Journalist, public speaker and author of The Art of Plain Speaking: how to write and speak in a way that will impress the people that matter, Charlie Corbett, here gives his top tips on how to give a winning presentation, for those of us who may feel a little out of place when speaking in front of big crowds...

Charlie Corbett gives some exclusive tips for Female First readers
Charlie Corbett gives some exclusive tips for Female First readers

1. Less is more. Keep your presentation brief. Research has shown that the average attention span – when it comes to public speakers - is a maximum of 18 minutes. If you cannot convince your audience of the genius of your idea in that time, it’s likely that it’s not a very good idea.

2. Be yourself. Avoid the temptation to present in a stiff or formal way. Relax. Be human. And speak as you would to an intelligent friend. Avoid buzzwords, business lingo and management speak. Your aim must be to get your idea across in the most concise and clearest way possible, using simple, conversational language. Pompous management speak obscures meaning, deadens creativity and, most importantly, it will make people’s brain shut down.

3. Tell a story. Your presentation must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t just fire statistics and quotes at people. Their minds will immediately turn to more important matters, like what is for dinner tonight. If you want genuinely to engage people – then you need to tell them a story. And if you fill it with memorable facts and (short) lively anecdotes then so much the better.

4. Avoid death by PowerPoint. Humans react to humans, not slides. It is far more effective to stand in front of your audience and speak eloquently, and without the crutch of PowerPoint, than to try to convince them to focus on you and your long bullet-point-filled slides. If you really do need to use slides, my advice is: use no more than five, make them as basic as possible, and use powerful images to reinforce your arguments.

5. Solve problems. If you are pitching for business then make sure you understand the needs of the company you are selling to, better than they do. Find out what their specific problems are, and then show them how you can solve those problems. And do it in a way that is clear, compelling and concise.

6. Don’t rush. Take your time and develop a comfortable speaking rate. Nervous people gabble. Confident and assured people speak in a measured way and with purpose. They also embrace silences. A short silence can be a great way to emphasise a point. Above all, enjoy yourself when you’re up there. Joie de vivre will work hugely in your favour (but don't overdo it).

7. Don’t burn your gunpowder too early. People don’t tend to remember the start of speeches and presentations, so avoid firing off all the important stuff at the outset. Instead, use the first few minutes of your presentation to create a connection with the audience.

8. Recap. Always sum up the three to five most important points of your presentation at the end. People only tend to remember the end of speeches and presentations. So make the end memorable.

9. Relish your nerves. Everyone gets nervous, from the most famous orators and actors to prime ministers and chief executives. In fact, anyone who tells you they arenot nervous before speaking publicly is either a liar, or not a very good public speaker. The nerves you feel are a reflection of the respect you have for your audience. If you are not nervous, the chances are you won’t give a very good presentation.

10. Learn from a master. If you find all of the above a bit much to take in, then you can instead just follow the advice of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on public speaking:be sincere, be brief, be seated.

Charlie Corbett is a financial journalist and author of The Art of Plain Speaking: how to write and speak in a way that will impress the people that matter. He was the Plain English Campaign’s Communicator of the Year, 2018. 

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