Newsletter October 06
A clever way to improve your presentation skills
Several years ago when I belonged to the Toastmasters organisation, I set a goal to become the national speech evaluation champion. I put a lot of work into understanding how to evaluate peoples’ speeches, and practised evaluating them many, many, many, many (!) times.
What I noticed was that as my evaluation skills improved, so did my own speaking skills.
Of course, when I thought it through it was logical: the more you understand what goes into making a good speech, the more you automatically adopt these qualities yourself.
Here are a couple of suggestions to work on:
1. To improve your speaking skills it’s useful to understand what makes a ‘good’ presentation. Let’s take two kinds of presentation – informative and persuasive.
Take two pieces of paper and write down the characteristics of a good informative presentation on one, and a good persuasive presentation on the other.
Really think it through.
What great informative or persuasive presentations have you seen? What characteristics made them effective?
For example, how did they open the presentation? How did they connect with the audience? How did they keep the audience engaged? Did they use visuals? Did they use descriptive language? Did they touch people’s emotions? What structure did their presentation have?
2. Watch people’s presentations, then ask yourself two questions :
a) What was the purpose of the presentation?
If you struggle to answer this question, it’s likely the presentation wasn’t effective. A good presentation will have a clear purpose.
b) Did the speaker achieve the purpose?
If so how?
If not, why not?
For example, I once listened to a speaker whose purpose was to persuade us to do more swimming as a way to keep fit. At the end of the presentation I didn’t feel inclined to increase the level of swimming I already do (which is not very much!). When I analysed why, the main reason was that he injected no enthusiasm into his presentation and didn’t create any emotional buy-in for his audience. This made me understand that one of the characteristics of a persuasive presentation is to inject enthusiasm into my speaking.
By analysing and evaluating presentations in this way, it will build on your understanding of the elements of an effective presentation. This understanding will enable you to bring these elements into your own presentations.
It can be a highly effective way of improving your speaking skills.
Copyright Successful Speaking 2006