Presentation Tips

Effective Presentations and Speeches

Whether it’s speaking to your department during a meeting, or a formal speech made to a large group of people at an organization-wide event, we are called on to make presentations as part of our everyday work.

Here are some tips to help you connect with your audience and deliver your key points with pizzazz.

Remember, if you need to make an important speech to key external stakeholders (including the public and/or media), PHC Communications & Public Affairs is here to help! We can work with you on your speech and provide coaching to help you shine.

Some tips to help you with your next presentation

1. Focus your topic:

  • Know your desired outcome. What do you want to happen as a result of your presentation?
  • Some people think they need to say everything they know about a topic. If you try to put everything into one speech, your audience will remember nothing.
  • Focus the speech and limit your content. Pare down your points.
  • Say what’s most important right now, and leave the rest for later.

2. Know your audience:
Remember that the goal of your speech is to connect with the people who are listening to your speech. It is important to know who your audience is before you sit down and write a speech — this ensures your message will resonate with them.

  • What is the age range?
  • Are they male/female?
  • What is their educational background?
  • What do they do?
  • What is the psychology of the audience based on particular environmental context.
  • What are their biases?
  • What do they currently know about what you’re going to talk about?

Make an emotional connection with your audience — this will help people relate to you as a speaker and your topic, and make them more receptive to what you are trying to say.

  • Consider the use of storytelling and anecdotes.

3. Use interesting research:
Research can be used to bring to life certain aspects and messages in your presentation.

  • For example, as an opener/hook, you can look at the date of the speech in history … and see if there were any relevant historical happenings that tie in well with the speech.
  • You can use interesting definitions or quotations.
  • You can use personal anecdotes.

However — don’t bore your audience with dry stats and numbers. When it comes to research, think quality, not quantity.

4. Keep the material organized:

  • Give your presentation an opening, a middle and an ending.
  • Keep it short!
  • Make it clear how you are organizing your content so that the audience knows what to expect out of the speech.

5. Use simple language:

  • Simplify, rewrite and then simplify more.
  • Consider using words with fewer syllables.
  • Stay away from jargon and try to keep you language as simple as possible.

6. Spice up how you deliver the content:

  • Consider using rhetorical techniques like triads (grouping ideas in units of three) visual imagery and parallelism (using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance and are related). For example, Martin Luther King once said, "Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated."

7. Light touch of humour:

  • Very judicious use of humour can help open up an audience.
  • The best kind of humour is one that pokes gentle fun at yourself — do not point humour at others.
  • It is important to be appropriate to the tone of the speech and the content being delivered.

8. Practice delivery:

  • Being well prepared respects your audience’s time.
  • Do practice runs and time your presentation. Make sure you stay UNDER the limit.
  • Consider taping yourself or practicing in front of a mirror.

9. Consider your vocal personality:

  • Your voice conveys who you are, what you are like and how you relate to people.
  • Make sure you use your voice to your advantage.
  • Know your audience and match how quickly you speak and your tone to the audience. This can vary by age, where people are from, etc.
  • Most people tend to speak a little faster than normal when giving a presentation — a good basic step is to slow it down your delivery before you do any further finessing.

10. Use body language that reinforces your words:

  • Try and use gestures that bring listeners closer to you and convey a sense of trust. E.g., open palms to the audience can convey honesty, welcoming attitude and open personality. Backs of hands can create a feeling of alienation and distance.
  • Eye contact is critical. Look at your listeners and make real eye contact. They will respond in kind.

11. When appropriate, get good media coverage:

  • Time your speech delivery to coincide with a particular topic or event of significance.
  • It takes hard work to prepare a good speech — when appropriate, get media coverage — this helps make your speech work just as hard for you.
  • If you feel that your speech might be media-worthy, get in touch with communications! We can work with you to determine if, and or how we can utilize media to spread your message to external stakeholders.

12. Timing and context is everything:

  • Sometimes the smartest speech is the one you don’t give right now — but give later.
  • Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish, and the purpose of the speech. It’s important to be strategic about when and why you want to speak. Perhaps another communication channel might be better suited to accomplishing what you want to do.
  • Doing fewer, but better quality speeches, is generally a smart tactic.

Adapted from Joan Detz’s presentation at the International Association of Business Communicators 2008 International Conference in New York City. Joan is the author of How to Write a Speech and It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It, as well as other books.

Check out the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council's Guide to Successful Presentations for more tips on presenting effectively.