Make it Simple
“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification”– Martin H. Fischer
Your audience has had a long day – they’ve experienced conflict at work, traffic on the way home, and have missed their lunch. As the after-dinner speaker, you don’t want to make it worse. So make your presentation as simple to follow as possible.
Below are three tips to make your audience want to come back to see you speak: easy-to-follow presentation structure, use of familiar words, and be entertaining.
Use a Simple Presentation Format
As a speaker, you are constantly fighting audience distractions from your message. One of the most distracting things for your audience is figuring out where you are going in your presentation. Your audiences will love for you to provide a “roadmap” of your presentation upfront.
However, to tell them up front, your presentation has to have a structure. Your structure will depend on the message you want your audience to receive. I recommend the following format for all of your presentations, delivered to any size audience, at any time:
Opening attention step (e.g., a memorable quote, memorable story, startling statistic, etc.)
Presentation body (three main points)
Closing attention step (e.g., a memorable quote, memorable story, startling statistic, etc.)
Even with this structure, you can vary your three main points of the body of your presentation in the following ways:
Logical. If you are giving a presentation that contains several interrelated ideas in such a way that one flows naturally to the next, you can use the logical pattern of organization
Chronological. When information in a speech follows a chronological sequence, then you should likewise organize the information chronologically
Geographical. If you wish to evoke an image of something with various parts and distinguished by geography, organize your speech using a spatial pattern
Cause-and-Effect. Another way of organizing your presentation is to look at the subject in terms of cause and effect
Problem-Solution. The problem-solution organizational pattern is similar to the cause-and-effect pattern. Still, you can use this pattern when trying to persuade the audience to take a particular viewpoint.
Use one of these structures for your presentation but remember to tell the audience what your presentation structure is after your presentation opening.
Adding structure to your presentation and telling your audience is always a winner. Your audience will better receive your presentation if you use words familiar to them.
Use Familiar Words
Another distraction for your audience is unfamiliar words you use in your presentation. To use words familiar to your audience, you must understand your audience’s familiarity with your presentation subject.
Jargon is something speakers try to avoid. However, if your audience knows your presentation subject well, using jargon from their particular field increases your audience’s understanding and your credibility.
If you have not determined your audience’s background, I advise you to use common words you hear in everyday conversation. This may frustrate some audience members with experience in your subject, but you will not lose the audience by using jargon or unfamiliar words. Remember, you must be understandable to all audience members.
If you are satisfied with “hitting singles and doubles” during your presentation, adding structure and using familiar words will undoubtedly make you acceptable to most of your audience.
However, if you want to “hit a home run” with your audience, you will have to entertain them.
“Whoa,” you are saying. I am a speaker, not an entertainer. But, trust me, you will “hit a home run” in your presentation if you entertain your audience while you give them valuable information they can use.
By entertaining your audience, I don’t mean telling a joke every minute or telling jokes at all. Experienced speakers know that adding humor to their presentation lightens the atmosphere and makes the audience feel good about what you are saying. Let me give you an example.
Suppose you explain to your audience how getting excited about a specific thing can drive you to more success. For example, think about the following paraphrased story told by Earl Nightingale in his audio album Lead the Field.
There once was a little boy who had a pet turtle called Herkimer, who he loved. The boy enjoyed taking the turtle out of its tank to play with it. One day the little boy observed that old Herkimer was not moving. He tried everything to get it to move but to no avail. He told his dad his pet turtle was not moving. His dad looked at the turtle and determined that, indeed, Herkimer had gone to turtle heaven. The little boy was so sad.
Seeing the deep sadness in his son, the dad decided they would have a funeral for little Herkimer. They would invite all of the little boy’s friends. They would have a procession and bury old Herkimer in the backyard. The little boy got so excited about his friends coming for the funeral and burial.
Finally, the day came for the funeral. The little boy could hardly contain his excitement. All his friends were lined up behind him and his dad. They marched around the backyard a few times in a quiet procession with Herkimer in the little boy’s hands and finally came to the burial site. His father said some words of mourning, as did the little boy. Suddenly, little Herkimer started to move. The father didn’t know what to say, but the little boy did. After pausing, the little boy enthusiastically said, “Let’s kill it.”
The story’s point is that once we get excited about something, we don’t want to let it go.
It is OK to tell entertaining stories if they are relevant to your subject.
Entertaining stories make your audience laugh, making them learn more easily and your presentation more memorable.
You could say adding structure to your presentation is the batter mix of your presentation cake, using familiar words is the right cake recipe, and entertaining your audience is the icing on your presentation cake.
Remember, make your presentations simple enough to be understood by your audience and leave them laughing to make your presentation memorable to them.
It is a winning formula every time!
Call to Action
Use one of the five structure patterns (logical or topical, chronological, geographical, cause-and-effect, problem-solution) in your presentations and tell the audience up front your three main points
Use words familiar to your audience in your presentations
Be entertaining; it is a sure way to make your presentation memorable to your audience.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”– Hans Hofmann
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster, in 2002 because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.frankdibartolomeo.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Frank can be reached at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”