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Tips for presenting at FYI talks, conventions, etc.


Audiences come to a presentation asking, "Why am I here?"
If you do well, they'll leave asking, "How do I implement these ideas?"
The presentation should be more about persuading than informing. Why?
Lectures are actually very bad at transmitting information - about 10-30% retention rate.
So, focus your speech on one key message. Build your talk around that message and make it easy for the audience to take the first step toward whatever it is you want them to do.


Preparing the Content

Before you start on the meat of your talk, you have a lot of planning and preparation to do. Here's how.

Know your Audience

Great speakers listen to their audiences, and to do that well, they must know the audience. So find out:

  • Who are they?
  • What do thy fear?
  • What do they want?

Get detailed answers to these, as they'll be key to persuading the audience.

Next, find out:

  • What is their age range?
  • What's its socioeconomic range?
  • How different are you from them?
  • What do you have in common?
  • What's their status compared to yours?
  • Have they had any bad news lately? Good news?
  • Do you know anyone in the audience? Would it be good to address them directly?

Consider the Environment

Once you know the audience, know the venue. Find out:

  • When are you giving your talk?
  • What's happening before your talk? Another talk? 
    • If it's a meal, keep your talk to no more than 15 minutes; if you're a keynoter, keep it to 45 minutes at most for the talk and the rest for questions or ending early.
  • What's happening after? Another talk? A meal?
  • What's the overall occasion?
  • How many people will there be?
  • What's the audience expecting?

Craft the Elevator Speech

The seed of your talk is the elevator speech, the thing you'll tell to anyone you want to get to come hear your talk. It should contain:

  • One sentence
  • A benefit for the audience
  • The word "you"
  • A reference to emotion

Example: "If you attend my speach, you will learn how to give presentations without fear, presentations that move your audience o action every time."

Once you have your elevator speech, use it as a litmus test for anything you want to include in your talk: Anything that doesn't relate to the elevator speech, no matter how interesting to you, must be excluded from your talk. If something doesn't support the key concept, it doesn't belong in your talk.

Audiences don't like to be overwhelmed with detail. They don't like to have their time wasted. They want what's important, the key concepts, the distilled essence of all the knowledge you've sought and accumulated.

Pick the Level of Need

The level of need shapes the kinds of examples you use, the claims you make, and the stories you tell. See Maslow's Hierarchy of needs (link). Find out which of the audience's needs your talk most applies to, translate that broad need into terms your audience relates to, and emphasize that need throughout the talk. The lower you can go on the hierarchy of needs, the more visceral impact your talk can have on the audience. Just be sure the need is real and it's consistent throughout the talk.

Find the Story

Use an archetypal story structure. There are about 30 key story structures (link), but there are five that most easily hook into talks:

  • Hero's Journey -
  • Stranger in a Strange Land -
  • Rags to Riches -
  • Revenge -
  • Love -

Structure the Content

Your talk will bore the audience unless you present it in terms they're interested in. 
The key here is to state up front a problem that you know the audience has, and frame your talk around how to solve that problem. 
If you get stumped, answer this: What is the problem the audience has for which my information is the solution?

Here are some tools you can use to frame the problem and solution:

  • Cause and Effect - If you do that, then this will happen
  • Analogy - This is like that
  • Classification - This new thing fits with that familiar group
  • Authority - Experts agree with me
  • Weighing Probabilities - The odds are that this will happen
  • Induction - From these facts/outcomes, you can derive this general rule
  • Deduction - Using this general rule, I predict these outcomes
  • Comparison - You could do that, but this is better because...
  • Audience Requirements - If you want that, this will fulfill your needs
  • General to Specific - These conditions produce that outcome, and do so consistently
  • Chronology - This happened, and that followed
  • Eliminating Options - This, that, and the other won't work; this is the only remaining alternative

Presentation Outline

As you create the structure of the presentation, you need to keep the audience's decision making process in mind. It follows five steps:

  1. Realize that there is a problem and understand how it relates to you
  2. Get the current facts and an honest assessment on the situation
  3. Present your solution; if controversial, go through the top 3 alternatives and why each won't work
  4. Lay out your solution's benefits for the audience
  5. A small, easy first step towards your solution

Make the Journey

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Use a parable to frame your presentation and orient the audience

State a problem the audience has for which your information is the solution

Use the residues method for contentious topics

Help the audience picture the benefits of the solution you've given them

Rather than a Q&A, close by getting the audience to take an action step

Involve the Audience

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Four good ways to involve the audience:


Get the audience to take what they've learned and test it against someone else, or coach someone else in their development

Tell a story

Get the audience to weave their personal stories into the larger on that the speaker has just told


Get the audience to compete or play in some way to make the point of the talk real


Get the audience to design a path forward, or next steps, or complete a diagnostic exercise


Use these categories to design action steps and for interaction with the audience throughout the presentation

Whatever you get the audience to do must reinforce your elevator speech.

Break up the talk into 15-20-minute chunks, with breaks for questions



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Search for the Truth

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Ways to focus on rehearsing a speech:


The outline or spine of the speech

The opening story


Big emotional stretch

Giving parts of the speech with huge emotion


Using nonsense words to concentrate on the nonverbal

Another persona

To help you transcend your own limitations

I have a dream

The political stump speech as a model

Choreograph the Kinesthetics

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Rehearse important speeches for the kinesthetics and transitions. Do at least one dress rehearsal where you put it all together

Use four zones of space to underline the meaning of your speech and connect with the audience

Move toward your audience when you're making an important point

Practice making smooth transitions between your topics, or your slides if you use them

Try to rehearse at least once in the presentation area itself to get used to it

Pay Attention to Audience Needs

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Review your presentation and be sure it includes simple pictures, stories, and movement

Conquer Your Fear

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Given your level of need, use the following to help with speech anxiety:

Do your due diligence. The more you know about the subject, the more comfortable you'll feel

Try writing out the speech in its entirety before the rehearsal

Visualize yourself being successful. If you're very nervous, begin by breathing

Practice your presence

For the terror-stricken, don't make eye contact. Otherwise, make real eye contact

Before the talk, focus on the audience

Redefine your symptoms for what they are: excitement

Get Technical

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Use modern communication research to build a public persona that communicates well with your audience

Your voice needs both resonance and presence

Speak at your natural pitch

Use universally understood facial gestures to convey emotional meaning and engage the audience

Use open body language to connect with your audience

Employ the "heart" posture

Use the passion you feel about your subject to get your message across effectively


The Talk


The Audience-Centered Talk

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Use a variety of exercises to prepare during the morning of your talk

Visualize yourself succeeding

Visit the site early if you can

Get to know the space

Talk to someone in the audience before you begin

Remember, the audience wants you to succeed

Let the audience help you; if you run into problems, get them to help you solve them

Listen to Your Audience

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Focus on the audience in the moment of delivery

Read the audience constantly for signs of how it is absorbing your message

Involve your audience at every step to make it part of the success of the occasion

Audience-Centered Speaking for All Occasions

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The Secret of Charisma

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