Business Perspectives

Speaking at your next business meeting? Some tips to help your presentation

Ray Hull
Ray Hull

A recent study conducted at a major university interviewed thousands of people on their greatest fears.

The worst fear – even more so than the fear of heights, falling, airline crashes, snakes, spiders, and even death – was public speaking.

Here are a few hints in order to make your next public speaking event a winning presentation that you will be proud of.

Begin with the ending

Instead of beginning with, “Today I would like to speak about …,” give the audience the premise of your presentation. For example, “As I was walking from my car to this auditorium this afternoon, I noticed a young man sitting on the sidewalk next to this very building. He was asking for money to buy food. He was a nice looking young man …”

That beginning has a much greater impact than, “I have come to discuss the future of our city. …” With that introduction, audible snoring will probably be heard within the first 10 minutes.

It is also a perfect way to conclude your presentation.

Of course you are not always going to find the perfect example waiting for you outside of the building where you are to speak. What I am saying is that an example or a story is a perfect way to begin and end your presentation. The audience will want to continue listening to you.

Use a quotation to begin

The following shows that a good quote can actually help make your point, and can be what your presentation needs.

“Thomas Jefferson once said that the great joy of being an American is simply having freedom of choice.

“Well, I am sure that if Jefferson were alive today, he would certainly agree that at no time in our history have we had …”

Such a quote will not only alert the audience to the topic of your presentation, but will also give it life.

Avoid sudden stops

Don’t be involved in the emergency stop.

Without warning, the speaker comes to an abrupt stop and says something like, “Well, I think that’s about all I have to say, so I’ll stop there,” and sits down.

How can a speaker “think” that she or he has nothing more to say? Didn’t he know?

It should never be necessary to tell the audience that you have come to the end of your presentation.

Summarizing is fine

Summarize with perhaps one, or at the most three, main points. This means that you can restate your main message, then perhaps give a couple of sub-themes to back it up.

The best rule of thumb is to stick with one main message and leave it at that.

For example: “So our future, as you can see, lies in our own hands. It is not too late to correct our mistakes.”

That ending leaves the audience with something to think about, to tell others about.

A final word

Most of all, when you are concluding your presentation, walk to the front of the stage and talk directly to them.

Look directly at as many people as you can, and speak conversationally to them, not in an overly dramatic manner. By conversationally, I mean to speak to them as though you are carrying on a personal conversation with each of them.

They will remember you as a personable and honest presenter whom they look forward to hearing again.

Ray H. Hull is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University. Contact him at ray.hull@wichita.edu.

Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Tom Shine at tshine@wichitaeagle.com or 316-268-6268.

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