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10 Tips to Add Punch to Scripted Presentations

Congratulations! You’ve been invited to make a scripted presentation to a large audience at an annual franchise convention. But unless you are a leader of the free world, recently retired five-star general or Hollywood celebrity, chances are as you take the stage, your audience will be thinking, “What’s in this for me?” as they get ready to multi-task on their smartphones during your speech.

How do you ensure your own rock-star status as a presenter? Here are 10 tips to help whether you’re presenting to thousands or to a small, intimate group:

1. Get in the First Punch. Start quickly and grab your audience right away. Instead of “Today, I’m going to talk to you about …,” jump in with one of these approaches: Make it personal – share something from your life that will help illustrate a key point. Do or say something unexpected. The element of surprise will increase alertness and capture your audience’s focus. And if appropriate, engage with humor. An audience that shares a laugh becomes more connected with each other and with you, creating a positive vibe. Be sure the humor is relevant to your message.

2. It’s Not About You; It’s About Your Audience. If you want them to care, speak about things they care about. Trust their intelligence – don’t dumb down your content. And remember to talk directly to your audience, not to your PowerPoint slides on a screen or monitor. If you truly connect with your audience they will be there for you from beginning to end.

3. Make it Real. Be your authentic self. The audience will like you more if they feel they’re seeing the real you. And help your audience connect to your content by giving them tangible and specific images that you know that particular audience can relate to.

Clarity and brevity are your friends in a presentation.

4. Become a Storyteller. Share your own tales, experiences, successes and lessons-learned-the-hard-way. A dramatic storyline with real-life characters is so much more compelling than slides with statistics. Which do you think will be more effective in conveying the needs of an impoverished region: telling the story of a child who desperately requires medical care but whose family is unable to afford it, or showing a bar chart with statistics on that area’s unmet health care needs? Remember to keep your stories to the point. Clarity and brevity are your friends in a presentation.

5. Delight the Senses. To add punch to your scripted words, consider incorporating elements that will touch multiple senses. Use bold slides with strong colors and images that fill the screen to visually reinforce your points. According to the recent study conducted by PSAV Technologies and Brain Strength Systems entitled “Audiovisual Technologies and Adult Learning in Meetings,” audiences retain about 10 percent of what a speaker says; add visuals and the number climbs to 65 percent. However, “visuals” does not mean text – since our brains respond to seeing words similarly to hearing words, slides with text do not add positive sensory impact and in fact, can dilute a presentation’s impact. Consider also using sound (sparingly) to reinforce a point in a dramatically effective way. Music is also a powerful tool that can activate almost every region of the brain. A recent trend to incorporate the sense of smell into presentations is, not surprisingly, receiving mixed reviews. Unless you can share with your audience the enticing aroma of your franchise’s freshly baked goods, it is likely best to avoid this sensory option.

Consider incorporating elements that will touch multiple senses.

6. Shake it Up. By varying how you deliver your content, you can increase your audience’s level of engagement. Try changing the dynamics in your voice and video-record yourself in rehearsal so you can see and hear what awaits your audience. During your presentation, ask rhetorical and actual questions so the audience becomes actively involved. If possible, step away from the lectern and move around the stage. Or consider a seated interview format where your presentation is formatted into questions and answers, all pre-scripted and rehearsed by you and your interviewer. The interactive nature of an interview format heightens audience engagement.

7. Rise and Shine. Be alert, energized and interested. If you’re not, your audience won’t be either. If you feel tired (perhaps because you were up all night practicing changing the dynamics in your voice), do a few minutes of aerobic activity followed by deep breathing prior to starting your presentation.

8. Rehearse. Don’t believe the propaganda that “rehearsing will make a presentation seem unspontaneous and insincere.” The opposite is true! The more you rehearse, the more assured you will feel which, in turn, will make you appear confident, relaxed and yes, more spontaneous. If you will be reading from your script, keep your head up as much as possible. If you are addressing a larger audience, using TelePrompTer can enhance your presentation; schedule one or more run-throughs with the operator to help you master the technique. Before the presentation room opens, take time to become familiar with the stage, the lectern (if any), and how you will enter and exit. It’s also helpful to know who or what will precede and follow your presentation.

9. Enlighten Your AV Provider. It may seem obvious, but the better your audience can see and hear you, and the more seamlessly your slides, videos and sound cues are executed, the more effective you will be as a presenter and the more professional you will be perceived by your audience. Too often a well-scripted presentation is undermined by poor lighting and audio or badly-timed supporting materials. It is important for your AV personnel to know as much as possible, in advance, about your presentation style and needs. For example, will you stand at the lectern, walk the stage, or move into the audience? Your choices will affect both lighting and audio. Does your presentation include PowerPoint or Keynote slides, and if so, is there also embedded video and audio? If you would like others to advance your slides, you will need to provide a copy of your script to them. Even when presenting to a small group, simply dimming the room lights will add punch to your visuals on the screen, helping your audience to focus.

10. End with Something Memorable. As noted presentation trainer Jack Malcolm points out, when Martin Luther King Jr. closed his famous speech on the National Mall, he did not say, “Well, I see our time is up. Thanks for taking the time to listen to my dreams, and please let me know if you have any questions. If not, enjoy the rest of your time in Washington.” Form follows function, so first think about what information you want to leave with the audience, and then tailor your scripted words to that objective. A call-to-action requires a different approach and tone than eliciting a heartfelt emotion. Consider bookending your presentation. If you started with a story, end with one or share the opening story’s epilogue. Summarizing your key points can be effective if you keep it concise – think bullet points.

A well-scripted, well-prepared presentation with punch will keep your audience talking long after you’ve stopped. “Break a leg.”

Linda Goldman is vice president of HGP – Harris Goldman Productions, Inc. Find her at via the directory.

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