Trylon Communications  - September 2004

10 Tips for Compelling Presentations

As speaking opportunities arise, many executives feel nervous about making a public presentation. It's all about developing content - stories and images to support a central thesis without any jargon or vagueness. Here are 10 tips for sharpening content:

  1. Be specific. Don't say your organization has many resources and offers services to the community. Say that you offer cash grants of up to $500, replace locks free-of-charge after a break-in, and help men, women, grandparents, kids, aunts and uncles.

  2. Tell stories. Often you can answer a general question with an example, illustration, or anecdote. Don't give the general answer and then go to your example. Get right to it. Say, "for example" and start telling the story.

  3. Speak in images. People remember visuals much more easily than facts, figures, and general information. Create pictures in people's minds.

  4. Get right to the point. When answering questions, don't use your first two or three sentences as warm-ups or to give background information. Get to the point. Then, if there's time, enhance your point with an example or illustration.

  5. Eliminate all jargon. Use concrete, evocative and simple words that any sixth grader could understand.

  6. Create strong messages. The best messages aren't simple factual statements: They embody a particular point of view. Create messages that encourage the listener or viewer to think or act differently about a particular issue.

  7. Tailor the language to the speaker. Make sure the speaker is comfortable with both the message and phrasing. If necessary, rewrite to suit the speaker's temperament and beliefs.

  8. Cut. Most speeches and presentations falter under the weight of wordiness. Cut every word and sentence that doesn't pull its weight or support your main thesis. Ask yourself: Does this word need to be here? Is this thought interesting and essential?

  9. Keep sentence construction simple. Subject. Verb. Object. Starting your sentences with qualifiers and conditionals makes it too hard for listeners to grasp what you're saying.

  10. Keep sentences short. Complex ideas are best explained in short, simple sentences. Strong material is not all that's needed, of course. Even the most eloquent words must be delivered with energy, commitment and genuine feeling.