Last month I gave a talk that I wanted to be especially good. It wasn’t!
It is easy for a perfectionist like me to be self-critical and the speech may not have been as bad as I concluded. But it fell short of what a Harvard Business Review (June 2013) article calls “killer presentations.” Good coaches, counselors and leaders need to be good communicators. Chris Anderson, the HBR author, coaches TED speakers for their presentations. Here are some of his recommendations that can apply to the rest of us:
- There is no way to give a compelling talk unless you have something fresh and worth saying. If there is no central theme and clear purpose for your talk it is better to not speak. “Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the ideas” as well as the passion of the speaker.
- Frame your talk as a journey. Quickly introduce your topic, explain why you care deeply about it, and convince audience members that they should too. “If a talk fails, it’s almost always because the speaker didn’t frame it correctly, misjudged the audience’s level of interest, or neglected to tell a story.”
- Limit the scope of your talk. Don’t try to include too much.
- Plan your delivery and rehearse your talk.
- If you use slides, avoid reading what is on the screen.
- Remember that people don’t care much about your organization, books, awards or accomplishments.
- Don’t get lost in jargon or overly intellectual language.
- Make eye contact, at least with a few people.
- Steer clear of the following ways to ruin a presentation:
– Taking a long time to explain what the talk is about.
– Speaking dramatically like an orator.
– Subtly letting everybody know how important you are.
– Referring repeatedly to your book or (worse) reading from it.
– Cramming your slides with numerous bullet points, multiple fonts, and flashy movements.
– Never rehearsing your presentation or checking the timing.
– Using unexplained jargon to make yourself look intellectual or informed.
– Filling your talk with facts but no stories.
Could these guidelines apply to academic talks or to sermons? What would you add or subtract? Please comment.