In Your Next Presentation, Be Sure to Say…

A few newsletters ago I wrote about what not to say in your next presentation. In this article I want to suggest content to include. Before actual preparation, think carefully about this “big picture” principle regarding presenting in general:  Stress what the audience does not know. You want material that will be new to your audience. Margaret Thatcher once said, “Never speak on a subject about which the audience knows more than you do.” Smart woman.

Approach every speech answering this question:  “What can I say on my topic that the audience does not already know?” This requires knowing well the background of your audience. This is probably not a problem if the topic is completely out of the audience’s area of expertise. For example, if I were speaking to an audience of accountants who typically do not deliver many presentations, I might include how to end a persuasive speech.

Here are tips on how to insure that your talk will include new information.

Be current. With research so easily available on the Internet, you can find recent information on about any topic. You might talk to someone who you know is an expert on a related topic. Even reading the most recent copies of the daily newspaper or listening to a current podcast can be helpful.

Use historical examples to help make your point. Reading nonfiction books can help in this regard. Reading about the history of a company or about a period of time in history or a biography of a key person can often be great sources for examples that the audience will not be familiar with. For example, if you are talking about the importance of timing of the release of a new product, you might refer to the failure of the Edsel. Over 100,000 cars were sold between 1958 and 1960, but the car failed because it was released at the wrong time. The Edsel was a big luxury car and people were buying smaller cars because of the depressed economy. Many of the Edsel’s features were incorporated in later luxury cars. The example is relevant because it relates to the point, but since it happened over 60 years ago, people either don’t know about or may not remember it.

Include statistics little known but important. For example, I often speak about listening. Everyone in the audience may know that listening is important, but they may not realize that our listening efficiency is only about 25%. This statistic emphasizes the importance of improving our listening efficiency.

If people leave your speech feeling that they received new and usable information, you will have made an impact. These suggestions will help you avoid the yawning audience who leaves saying, “I’ve heard all of that before.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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