Effective Rhetoric and Presentation

Telling a Story

Storytelling is a powerful tool for leaders, entrepreneurs, and community managers to relay a vision and craft a strong sense of purpose.

Learning Objectives

Learn the art of storytelling and recognize it’s applicability to various facets of the business world

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • It may come as a surprise, but many leaders in business argue that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in the 21st century business environment.
  • Leaders and entrepreneurs are tasked with creating organizational buy in, procuring funding and aligning resources on a single, centralized vision. This is not possible without a strong sense of story.
  • Technology and social networks have turned marketing into the art of storytelling, in which engaging and building a community relies heavily on spinning intriguing tales.
  • The art of storytelling requires engaging the audience, setting a scene, building tension, staying organized and focused, and ending with a powerful and meaningful conclusion.

Why Storytelling Matters More Than You Think

Leaders

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful skill set, both in regards to effective rhetoric and presentation and leadership. The ability to craft ideas such as strategy, tactics, consumer needs, core competencies, and other concepts into a speech, presentation, or group discussion can create a strong sense of vision, purpose, and unity. It is argued by some leaders in managerial thought that the ability to tell a story is the most important skill a leader can have in the 21st century.

Community Management

Aside from the leaderships and presentation frame, telling a story is the core skill set that enables a powerful presence on social media and other digital distributions of the company culture, brand, and value proposition. Storytelling is a way to relate to prospective users and build a powerful community, which is an invaluable asset in the success of any and all business ventures.

Entrepreneurs

It is also worth noting that start-up ventures require a strong sense of story. When pursuing investment, the entrepreneur must take the concept they are selling and spin it into a vision worthy of taking a risk on. Look no further than Kickstarter campaigns to see how critical it is to build a narrative, and find people who share your passion. This is the key source of enthusiasm and capital that enables start up companies to move forward.

Leaders are expected to have the strategic mind to set strategies, the technical skills to take action and the vision necessary to tell a compelling story.

Why Story-Telling?

How To Tell A Story

Depending on the situation, there may be a wide variety of relevant approaches. Delivering a specialized presentation on how to integrate a software solution will undoubtedly require a different tactic than building a twitter community for a new soda brand. That being said, there are a few aspects to any good story that can help us effectively tell a tale:

  • Engage the audience – To pull them into your story, you must involve them. Ask a challenging question, or raise a trending topic. Find something in their world, and use that as your starting point. Relevance is key.
  • Set the scene – All stories need context, and context will act as a key counterpoint to what unfolds. Pull them into the world the story takes place in and you’ll have their full attention.
  • It’s all about tension – Conflict, debate, struggle, emotions, find what it is about the story that creates a sense of tension and provide emphasis. This feeling of conflict has been central to storytelling for all of human history!
  • Stay focused on the goal – Stories are anecdotes to communicate concepts. Stay focused on what it is within the story that is important, and relevant to the discussion you are trying to have. Keep the story grounded through the occasional reminder of what it is you’re really trying to say.
  • Stay logical – Stories are like puzzles, the pieces need to fit. Keep things organized and maintain a sense of structure. Losing the thread will result in a story evaporating before your eyes.
  • End with a punch – The conclusion is your chance to make a point with emphasis (!). Make sure the flow of your story results in a powerful and punchy conclusion that truly speaks to the audience.

The Beginning

Beginning a speech with a quote, statistic, story, or humor can make the audience feel interested and invested in what you have to share.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the best practices for opening a speech using quotes, statistics, personal stories, humor, and overviews

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • It is important to remember to keep your introduction relatively short; wordy introductions can lose your audience before you actually get to the speech itself. It is also important to remember that whatever opening line you choose, you must connect it to the content of your speech.
  • Beginning with a quote, statistic, personal story, or even opening with humor are all good options, but only if they are used correctly.
  • If the presentation is more formal, you may just want to give an overview of the main topics you will cover in your speech. Using an overview as an opening would be a good choice if you are unsure how your audience will react to a joke or a startling statistic.

Key Terms

  • introduction: An initial section of a book or article, which introduces the subject material.

Ways of Beginning a Speech

When you begin your presentation, you want the audience to feel interested and invested in what you have to share. The more interested you get them right off the bat, the more they are going to pay attention throughout the rest of the presentation. This can be done in a multitude of ways, but it is important to remember to keep your introduction relatively short; wordy introductions can lose your audience before you actually get to the speech itself. It is also important to remember that whatever opening line you choose, you must connect it to the content of your speech.

The Opening

There are many ways to start a speech before segueing into an introduction: beginning with a quote, statistic, personal story, or even opening with humor are all good options, but only if used correctly. So be careful, because humor is only funny when it is told right, and humor can sometimes do more harm than good. Be sure to avoid all sexual, religious, and racial topics if you open with humor. It doesn’t matter if you open with a statistic, quote, or sharing a personal story; just be aware that what you choose must be directly related to the main point of the speech.

So how will you begin your speech or presentation? Will you start with a quote, statistic, personal story, a joke, or an overview?

Opening with a quotation

The use of quotations is a tried-and-true way of introducing a subject…if done correctly. Here is an example of an opening making use of a quote from Albert Einstein: “After the nuclear bombs were dropped during World War II, the leading creator of this destructive force said, ‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. ‘ Albert Einstein stated this after finally seeing the bombs’ full power; for he knew that he very well may have had a hand in the end of the world. ”

Opening with a statistic

Startling statistics might draw the attention of your audience. The following examples concerns modern incarceration rates: “By the end of 2004, 724 out of every 100,000 U.S. residents were incarcerated. The United States of America has the highest jailing rate in the entire world. ”

Opening with a personal anecdote

Sharing a personal experience is an effective, but risky, way of opening a presentation. Use this option only if it’s the right fit for your audience.

If you are presenting to a group of Video Game Design students at your school on the topic of fun game play elements, you might use a personal experience like this: “A few years ago, everybody was talking about how awesome this new game was and how sweet the graphics were. So, I did what any gamer would do–drove directly to the store, picked up a copy, brought it home, and popped it into my Xbox. My excitement heightened as the game loaded and the intro sequence played. When the game started, I was absolutely astonished…at how bad the game play was. The game looked cool, but all you did was run around and hit the enemies in the head with a sword over and over again. That game was not fun; let’s make a game that’s fun. ”

Opening with humor

Using a joke to start a presentation is often a good idea, as long as it is appropriate. Also, try to make the joke pertain to the subject you are presenting. Here is an example that you might use when doing a presentation on football: “Anyone who makes a bad call against the Detroit Lions risks ticking off their last remaining fan.”

Opening with an overview

If the presentation is more formal, you may want to give a simple, structured overview of the main topics you will cover in your speech. Using an overview as an opening would be a good choice if you are unsure how your audience will react to a joke or a startling statistic.

Your overview should contain a brief introduction of your topic; an explanation of the relevance of the topic to your audience; a forecast of the organization for your presentation; and possibly some background information, if necessary.

Here is an example: “Today, I will be discussing college dropouts. I will be going over the current rate of dropouts, as well as the many common factors that affect these rates. I will also talk about the reasons to stay in college, including that college is a place where you can gain better knowledge, memorable life experiences, and the skills to earn greater pay in the future. ”

If you’ve chosen to open with one of the other opening techniques, then an overview should always follow. While there may be rare individual speeches that do not benefit from an overview, there is no form of speech that isn’t improved by this method of welcoming and preparing the audience for what follows.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is one of the most historic and powerful speeches in history. He began with a story: “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. ” With this opening, he captured his audience’s attention, and the rest is history.

The Middle

The middle of a speech or presentation
offers the audience facts and perspectives which support the
conclusion delivered at the beginning and the end.

Learning Objectives

Illustrate the key components of delivering a strong argument during the middle of a presentation to provide compelling support for the conclusion

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Generally speaking, speeches and presentations can be divided into three parts: an introduction (beginning), a body (middle), and a conclusion (end).
  • When constructing the middle of your speech, one should communicate premises which support their conclusion.
  • Understanding an audience is a key success factor to the middle portion of the speech. How much do they know about this topic already? What are their opinions? How detailed should my explanation be?
  • Delivering a speech requires credibility. Through fulfilling the 6 I’s of Credibility, a speech should be able to accurately convey a supporting argument and conclusion.

Key Terms

  • premises: Ideas that are assumed or demonstrated to be true in pursuit of deriving a conclusion.

An effective presentation, speech, or lecture is often divided into three parts: the beginning (introduction), the middle (body), and the end (conclusion). While the beginning and end tend to be the most memorable for the audience, it is in the body of your discussion that you make your argument. As a result, the middle is key to accomplishing your objectives for the speech.

There are a number of perspectives and considerations to keep in mind when preparing your core argument. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll look at the organization of premises to form conclusions, your audience, and the 6 I’s of Credibility.

Premises and Conclusions

The beginning and end of your speech should contain an emotionally compelling conclusion, while the middle of your speech should include the logical argument you are delivering to the audience. The speech can be divided loosely into two categories of discussion: premises and conclusions.

For the middle of your presentation, it’s all about selecting and communicating the key premises that enable your overall conclusion. The logic for this is fairly simple if you think of premises and conclusions  as ‘if’ and ‘then’ statements. If cigarette smoke increase the risk of cancer, and if exposure to cigarette smoke doesn’t require smoking the cigarette yourself, then second hand smoke is a cancer risk. This example is oversimplified, but it communicates the core logic that is necessary to build into the body of your presentation. If you do not have premises to support your conclusion, you should reconsider what you are trying to communicate.

This image outlines the anatomy of an argument. Valid premises lead to sound or cogent conclusions, while invalid premises result in unsound or uncogent conclusions.

The Anatomy of an Argument: This image outlines the anatomy of an argument. Valid premises lead to sound or cogent conclusions, while invalid premises result in unsound or uncogent conclusions.

Know Your Audience

As you construct your argument, you are also going to need to understand your audience. As a speaker, you must be aware not only of what you are trying to say, but also what your audience already knows about the topic, and their general state of mind on the subject.

For example, a neuroscientist would offer a substantially different argument with considerably more specific details if addressing an audience full of neuroscientists already aware of the trends in the field. This same speaker delivering a talk to the general public would need to carefully consider what information to add or remove in order to bring the audience up to speed without intimidating them with jargon. It is primarily in the middle of your speech where this is most important, as it’s very easy to lose your audience in the details.

The 6 I’s of Credibility

With the structure of your discussion in mind, and a thorough understanding of your audience, you are almost ready to deliver your core argument. The last topic of consideration is your own credibility. The following 6 considerations will help you decide if you are a credible source on the topic, and how to demonstrate that to your audience:

  1. Ideation – Find clever ways to present a concept, and help the audience see how you derived it.
  2. Information – This is where the premises come in. Make sure your facts are carefully chosen and communicated.
  3. Influence – Demonstrate confidence and passion in what you are saying. It’s contagious.
  4. Integrity – Trust is key. Know what you don’t know, and make sure the audience does too.
  5. Impact – Find memorable ways to build roots in the memories of your audience. Stories and examples are great tools for this.
  6. Ignition – Finally, make your conclusion actionable. Motivate your audience not only to agree with your point, but to build it into their lives.

The End

The ending of a speech can be as important as the beginning and body, because a good end leaves a lasting impression.

Learning Objectives

List the different ways of ending a business presentation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • After completing the presentation, the presenter should summarize the main points again without repeating verbatim what was said in the introduction.
  • “Wow” your audience with one of the techniques for introducing your speech; for example, use a quotation, a startling statistic, a personal experience, a joke, or a formal closure. You may also want to end your speech with a call to action.
  • Thanking the audience is one of the most important things to do at the end of a presentation, because they have given up their time to be there.
  • Asking for questions is a good way to minimize any confusion that the audience might have or bring to light any relevant connections which you may have overlooked. Answering questions well confirms your authority over the subject matter.
  • Thanking the audience is one of the most important things to do at the end of a presentation.

Key Terms

  • ending: A termination or conclusion.

Finishing Well

Leaving the audience with a bang ensures making a lasting impression. Remember, the last thing presented tends to be what the audience remembers the best. The ending of a speech is as important as the beginning and body. The conclusion should do what the introduction did, except in reverse.

Ways of Ending a Speech

After completing the presentation, the presenter should summarize the main points again without repeating verbatim what was said in the introduction. You then want to “wow” your audience with one of the techniques you used to introduce your speech. These techniques can include a quotation, a startling statistic, a personal experience, a joke, or a formal closure. If you are presenting persuasive information, you may particularly want to end your speech with a call to action. What are you asking of your audience? What can they do after listening to your speech? Finally, asking for questions is a good way to minimize any confusion that the audience might have or bring to light any relevant connections which you may have overlooked.

Thank Your Audience

While this is one of the most important things to do at the end of a presentation, it is also one of the most frequently forgotten things. Remember that the audience has given up their time to listen to you. They could have been anywhere else in the world doing anything they wanted to do, but they were there with you. You should appreciate that. One way of thanking your audience might be to simply say, “That is all I have for today. I appreciate you giving me your time. Thank you very much and have a great day. ”

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Training: Training can be conducted in many ways, such as in a lecture or classroom format (above), online, or any number of ways.

Taking Questions

Sometimes it is necessary to take questions at the end of your speech. Many speakers find this challenging, as it is not part of the prepared talk. However, by drawing on your mastery of your subject matter and accurately gauging what the questioner is really asking, you will be able to answer any questions asked in a satisfactory manner. Answering questions effectively strengthens the effect of your speech, as it confirms your authority on the topic in the mind of your audience.

Questions and Answers

The question and answer format is often used to provide a higher quality or higher volume of responses within a business communication.

Learning Objectives

Describe the purpose of the question and answer (Q&A) format in business writing

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • To use this format effectively, the author should anticipate any questions that the reader might have regarding the message and provide the answers.
  • The question and answer format (Q & A) presents a series of questions and answers that provides all the pertinent information that the reader needs.
  • When presenting a large amount of information that needs to be conveyed, using the question and answer format helps keep the reader engaged.
  • The most effective communications answer the following questions. What is the purpose, Who is the audience, Are there any stakeholders, What is the context of this message.

Key Terms

  • recitation: The material recited.

Questions and Answers

Most business writing uses the “one thing after another” approach, which is a plain recitation of the facts. While this method communicates the message, it can often leave the reader with unanswered questions. The question and answer format is often used to provide better or more responses to the business communication.

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The Main Purpose of Business Writing: With rhetorical awareness, the focus of communication shifted from simply reproducing forms, templates, and documents to thinking about what the writer wants to accomplish with the document.

In order to use this format effectively, the author should anticipate any questions that the reader might have regarding the message and provide the answers. The question and answer format (Q & A) presents a series of questions and answers that provides all the pertinent information that the reader needs.

While this method is often associated with interviews and other news media, this format doesn’t require two people. The writer essentially asks and answers the question. This format is most successful in the business world when it employs a conversational tone. This method is especially effective in advertising and employee communications.

When presenting a large amount of information that needs to be conveyed, using the question and answer format helps keep the reader engaged. This is because the question and answer format breaks the information down into smaller, easy to read pieces, which can make the content itself seem more inviting. Arranging the questions so they flow into one another encourages the reader to continue and prevents them from skipping over important information.

For example, a memo on upcoming changes to the employee benefit program might include a question and answer like this:

Q: When will the benefits begin?

A: The benefit changes will begin on January 1, 2013

Visuals

Visual aids help us distill complex concepts into clean, elegant expressions that are easily grasped by the audience.

Learning Objectives

Integrate visual assets into your presentation skills to clarify your points and simplify your expressions

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Visual images have been a part of human communication and language for thousands of years, and for good reason. 60-65% of people think predominantly in pictures, even when listening to words.
  • Complexity is a great way to lose the interest of your audience, and visual aids are naturally effective at consolidating complex concepts into elegant high-level expressions.
  • There are tons of useful tools to help you on your way, but keep in mind certain visual approaches work better in certain situations than others.
  • Graphs are favored for distilling complex data streams into clear correlations, while photos are excellent at building an emotional connection. Consider the point you are making as you select the appropriate image.

Key Terms

  • chunking: The act of retaining more information through strategically combining concepts.
  • visualization: The act of transforming data and/or ideas into images.

When delivering an effective presentation, very few tools are more effective than good visuals. There are a number of reasons this is true (aside from the common adage that a picture is worth a thousands words). Understanding why visuals are useful and how to go about using them will give you a critical edge at your next big talk.

Why Visuals Matter

The evolution of communication is largely visual, with pictographs dating back thousands of years. At the onset of communication, humans focused on visual representations of ideas. Approximately 60-65% of people see a series of pictures when listening or looking at a series of words. This is an enormous portion of your audience, so speak their language!

This image demonstrates the way in which we code and decode messages we send to one another. When I think to say the word tree, and then proceed to say it, you process the word tree and then proceed to think it. Simplifying communication with imagery can often bypass much of the coding and decoding which slows us down.

Encoding and Decoding: This image demonstrates the way in which we code and decode messages we send to one another. When I think to say the word tree, and then proceed to say it, you process the word tree and then proceed to think it. Simplifying communication with imagery can often bypass much of the coding and decoding that slows us down.

Aside from this, sometimes the most efficient way to communicate a point with clarity is to wrap up various premises and your core conclusion in one clean image. This can be accomplished through diagrams, charts, tables, graphs, models, and even internet memes. The more creative and memorable the image, the more likely it’ll stick in the forefront of their minds after you’ve gone (which is, after all, the point of all of this).

How To Visualize Well

Specialists in memory and human comprehension confirm that the human mind simply can’t hold all that many words, numbers, or concepts simultaneously. This presents a challenge when communicating complex ideas to a crowd. Distilling complex ideas into an elegant display can aid in this process.

Some of the most useful tools at your disposal are the simplest. Focus on chunking your information, organizing your content, ensuring relevance, creating visual alignment, and emphasizing a single main point. Below is a list of visual aids you can consider, with a brief description of how they are best utilized:

  • Physical Objects and Diagrams: These are quite useful when 3-dimensional thinking is required, or when the skill being taught is hands-on. They are not so useful when they are big, distracting, and unwieldy.
  • Graphs: For delivering complex data in a single and elegant expression, graphs can’t be beat. However, if there are multiple key concerns and countless possible conclusions, a graph can be quite misleading.
  • Photographs: Photos work best when the human element is useful, as they tend to create a sense of empathy and connection. However, photos aren’t as effective at abstraction.
  • Maps: Spatial reasoning is difficult, so don’t make people walk through a city via text. Visually showing a map immediately enables your audience to have a strong sense of scope and direction. However, know your audience and keep it simple – maps can also be quite intimidating when over-populated with points of interest.
This image shows the breakdown of a gear pump as a technical diagram, with each part clearly labeled and color-coded for ease of understanding. This is an excellent example of how a diagram can help us in avoid complex coding and decoding of words, and instead paint a clear image of functionality directly from a visual aid.

Gear Pump Diagram: This image shows the breakdown of a gear pump as a technical diagram, with each part clearly labeled and color-coded for ease of understanding. This is an excellent example of how a diagram can help us avoid complex coding and decoding of words, and instead paint a clear image of functionality directly from a visual aid.

Practicing through Anxiety

There are many ideas on how to mitigate the effects of stage fright, such as through thorough preparation and rehearsal.

Learning Objectives

List common solutions for dealing with stage fright

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In some cases, stage fright may be a part of a larger pattern of social phobia or social anxiety disorder, but many people experience stage fright without any wider problems. Quite often, stage fright arises in a mere anticipation of a performance, often a long time ahead.
  • Three solutions to stage fright include: reducing the significance of the other people, eliminating the imagination of negative possibilities, and holding the performance in perspective by seeing its outcome as insignificant in relation to the totality of one’s life.
  • Other possible solutions include preparing by rehearsing with visual aids and using physical methods for releasing energy and excitement out of one’s system.

Key Terms

  • stage fright: A state of nervousness about performing some action in front of a group of people, on or off a stage; nerves; uncertainty; a lack of self-assurance before an audience.
  • glossophobia: The fear of public speaking.

Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety, fear, or persistent phobia that may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience, whether actually or potentially (for example, when performing before a camera). In the context of public speaking, this fear is termed glossophobia, which is one of the most common phobias. Such anxiety may precede or accompany participation in any activity involving public self-presentation. In some cases, stage fright may be a part of a larger pattern of social phobia or social anxiety disorder, but many people experience stage fright without any wider problems.

Solutions to Performance Anxiety

One possible solution to performance anxiety is to reduce the significance of the other people. While experiencing performance anxiety, we often invest the others with imagined power, especially in their ability to affect us through their evaluation of our performance. Ways to reduce this imagined power is to increase the sense of one’s own power, to perceive the vulnerability of others, and to accept oneself.

Another possible solution to performance anxiety is to eliminate the imagination of negative possibilities. A negative outcome is always possible, but that does not justify worrying about it before it occurs. Focusing one’s attention on the present, rather than the future, is much more productive. A way to do this is to monitor our own performance.

A third solution to performance anxiety is to hold the performance in perspective by seeing its outcome as insignificant in relation to the totality of one’s life. By realizing that nothing catastrophic is likely to occur, the need to avoid failure may decrease and switch to a more positive goal. An example of a positive goal would be to provide others with pleasure. Furthermore, it is helpful to focus on the process, the moment-to-moment experience, rather than the results of a performance. Additionally, it is important to concentrate on the enjoyable aspects of the process.

Preparing for Your Speech

There are many ideas on how to mitigate the effects of stage fright. One is as simple as being prepared. According to Lybi Ma with Psychology Today, “Being prepared is your first line of attack. You should be anxious if you haven’t done your homework.”

When preparing to give your speech, it is important to rehearse just as you plan to present it. This includes using your visual aids when you practice. This is necessary to do, since it trains you to make smooth transitions between slides. Take time into consideration as well, since it is hard to sit through a long speech, even if it is interesting. People can usually only concentrate for about twenty minutes at a time. This may mean you need to break your speech up into two parts if it is lengthy. Doing this gives the audience a short break in between and allows them to refocus and retain the important information.

Rehearsing

To rehearse effectively, you should consider the following tips:

  • Pay special attention to the delivery of your key points; this is typically where stumbling for your words can become the greatest problem.
  • Speak in a conversational style. Do not talk at your audience; pretend you are talking with your audience.
  • Prepare for interruptions and questions. On this note, make sure to leave room for questions at the end of your presentation.
  • Practice pausing in your speech after important information you would like to stress, as well as when you are transitioning from one main point to another. By doing so, the audience can better digest the information and reflect on what they have just heard.
  • Rehearse with your graphics and coordinate them to your talk.
  • Display your graphics only when you are talking about them. Graphics should support your presentation, not detract from it.
  • Time your rehearsal, and use the same pace you will use when you present.
  • Rehearse in front of others. Feedback can improve your speech and having an audience for practice can pinpoint weaknesses in the presentation.
  • If possible, rehearse your speech in the location you will be giving it. This will allow you to feel more comfortable when you are giving your presentation.
  • Make sure you hear your speech aloud, either by recording it, or by listening carefully to yourself during rehearsal. This will enable you to make sure that your words flow smoothly in an understandable manner.

Dealing with a Difficult Audience

Speaking directly, honestly, and on point can improve the result of a speech, even one in front of a difficult audience.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the benefits of delivering extemporaneous speeches

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • An extemporaneous speech sounds spontaneous because the presenter is not reading word for word.
  • The advantage of extemporaneous speeches is that eye contact and body language can increase. The speaker’s head is not down, buried in a manuscript. The speaker is able to take in audience feedback and respond to it as it occurs.
  • In dealing with a difficult audience, it is best to be as honest as possible and to remain polite when audience members disagree with points made in the speech.
  • It is important to practice presenting with the outline or note cards being used.
  • Sometimes your audience may be difficult during the question and answer period. If you do not know the answer to a question asked by an audience member, simply say so, do not lie, and explain any relevant information you do know. If you are interrupted by a question, answer it and continue with your presentation. If an audience member disagrees with your presentation, be polite in your reaction.

Key Terms

  • extemporaneous: Without preparation or advanced thought; offhand.

Giving a speech or a lecture can be very difficult and intimidating when dealing with a large audience. Not only do presenters have to deal with stage fright, but they have to deal with a difficult audience. If one is unprepared, they can come off as unprofessional. One way to prepare for these situations is by delivering speeches as though they are extemporaneous.

Extemporaneous Speaking

An extemporaneous speech (extemp speech) is delivered from a prepared outline or note cards. The outline or note cards include the main ideas and arguments of the speech. The only information that is typically copied word for word are quotes. Outlines and note cards should be used for keeping the presentation organized and for reminding the presenter what information needs to be provided.

Extemp speaking has many advantages compared to the other methods of delivery. For one, an extemporaneous speech sounds spontaneous because the presenter is not reading word for word. Glancing at an outline or a note card that has key ideas listed allows the presenter to add detail and personality to the information being presented. Second, similar to memorized speaking, eye contact and body language can increase. The speaker’s head is not down, buried in a manuscript. Third, the speaker is able to take in audience feedback and respond to it as it occurs. An audience tends to change moment by moment, and a good speaker can tell when more or less detail is needed for different parts of the presentation.

In order to play to the strengths of extemporaneous speech, it is important to practice presenting with the outline or note cards being used. Inexperienced speakers tend to worry that they will forget important information if they do not write it out on their outline or note card. Practicing your speech, even if it’s just to your pet or mirror, will help increase your confidence level in both delivery and knowledge of the subject. This will help you seem more like an expert in front of your audience.

Answering Difficult Questions

Sometimes your audience may be difficult during the question and answer period. If you do not know the answer to a question asked by an audience member, simply say so, do not lie, and explain any relevant information you do know. If an audience member asks a question in disagreement with your topic, remain in good terms. Politely and respectfully acknowledge the opposing thoughts. If an audience member interrupts your speech with a question, answer it, and return to where you left off.

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A Tough Crowd: It may sometimes be difficult to engage the audience during the question and answer period.

Using Humor

Using a joke to start a presentation is often a good idea if used properly.

Learning Objectives

Indicate how irony and metaphor are used in presentations

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In most cases, keep your joke clean.
  • Try to make the joke pertain to the subject you are presenting.
  • If you open with humor or use it in any other part of your presentation, be sure to avoid all sexual, religious and racial topics.

Key Terms

  • irony: A statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean something different from, or the opposite of what is written literally; the use of words expressing something other than their literal intention, notably as a form of humor.
  • humor: The quality of being amusing, comical, funny.
  • joke: Something said or done for amusement.

Using Humor

Beginning a presentation with a joke can be an effective strategy for winning over one’s audience, provided the speaker or author knows his or her audience well. However, the speaker better hope the audience thinks the joke is funny! Most often, keeping one’s joke clean is prudent, as not to create discomfort among the audience. Also helpful is telling a joke relevant to the subject being presented. Here, for example, is a joke one might use for a presentation on football: Anyone who makes a bad call against the Detroit Lions risks ticking off their last remaining fan!

Take care with the subject matter as sometimes humor can do more harm than good. If you decide to use humor at any point in your presentation, it is a good rule to avoid all sexual, religious and racial topics or references.

Irony and metaphor

Two common rhetorical devices used to convey special meaning to an audience are irony and metaphor.

The use of irony in rhetoric is primarily to convey an incongruity, often used in humor to deprecate or ridicule an idea or course of action. When taken in context, the statement may actually mean something different from, or opposite of what is said literally.

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Irony: A stop sign ironically defaced with a beseechment not to deface stop signs

The use of metaphor in rhetoric is primarily to convey a new idea or meaning by linking it to an existing idea or meaning with which the audience is already familiar. Linking the new with the old and familiar through the use of metaphor is an excellent tool for introducing new concepts to one’s audience.

The Importance of Delivery

Your appearance and delivery are just as important as the content of your speech.

Learning Objectives

Explain why appearance and delivery are important in presentations

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • You want your audience to give you respect and to take you seriously, so be sure to dress well.
  • Act poised and confident; don’t let your nerves get the best of you. When rehearsing, identify your weak spots, practice fixing them, as well as practice hitting the crucial points in your speech. Do your best to avoid fidgeting, pacing, looking at the floor, and over using “um”, “uh”, or “and”.
  • The most important thing to remember before giving your speech is to deliver your message. If you forget to say certain points it is fine, just deliver your message and let the audience know the main objective of your speech.
  • While standing in front of a large or small audience for a presentation, body language is crucial. Remain relaxed and calm, remember to smile, and maintain eye contact with the audience.

Key Terms

  • body language: Nonverbal communication by means of facial expressions, eye behavior, gestures, posture, and the like; often thought to be involuntary.
  • appearance: Apparent likeness; external show; how something appears to others.

The Importance of Delivery

Your appearance and delivery are just as important as your speech. You want your audience to give you respect and to take you seriously, so be sure to dress well. For your dress, consider what your particular audience will expect of you. In most cases, this means business casual, but sometimes a suit or dress may be necessary.

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The Importance of Delivery: Your appearance and delivery are just as important as your speech.

In order to dress to impress, men should wear a button-up shirt and tie, blazer (optional), dress pants, and dress shoes. Men should also be clean shaven and have tidy hair.

In order to dress to impress, women should wear a button-up shirt, blouse, or a nice sweater, dress pants or skirt (one that goes below the knee), and dress heels or flats. Women should not wear too much make-up, and they should have tidy hair. Women should also avoid large dangling jewelry, as this can be distracting to your audience.

Deliver Your Message

Act poised and confident; don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Accept your nervousness and work with it. Everyone understands how it feels to be nervous and will be supportive. When rehearsing, identify your weak spots, practice fixing them, as well as practice hitting the crucial points in your speech. Do your best to avoid fidgeting, pacing, looking at the floor, and over using “um”, “uh”, or “and. ” Try to breathe easy and pace your speech. The most important thing to remember before giving your speech is to deliver your message. If you forget to say certain points it is fine, just deliver your message and let the audience know the main objective of your speech. Find comfort in knowing that your nervousness is not as visible to others as it is to you.

Body Language

While standing in front of a large or small audience for a presentation, body language is crucial. Audiences may become distracted if you flail a laser pointer or fidget with a pen. As a presenter, remain relaxed and calm while creating animated and lively facial expressions. Always remember to smile, maintain eye contact with the audience, and enjoy your experience as a presenter.

Your Audience

The great thing about presenting a speech is that you can gauge the understanding of your audience by paying attention to them. If your listeners are looking confused, you can ask if they understand before moving on to the next point. You can then back-up and re-explain your points as needed. Make eye contact with your audience members, and make sure not to stare at your notes the whole time. If you have a large audience, make sure to alternate talking to the audience members to the right and left of you as well as in front of you. When you begin your speech do not look at your notes, look at your audience! You know your topic and who you are so introduce yourself and your topic as you would introduce yourself when you meet a new person.

The following strategies will help you look at your audience:

  • Look at your audience before you begin
  • Create and follow a plan for looking
  • Pick a particular feature of your listeners’ faces
  • Practice looking at the audience while rehearsing
  • Avoid skimming over faces in your audience