - Not


Use phrases like this,

"Imagine that you are in a situation in which..." "What would you do if..."

"Assuming that you are in a position where..." "Imagine that you have just..."

Help the audience to visualize the situation with their own eyes. Bring them right into it. Use words that make them participants rather than spectators. Help them feel what you have experienced by using exclusive language.

Pay the Listeners a


Be sure that it is sincere. Warm them up. Establish trust:

"I want to thank all of you for your hospitality last night when I first arrived. You have a reputation for friendliness and now I know why..."

"For many years,I have worked with the company's accounting department and I have admired the training your division has provided its employees. Obviously,you're all very good at what you do. My purpose today is to help you to..."

We are all the same. We appreciate it when someone says something good about us. Always give compliments in the first quarter of your presentation to help build rapport and trust.


Be careful with these. Quotations should be handled well or not at all. Make sure they fit smoothly into your presentation and enhance your message.

Stick with the acknowledged authorities in your field. It is important to choose sayings from notables the audience will recognize and respect.

Make a Striking Statement

Be sure it is true. Make use of dramatic effect. For example:

"Our company could become the industry leader if we successfully implement the proposal I am about to share with you..."

"If we continue to waste time at meetings at the rate we are doing, our company will be bankrupt in ten years..."

The point is to jolt the audience with a new thought, to challenge them to consider something unusual or uncommon to arouse their curiosity.

Use an Unusual Statistic

Here is a good example:

"99.0% is not good enough! A study by the Quality Control Institute of California determined that if we were satisfied with 99.9% accuracy, 22,000 cheques would be cashed by the wrong bank every hour, 60 newborn babies would be dropped every day,600 incorrect surgical operations would take place each week, 20,000 drug prescriptions would be incorrectly filled each year. More significantly, 32,000 heartbeats would be missed in every human heart each year."

"If all of our unhappy customers were to hold hands, we would have a chain around the perimeter of a football field..."

"If we stacked up all the thank you letters from our customers the pile would be one hundred feet high..."

"If we maintain our present profit margin, the company will be bankrupt by..."

Ask the Audience a

Challenging Question

Some examples:

"How long will it take us to develop a widget which is superior in quality yet lower in price?"

"How long,at the present rate will it take before the world's forests are completely depleted?"

"What is the single most common cause of business failure today?"

"What does each department have to do in order for our company to regain its position as industry leader?"

In asking a challenging question, be sure that you provide an answer later in your presentation, or you should help the audience find the answer on its own.

Ask for a Show of Hands

Of course,not everyone will cooperate with you and do this. Some find this technique childish. However, you will find that most audiences will participate. Ask good relevant questions. Be sincere and acknowledge their answers. An effective technique for producing a show of hands is to raise your own hand and hold it high above your head. It is like anything else in management, if you show you are willing to do it yourself, your staff will be more willing.

Make a Promise

Be realistic and be sure that you are able to follow through. For example:

"In the next 20 minutes,I am going to share with you an idea that,if implemented will increase company sales by up to 20%..."

"In the next hour,I am going to take you through an exercise that will greatly enhance your customer relations..."

"After I finish this seminar,you will all be able to make much better presentations than ever before."

Show a Two Minute Video

This could possibly be an introduction of your company, yourself, a statement about the importance of your topic, or a quick summary of the main points of your presentation. It may be expensive to do this but it is worthwhile if you plan to make the same presentation many times to different audiences.

Start With an Overhead

Transparency or Slide

You might consider beginning a discussion with a slide or overhead. The multi-media impact of such a visual at the start will help you capture and hold the listener's attention.

How Not To Begin

Do not be too formal and start with:

"Mr.Chairman,Mr. President,Mr. Vice-President, fellow colleagues and honoured guests..."

This is stuffy and unnatural, 99.9% of the time. Maybe you heard it at Toastmasters. There it is okay and it was good years ago. Today,it is annoying and a waste of everyone's time.

Be Heard!

There is one rule above all others when speaking: Make sure that your audience can hear you! If necessary, use a microphone. There is absolutely no excuse for not being loud enough. Practice projecting your voice before your presentation. In general, it is better to be too loud than too quiet.

Vary Your Voice

Vocal variety is very important when you speak. Periodically change your speed, pitch, and volume going neither too fast nor too slow. Do not mumble in a monotone. A deeper tone signals more confidence than a high pitched one. Also, if you catch yourself stumbling or not knowing what to say, slow down possibly even stop to catch your breath and collect your thoughts. If you blank out or choke, just smile! Only people with great self-confidence can smile, therefore the audience will assume you know what you are doing!

When we are nervous we tend to speak faster. Rapid flow of words encourages shallow breathing. If you want to reinforce an image of confidence, slow down. It is much easier for you to breathe deeply when you don't speak too quickly. The audience will also be impressed by the power you project.

Use Your Voice for


Slow down and lower your volume to a near whisper if you want to catch the audience's attention for a point you are making. However, they should still be able to hear you. This change in pitch will signal the listeners that you are about to make a point and they must listen more closely.

How To Ensure A Powerful


Walk slowly and confidently to the lectern. Be sure that all of your visual aids and whatever else you need are set up in advance, so that when you start everything is ready for you to use. Try to avoid arranging your equipment in front of the audience, but if you have to, do not keep them waiting more than necessary. Once behind the lectern (if you absolutely have to use one),take a deep breath and smile.

Take another breath and begin. The longer you pause before beginning to speak, the more power you gain. By pausing, you are forcing the audience to anticipate you. They will be more attentive. It is important for you to be physically and mentally ready to give a presentation. If you are not ready, do not begin.

How To End A Speech

I recommend that you do not read your closing statement from notes. The delivery, if not the content, should be spontaneous.

Here are a few effective approaches that can be prepared in advance:

Close With An Anecdote

The story should tie everything together and exemplify the kind of action or behaviour you expect from your listener as a result of your presentation.

End With A Call To Action

Tell the audience exactly what you think they should do. This is critical yet so many just assume that the listeners will know what to do. Some speakers feel that a call to action insults the audience's intelligence. On the contrary, the call to action removes any doubt as to what you are trying to communicate to them. Here are some examples:

"Start today to sincerely compliment your employees if you want to increase productivity in your department..."

"Phone your local community college today and register for a course in public speaking..."

"When you go home, ask your children about their life goals and listen to them without passing judgment".

Tell the audience exactly what they can do in reaction to your speech. Leave them feeling in control.

Ask A Rhetorical Question

This is one which does not demand an answer so much as reflection on the part of the audience. A rhetorical question should provoke thought. For example:

"Where would our company be without our leading management group?"

What would we do if we lost our largest client?"

"Where would our company be without our five biggest customers?"

Make a Statement

In a technical presentation or possibly a press conference, a simple, straightforward concluding statement is all that is necessary to draw your presentation to a close. For example,

"There is much to be learned in this rapidly expanding area of behavioural research into effective employer/employee relations. I've covered just a small part of it. I hope that each of you will take time to learn more..."

End The Same Way You Began

This is a popular movie-making technique. It gives symmetry to your presentation. You can close with the same anecdote or quotation with which you opened and show that you have come full circle. For example:

"As quoted from F.D.R. at the beginning of my presentation "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"..."

"I would like to end where I began. Our customers are Number One. Without them, we would not exist..."

Show Them An Outline Of Your

Completed Presentation

Similar to the above "bookends" approach, this technique neatly and concisely summarizes everything you have tried to cover and smoothly leads the way to questions from the audience.

"In closing my presentation..."

This regains the attention of the listeners and sets you up to make a summary statement or call to action.

"I want to leave you with..."

Using this technique, you are giving your listeners something more; an idea, a piece of advice. Make it useful and be sure that it leaves them feeling good.

Above all, when you conclude your presentation, smile with all of your pride - stand tall. Walk slowly to your seat and look as confident as you can. Even if you screwed up, you are probably the only one who noticed! But when you have finished, everyone will watch you again and judge you by the way you return confidently to your seat. So, keep your shoulders back, your chin up and smile!.

My principal message is that communicating to a business audience is much more than simply giving a speech. You must present yourself and your ideas in total. This is one of the secrets to power presentation.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpt from Peter Urs Bender's book of the same title
Author:Bender, Peter Urs
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Sep 22, 1991
Previous Article:10 trends driving technology in and out the door.
Next Article:Increase productivity: it's simple - dare to dream.

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