Sixth, always include a story no matter what your topic. Great speakers from the past have been storytellers—from Jesus to Abraham Lincoln to Bill Cosby. We can’t resist stories. Translate business principles or key ideas with stories. Watch what happens in a conversation or a speech when you begin with, “On my way home from work, the car in front of me…” You have hooked the other person because you have begun a story. You can use a story to get the attention in the opening, to illustrate a point, or to sell an idea. The story should relate to something in your speech. A story cannot stand alone.
Seventh, use gestures to describe and reinforce. You must use your arms and hands to help communicate your ideas. We must show what we are talking about as well as say it. In telling your story, use gestures to describe what happened. To drive home the point from the story, you must reinforce it with purposeful movement of the arms and hands.
Eighth, include few main points: three is a good number. Six or eight points are too many for the audience to remember, so people may get discouraged and quit listening to you. We respond well to the number three; we can remember three. Three is familiar: three strikes and you are out; ready, aim, fire; morning, noon, or night; Tom, Dick, or Harry; introduction, body, and conclusion of a speech. If you limit to three, you will have the self-discipline to be more concise and focused.
Ninth, be comfortable with your notes. Practice with the notes you will use in the presentation. Know where your key words or phrases are on the card or page. Look at your note just before you need it so that you will not appear to be attached to your notes. Don’t write out your speech word for word. For example, to tell a story, all you need is the trigger phrase that will remind you that a particular story is next.
Finally, have a strong ending. People remember best what you say last. Don’t say “That’s all,” or simply trail off at the end, or say a weak, “Thank you.” Have a powerful ending. In a persuasive presentation, you might present a move to action statement. A fine persuasive ending is “What I want you to do as a result of my presentation is…,” filling in the blank.
In an informative speech, share an appropriate pearl of wisdom. If I were ending a speech on communication skills, I might say, “When a Purdue student asked Majorie Randolph, Vice President of Human Resources for Disney, ‘What is the main reason for your success in the business world?’ her response was, ‘I speak up.’ In whatever career you choose, may you always be willing to speak up. “
Certainly taking classes, reading books, and listening to excellent speakers will help you improve your speaking skills. Putting these ten tips into practice, however, will help you take your presentations from dull to dynamic.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication in the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.