Using Conversation in Your Presentation


A little boy went to his mother with a question. Since the mother was busy on the computer, she replied, "Why don't you go ask your dad?" The boy's response: “I don't really care to know that much about it."  Although this is a joke, my guess is that the conversation is based on an actual dialogue between mother and child.  
  When involved in public speaking, you usually think about getting content from your expertise and experiences. Perhaps you Google your topic to see what new information you can find. However, to add the human touch to any presentation, consider including conversation. For example, while eating in a train dining car recently on a cross-country trip to Seattle, I asked the server how long he had worked on the train. His answer was, "25 years. It was a summer job run amuck." Since I often speak about having a sense of humor about ourselves, this was an example that fit the point well.
  With this objective of looking for real conversation for your next keynote presentation, have paper and pen always available to record key sentences. For example, I knew the word "amuck" was a key to the above conversation, so I wrote it down as soon as we got back to our train compartment.
  Listen to other people's conversation. Write down clever sentences of people you talk to. People will be flattered if you say, “Do you mind if I take a moment to jot that down? That was so clever!” You might find just the right place for it in your next speech. Effective presentation skills come from a variety of sources as well as presentation skills delivery. Telling about a conversation you were involved with or overheard will also help you to deal with stage fright since it is a story that’s comfortable for you to tell.
  Conversation can come from memories as a child. For example, when my wife was a child, her favorite conversation memory was about her grandparents’ neighbors, Nate and Minnie Green. Evidently Miss Minnie was pretty demanding of her husband and was very hard to get along with. Finally she became very ill. One night she was in such misery that she said, "Nate, just get the gun and shoot me."  He answered, "Minnie, there ain't a shell on the place." 
  Be willing to ask open questions of others to seek these conversation pearls. Art Linkletter made a great career of asking such questions of children on television and those conversations were the heart and soul of the show.
  Be approachable when in public. Some of your best conversations for after-dinner speeches come from complete strangers as did my train example. Getting involved with people one-on-one will also enhance your comfort level and help you overcome your fear of public speaking.
  Add variety to your next speech by including conversation. This technique gives the audience time to assimilate key information that may precede or follow the dialogue, thus increasing the impact of your presentation.
  Conversation is not just an important part of interpersonal skills; conversation can become an integral part of your presentation.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnat. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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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