Deliver The Talk : Giving Oral Presentations

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Deliver The Talk :

When it's time to deliver your talk, here are six key points to remember.

  • Check the room.

  • Speak up.

  • Slow down.

  • Make eye contact.

  • Avoid staring at your visuals.

  • Respect the time limit.

  • The day of your talk, you need to arrive at the site early. Unless you have specifically requested such arrangements in advance, you cannot count on anyone else to make sure the projector is in the room or that it works or that the flip chart has markers or that the microphones actually work.

    You yourself need to assume responsibility and the only way to do that is to get to the room early and to check on all those things. If you have a chance to go over your talk one more time before the empty room, all the better.

    It's a rare speaking event that does not present at least one sur¬prise - there's no flip chart or the Internet server is down or a maintenance crew is drilling holes in the wall next door or a dance recital is taking place in the ballroom one floor above. If you arrive early, you'll be able to deal with such problems somehow. If you arrive just in time to speak, there may well be nothing you can do.

    You will need to speak loudly enough to be heard. One room might have a loud fan going. In another, noise might be coming through from ad¬joining rooms. A third might be absolutely still and quiet. Your right volume will vary from room to room and you need to adjust your delivery to conditions. You might ask someone sitting in the back of the room to let you know if you can't be heard. And if you talk slowly, it will be easier for people to hear what you say.

    As you speak, remember to slow way down. Talking too fast is the most common mistake speakers make. However slowly you normally speak in conversation, you need to speak even more slowly when giving a talk. And you need to be careful to pause - at the ends of sentences and especially at the ends of paragraphs. One way to do this is to write in your notes at the right places. Audiences generally hear much more slowly than they read - about 100 words a minute is a good ballpark figure. Respect that limitation and slow way down. Get to the end of a thought, then look up, make some eye contact, breathe and continue.

    Be careful also about any distracting gestures you might make during your talk - you should not be twisting a paper clip while you talk, nor do you need to be tapping the lectern with a pencil. Distracting speech patterns can be a problem too - the speaker who has to end every sentence with "you know" or who repeatedly says "uuhhhh" between statements, tries the audience's patience. The distracting gesture or speech pattern gets the attention instead.

    Eye contact is an important element of successful public speaking. Whether you are speaking to a large group or a small one, making some eye contact with members of the audience will help the entire audience feel a connection with you. Usually you can tell when you've achieved that contact with someone: people will nod or smile a little bit at you (or even look down).

    And remember not to stare at your visuals. We've all seen speakers who turn to look at each slide and actually seem to be talking to the slides rather than to the audience. You may need to glance at your slides, especially when you refer in your talk to something on them, but it will unnerve your audience if you turn your face away from them too often.

    Finally, pay close attention to whatever time limits you have been given. If someone asks you to give a five- to ten-minute talk, you will annoy everyone if you go on for fifteen minutes. Even worse, you may find yourself cut off midstream. Find out in advance whether the questions and answers are included in the quoted time limit. Usually if someone asks you for a ten-minute talk, it means that you talk for ten minutes and then there are perhaps ten more minutes for Q&A. But once in a while someone says ten minutes and means that to include both the talk and the Q&A, if that's the case, you'd better stop talking after five minutes.

    It is smart to have some kind of timepiece right in front of you. It's an old practice, one in which there is still no shame, to take off your wristwatch and put it right on the lectern. Remember, too, that being a minute or two too short is never a problem, but being a minute or two or three too long might well be. You've got to leave the audience time to ask questions.

    To continue the section on Giving Oral Presentations,

    1. Size up the situation.

    2. Write out a rough draft of your talk.

    3. Outline your talk from your draft - start planning your visuals.

    4. Decide on props and visuals.

    5. Practice.

    6. Deliver the talk.

    7. Answer Questions Carefully.

    8. Get feedback.

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