O.K. then. You’re writing a speech – a presentation, actually – something like a training for a new process or procedure; a presentation to the board or council; or representing your company or agency at a public meeting. Or maybe it is a “real” speech!
We’ve talked about how to get started (part 1); how to grab your audience with a strong beginning (part 2); and now, let’s talk about what to say, and how to organize for the greatest impact.
Remember thinking about “the takeaway” – the one main point you want your audience to remember from your presentation? You thought about your audience, the takeaway, and why it should matter to this particular audience. Then you thought about your sub points – the support, and perhaps enhancement for your one main point.
1. Now, list what you want to say – main points, sub points, details – in any random order on a piece of paper as they occur to you. Select information based on your listener’s need for the information, how the listener will use the information, and your purpose for presenting this information. And nothing else!
2. When you are sure you have everything you want to say on that list, take another look at it. Cut out the deadwood. Even though it may be interesting information, if that piece of information does not build or support your main point and sub points, does not meet the reader’s need, reader’s use, and your purpose criteria above, get rid of it. It will only be distracting to your audience and dilute your effectiveness.
3. Are you realizing what you have done? You have saved tons of time because you have edited before you have written a word of your presentation! Next step: Group similar bits of information. Each group will be a section of the body of your speech, and you will organize each section as you write.
4. Organize your sections into a sequence that makes sense to achieve your objectives.
Now you have the skeleton of your presentation. Here are some additional points for getting it all together:
- Know your material thoroughly – really know what you are talking about.
- Know your audience; know what information will meet their needs and their use of each point – and your purpose! Reinforce your overall point, and why it should matter to them. Ask yourself if each piece of information you plan to use is appropriate for your audience. If not, cut it out.
- Vary the length of your sentences – choose “comfortable” words that are easily understood. Make your transitions from one point to the next smooth, and clear.
- With each transition, use a strong, clear sentence to establish your point, and then add the details to prove it. Use personal pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “we.”
- To practice beforehand, read your speech out loud as you finish each section to hear how it sounds. After you’ve put it all together, practice it straight through. When you’re satisfied, time it as you would deliver it, to make sure you’re on your time target.
- And perhaps most important: If you are trying to motivate an action, tell your listeners specifically what to do, and how to do it.
Next week: Wrap it up with a strong close that moves them!
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