How to do Communications and Presentations : page 15
notes pages of your PowerPoint presentation. A
few key words should be sufficient to provide a
structure that you can follow easily.
Visual aids themselves can also act as a prompt
but beware of using unimaginative and wordy
slides simply to provide cues for yourself during
your talk. Using words on the visual aid merely as
a prompt is a misuse of it and an insult to the
audience. During a talk, words are for speaking not
Using a combination of creative visuals and
confidence cards provides you with an effective
safety net, which won’t prevent you from looking
at your audience and using appropriate gestures.
19. Why is body language important?
However you look or move, you will be giving off
signs to your audience as to your inner feelings –
you cannot not communicate. Being aware of your
particular mannerisms and nervous gestures
enables you to correct them and present a
confident unselfconscious image.
The perils of bad body language:
If your inner panic shows itself in your fidgety feet
and fiddling gingers, your audience will feel
uncomfortable because they want and expect you
to be in control. In addition, they will not have
confidence in you, your ideas or your product or
service. They will not believe in you, they won’t
listen well and will quickly forget what you have
said. If you look confident and believe in yourself,
you will have credibility and your listeners will be
eager to hear what you have to say.
20. Eye Communication
Looking at someone demonstrates that you are
interested in them. Eye contact also denotes
authority. Powerful people give more eye contact
than those who are less confident.
Where is the audience?
Some speakers follow the ludicrous advice,
sometimes given to novice public speakers, to find
a friendly face in the audience and speak to it.
After a few minutes of continuous scrutiny, the
poor victim in the audience is asking, why me?
The rest of the audience is feeling excluded from
what appears to be an exclusive monologue;
finding a friendly face is unfair both to the `face’
and to the rest of the listeners present. Avoid
speaking only to the most powerful or influential
person present for the same reason.
Speakers tend to look at their notes, at the back of
the room, at their visual aids or even at a blank flip
chart – anywhere but at the audience.
Why is it difficult to look at the audience?
You know instinctively that you express your
emotions through your eyes, so if you don’t look at
them, they won’t be able to see how nervous you
Having people looking at you is unnerving, you
feel put on the spot, cornered and trapped, so you
distance yourself from the situation by looking out
of the window. You feel, quite illogically, that if you
don’t look at them, they will be able to see less of
What happens when you don’t make eye contact.
People who are interested in each other make eye
contact when they are talking because they want to
know how their listener is receiving their message.
When you don’t look at the audience, they feel
(probably unconsciously) that you are not
interested in them, or in their reaction to your talk;
they feel the same way as you do if someone at a
party talks while looking over your shoulder; they
feel you don’t care whether they listen or not;
because they do not feel involved by you their
How is your eye contact?
During the course of your everyday life, pay
attention to the eye contact other people make with
you, and try and note how easy or difficult you find
it to look at people when you are talking in a
variety of different situations. Ask friends for feed-
back on you own eye contact. Practise
maintaining contact for longer than usual without it
When a speaker is fairly accomplished, it is often
their hands that reveal apprehension.
What not to do with your hands:
Fiddle with rings, watch, cuff links, buttons,
pens, elastic bands, paper-clips, spectacles,
cuticles and nails, confidence cards, coins in
Touch and pat face, hair, pockets, desk, table.
Clutch back of chair, notes, side of lectern.
How to do Communications and Presentations : page 16
Scratch any part of the body.
Hide them behind back, in pockets, in lap, by
folding arms, or by sitting on hands.
Point at the audience.
Rub them together in enthusiasm.
Wring them in despair.
What can you do with your hands:
You hands do not have a separate identity – they
are part of your arms and, in general, only need to
move if you are making a gesture, and should only
hold your confidence cards.
Remember that your arm begins at the shoulder –
always use your entire arm. Don’t tuck in your
elbows to your waist or make jerky, half-hearted,
meaningless gestures. Useless gestures, as
opposed to those with a purpose, reveal
nervousness and become a distraction to the
audience. Don’t be afraid to use your arms,
though, because standing rigid like a wooden
soldier is as unnatural as waving your arms about
What can you do with your hands when you are
not using your arms.
Keep your hands empty and still by the sides of
your body. This will feel odd, but it looks natural.
But don’t keep your arms glues to your sides,
because when a gesture is required, your hands
will only make little waving movements
somewhere down by your thighs.
If you are holding confidence cards, be sure to
gesture with the other hand. Remember you can
change hands so that you are able to use both
during your talk.
22. Position and Posture
Facing an audience, whether it is of five, 50 or
500, is difficult and speakers like to hide behind
desks, tables or lecterns. If you want to be a good
speaker, you must learn to stand totally exposed in
front of your audience. Always stand in front of all
Pitfalls of lecterns:
Try to stand to one side of the lectern so that you
can refer to your notes and your listeners can see
all of your body. This will also make it easier for
you to make natural gestures and to move around.
Id the lectern is fixed with a microphone, you have
no choice but to stand behind it. Stand on a box if
you are short so that your upper body can be
seen. Ask for a radio microphone if you want to
move away from the lectern.
Standing and sitting:
Standing gives you authority, enables you to
breathe properly and project your voice, and to
make better eye contact. The disadvantages of
Your chest is restricted and it is difficult to use
your lungs effectively.
Your eye contact may be limited and you may
be tempted to look down at your notes too
Your listeners may not be able to see you.
It will be very tempting to play with pens and
paper-clips on the table.
The advantages of standing are:
You are more visible and have more authority.
Your voice projection will be better.
You will have room to make gestures (don’t
lean on the table or clutch the back of the chair
if you are standing behind it).
Act confidently, even if you are quivering inside.
Push back your shoulders and open up your chest
as if you are about to begin the first day of your
yourself, your listeners will accept and retain what
Finding your feet:
Like hands, these creatures on the ends of our
legs seem to be stimulated by nerves to act very
strangely. I have seen otherwise normal men and
Hopping from one foot to another.
Taking two steps forward and two steps back.
Standing on one leg.
Crossing their legs in the ‘I want to go to the
Rocking to and fro.
Swaying from side to side.
Flexing at the knees.
Rising up on their toes on every third word.
How to do Communications and Presentations : page 17
Rising up on their toes on every third word on a
squeaky floor board.
Sticking out one foot and ‘boring for oil’ with
Going on little, undirected walkabouts.
Tracking the pattern of the carpet with the curve
of their shoe.
Walking up and down like a caged animal.
Standing on the sides of their shoes.
If you can identify any of these traits in your own
performance, imagine that you are standing in
weighted boots, so that it is impossible to move
without a conscious decision. You should be
aiming for steady, relevant movements, not cat-on-
a-hot-tin-roof jerks. You don’t have to stay nailed
to one spot, but you should be consciously
deciding when to move to another spot - to the
flip chart, towards a questioner in the audience, to
pick up a visual aid – and you should not be at the
mercy of your fidgeting feet.
Stand upright on two feet a few centimetres apart,
so that your hips are balanced over them and your
shoulders and the rest of your body are balanced
over your hips. Don’t slump or lean on one foot
with your hip sticking out.
Use your eyes to make contact with your
audience and show that you are interested in
their reaction to you.
Your face should say, ‘I am happy to be here
and I’m glad you’re here too’.
Your hands should be empty and still.
Gestures start from the shoulder.
Don’t hide behind barriers.
Stand tall, don’t sit.
Balance on both feet and wear imaginary lead
Let the beam of calm confidence shine out
from your chest.
23. Why should you practice?
Rehearsing helps you to:
Become familiar with the flow of your material.
Conquer the blank mind syndrome.
Feel more confident and control nerves.
Develop an effective speaking voice.
Use positive and appropriate body language.
You’ve probably spent sufficient time planning the
content and choosing the words, but fail to
allocate enough time to what will make the
difference between a mediocre and a memorable
talk – practice. Remember, if you can get up an
hour earlier you gain an extra hour in which to
The three-step approach:
Take it one step at a time – practice, rehearsal and
dress rehearsal. Practising is done by yourself,
rehearsing in front of one or several people and a
dress rehearsal is on site with props. All you
practising and rehearsing should be spoken aloud.
Your first run through will probably help you to add
examples and even anecdotes that you hadn’t
thought of in your original preparation. Also, if you
are reading it out for the first time, you may find
that some sentences are too long or complicated,
your choice of words may sound clumsy or you
may feel some ideas could be expressed more
clearly. You must set yourself a time limit for
changes otherwise you will always be rehearsing
new material and the main purpose of your
practice, to become familiar with your talk, will
never be achieved.
Don’t forget your body language:
You’re practising to familiarise yourself with the
ideas in your talk and words that convey them:
you are also practising your body language and
Always stand when you are practising, so that you
can use gestures and become used to holding
your cards. Look around the room as if you were
making eye contact with the audience. A full-
length mirror helps at this stage, although there is
nothing to beat recording yourself on video.
Using a tape recorder:
If you can’t video yourself, the next best thing is to
record yourself on a tape recorder. Listen critically
to your voice. Is it clear? Are you varying the
pitch, volume and speed? Are you using powerful
silent pauses or are you filling up the spaces with
non-words? Above all, is there enthusiasm and
vitality in your voice? Does it sound interesting?
If not, analyse how you can improve it and
How to do Communications and Presentations : page 18
practice again and again. If you know that you will
be addressing a large audience without the help of
a microphone, place your tape recorder at the far
side of the room and project your voice to it.
Make sure you are not straining your voice.
Remember if you have lungs full of air, your voice
will carry further and you won’t need to force it.
Rehearsing with feedback:
Use colleagues or friends, but be sure to give
them the background to your talk – who the
audience is, what they expect, what your objective
is and what you hope to achieve. Make eye
contact, use gestures and sound enthusiastic.
Use your cards and if you lose your place, don’t
make any comment, simply continue as you would
in front of a real audience; this will give you
practice in overcoming fluffs.
Be sure to ask your audience to give you positive
feedback as well. Not general praise, but specific
instances of good performance – you need to
know what to keep.
Guidelines for feedback:
These are some questions your rehearsal audience
can use in order to assess whether or not you are
presenting a successful talk.
You can use this checklist to evaluate your own
Is the first sentence attention grabbing?
Have you shown why you are qualified to
speak on this subject?
Have you announced your structure?
Have you revealed understanding and
knowledge of the listener’s attitudes and
possible problems in the first minute or two?
Have you shown the benefit to the audience in
listening to you?
Have you identified with the audience early on?
Have you announced your first point clearly?
Have you used facts, examples, anecdotes,
comparisons and statistics to support your
Have you summarised regularly?
Have you recapped on the previous point
before moving on to the next one?
Have you used rhetorical questions to guide
your audience along your path?
Have you avoided jargon and abbreviations?
Have you use visual aids in order to explain
complex material or to add interest at a dull
Are the links between each point clear and
Have you indicated that the end of your talk is
Have you summarised your key points?
Have you asked for action?
Have you ended on a high note?
Check your timing:
Always time every practice so that you know
whether you need to add or amend your talk. If
you overrun on time, avoid what so many
experienced speakers do – either ignore it and
continue to the end of the talk or speak faster in
order to include every precious point. Running
over is a discourtesy to everyone and shows lack
of professionalism. Speaking faster means that
your audience will not be able to follow and may
stop listening. If you have too much material for
the time cut or condense.
Write the timings on your cards, so that when you
are delivering your talk, you will know how much
time you have left at any given moment. This is
particularly important with longer speeches or on
the occasions when you have to deal with
unexpected questions that use up the time
allocated to your talk.
Make time to practice, aloud and standing up.
Use gestures and vary your voice.
Use a tape recorder and/or video recorder.
Practice in front of friends and colleagues and
ask for feedback.
Remember you are the most important visual
aid to your talk. Make sure that even before you
open your mouth the audience feels that you
are an enthusiastic and interesting speaker.
How to do Communications and Presentations : page 19
24. Checklist for Conference
Introduction. Make sure that the chairperson
has a couple of paragraphs so that you can be
Delegates’ Pack. If your paper or presentation
is to be given to the delegates, make sure that
the actual talk has different examples and
anecdotes to bring it alive. You don’t want the
whole audience reading your script along with
Timing. Always aim to speak for less time than
your time slot; for a 20 minute slot aim for 15
minutes. Most speakers overrun in the heat of
the moment and the conference organisers will
be delighted if you underrun.
Other Speakers. Contact them in advance so
that you don’t overlap in your subject material.
Also check that your clothes don’t colour clash.
It is advisable to find out the background colour
of the stage setting for the same reason.
Microphones. Find out what is being provided.
Are they fixed on the lectern, or radio mikes
with power packs?
Visual Aids. How will the visuals be projected?
Who has control of them? Are they operated by
the speaker or by a technician?
Question Time. Find out in advance how
questions are going to be handled. Are they
through a chairperson or will each speaker
select questions from the floor? Will there be
questions for individual speakers or a panel
discussion at the end of each session?
Rehearsal. Check when you have entry to the
venue and ensure that you have a complete
run-through in situ with your visual aids and
using the microphone. Practise crossing the
stage if necessary from your seated position to
Lights. Often you can’t see the audience
because of spotlights on your face. You may be
able to ask for the house lights to be turned up
so the audience is not in total darkness.
Audience. Mix with them before the talk if
possible. Ask them what they are interested in.
Encourage them to ask you questions at the
end. If you can identify a few faces when you
begin, it will help to calm your nerves.
Speaking from the lectern. It is better to come
out from behind the lectern if possible, even if
only for a minute or two. In advance check that
the audience can see more than the top of your
head when you are behind the lectern.
Body language. The bigger the audience the
bigger the gestures and facial expressions need
Voice. With a slide presentation you will be
looked at less so your voice has to be more
Don’t worry excessively about the grammar.
Use simple but precise words. And keep your
Abbreviate words like cannot, do not, should
not, and so on.
Read the script aloud several times to test its
naturalness and until it is very familiar.
Practise reading aloud from newspapers or
from a book.
Learn to read ahead and look up at the
25. Where are you speaking?
Whether you’ve planned to give your speech to
delegates at a conference or a small gathering of
your colleagues it is important to check out the
venue for your presentation.
Business talks are usually given in one of the
Round-the-table meetings on your own
premises, for example, board meetings, sales
meeting, departmental meeting, formal and
Clients/customer meetings in your offices or on
their premises, generally a group of less than
Regional meetings in hotels, such as a sales
meeting with a medium-sized audience of 20
Conferences in hotels or conference centres
with large audiences of over 50.
How to do Communications and Presentations : page 20
Always attempt to visit the site where you will be
talking, allowing sufficient time to change or rectify
any details that might prevent you from presenting
well and efficiently.
Here is a list of points that you should bear in
mind when you are visiting sites of different sizes.
Check list for small venues.
Ask yourself how you want the audience
sitting. Do they need tables? Would a
semi-circle without tables facing the speaker be
a better arrangement? Are there any members
you want sitting together or separated or close
to you? Can everyone see each other, you and
the screen (if you are using visual aids)?
Is there adequate space for your notes, visual
aids, handouts? Can you escape from the
barrier of a table between you and the
audience, or will you be trapped behind it?
Where will you position your flip chart and
Where are the sockets for the equipment? Will
you need an extension lead?
How do you dim the lights if you need to? Is a
pointer available to you to identify details on the
screen? How can you adjust the heating or air
conditioning? Can you open the windows?
Who is providing tea/coffee and at what time?
Imagine how your entire presentation could be
jeopardised by the appearance of refreshments
at a critical moment!
Is there a clock in the room or should you take
your own? It’s often easier to read a small
clock than your wristwatch, even if you remove
it and place it in front of you.
Who is providing pens, pads, drinking water?
Is it to be a smoking or non-smoking meeting?
Medium sized venues:
Check list for medium-sized venues.
Check everything on the list for small venues.
If you are using a hotel, check the name of the
manager in charge of hiring the room you are to
What time will you beable to get into the room?
Are you operating your own visual aids and, if
not, what cues will you give to the technician?
Check where the lighting switches are and who
will operate them. Can only half the room be
dimmed if necessary? Do the windows need to
Where are the toilets and telephones; will you
need a phonecard or loose change to make a
What facilities does the hotel offer for taking
When and how will tea/coffee be served? Will it
be served in the meeting room or in an adjacent
room? If it is in the same room, ensure that the
cups are laid out before the meeting. You don’t
want to give your talk to the accompaniment of
Who will be in charge and who will be on duty?
Are the chairs comfortable? Can they be
substituted by better one if your meeting is
long? Ensure that surplus chairs will be
removed. Remember to provide a seating layout
Make sure that no telephones in the meeting
room will ring and disturb you.
Ask to see the visual aids equipment. Are you
familiar with the projector? Do you know how
to focus this particular model? What type of
screen will be provided?
If you are using a lectern, how high is it? Can it
be powered or can they provide something for
you to stand on if this is necessary? Does it
have a light so that you can read your notes if
the main lights are dimmed?
For large conferences, most of the details should
be organised by the conference co-ordinator. If
that happens to be you, you will need to buy
another book, because this is not the place to list
everything you need to know. As a speaker your
responsibility is to consider every aspect of your
own talk and how you can ensure that your
presentation will be professional and trouble free.
Here are some points to consider:
Check list for large venues.
How will you approach the platform/stage?
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested