Friday, October 9, 2009

Speaking Skills: Planning (part 4)

Part 5 of "Professionally Speaking: Six Keys to Better Presentations," is the continuation of the second key: Planning. In this entry: Scripting.

Once you have done your research, you may choose to start scripting your speech. Not everyone scripts their speeches word for word (I tend to work from an outline of bullets). You should do whatever feels most comfortable for you and makes you the most confident. If you do script out your speech word for word, make sure you don’t then read it straight from your notes at the actual presentation. An advantage to scripting: You can very easily turn your presentation into a podcast or article later! As you work on your material, keep any time limits firmly in mind. Have you been asked to speak for 10 minutes only? Then five pages of material is far too much. Speaking for an hour? You’ll need more than one page. You don’t want to be rushed, nor do you want to draw out too little material to fit a longer time frame.

As you create your script or speaking structure, you may be deciding if you want to use visual aids. (Using visual aids appropriately is a completely different set of topics not discussed in this entry.) Like with data and research, make sure the visual aid is truly useful and enlightening for the presentation, and not just filler. Also, do not put your script onto a slide; it’s not much of a presentation if you just read your slides to your audience.

Two important parts to script carefully: Your introductory statement, and your closing call to action. Work on your first few sentences until you have them right, because these are crucial to grabbing the attention of your audience and getting them intrigued in your topic. A tip: Begin with a question for which people can respond by raising their hands (and raise your hand as you ask it to show them what you mean). Asking a question like this makes your talk more interactive, so that you audience is a participant, not just a passive listener. Examples of the structure of questions include: “How many of you own more than one car?” or “Who wants to take a Hawaii vacation?” (note that these are open questions, not yes/no questions).

Your closing statement should reiterate your main point, briefly cite what you covered in support of that point, and then include a call to action. Your call to action is something to leave your audience with, and it varies depending on what your point and take-home message were. If you were suggesting a new method of sales, for instance, you might end with a challenge to your audience to put your new methods into action. If you were informing your audience about the state of the environment, you might challenge them to do more research on their own or make some changes toward a greener lifestyle. A call to action can keep a speech or presentation from being an isolated, one-time event—you can inspire and challenge your audience to take what you have shared and bring it into action in their own lives!

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