2006, Volume 1
E-Book pps 66-85
Presentation Skills for Prospective Business
Professor Dr. Z. N. PATIL
Central Institute of English and Foreign
Professor Dr. Z. N. Patil
Dr. PATIL is a Professor of English Language
in the Centre for Training and Development,
School of English Language Education of
the Central Institute of English and Foreign
Languages, Hyderabad, India. He has a
Masters, M. Phil., and Ph. D. from University
of Poona; a Post-Graduate Certificate
in the Teaching of English from CIEFL,
Hyderabad, India; and a Diploma and Masters
in TESOL from Edinburgh, UK. He has lectured/taught
in universities, colleges, institutes,
language centres, and schools in India,
Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand.
Currently he is working as Senior English
Language Adviser in Japan. He has published
articles in national and international
journals, and has authored and co-authored
English language textbooks, teachers'
manuals, and resource books that are currently
being used in India, Vietnam, and Russia.
presentations, preparation, delivery,
body language, questions and answers
The present paper is a business self help
article aimed at business students preparing
their own presentations and at prospective
executives wanting to hone their presentation
skills. It explains the basics of oral
presentation skills in general that apply
across domains including that of business
management. It discusses the three main
stages to an effective oral presentation:
the preparation, the delivery, and the
questions and answers that follow the
delivery. A business presenter, like an
academic presenter, for instance, has
to go through the same processes of collecting,
selecting, organizing, and illustrating
her data, and has to keep in mind the
purpose of her presentation, and the needs
and interests of her audience. So, what
distinguishes a business presentation
and an academic presentation is the content
rather than the basic principles and procedures.
The ingredients of an effective business
presentation are more or less the same
as those of any other presentation. Hence,
though this article aims at helping business
students and prospective business executives
with oral presentation skills, it can
be of help to anyone aspiring to be an
effective public speaker.
"If all my possessions were taken
from me with one exception, I would choose
to keep the power of speech, for with
it I would soon regain all the rest."
---- DANIEL WEBSTER
In the world dominated by increasing globalization
and fierce competition, business depends
on alliances, joint ventures and partnerships.
Consequently, business executives need
to articulate their ideas effectively
and efficiently. Some business managers
have brilliant proposals, but they have
trouble explaining them to others. As
Bradbury (1996: 9) rightly says, "Most
business presentations do not achieve
their intended purpose. Worse still, they
frequently achieve nothing of any value."
This is so, because quite often the presenter
does not take pains to go through the
rigorous process of preparing the presentation.
So, if you want to be a successful business
executive and sell your ideas and proposals,
you will need to master the art of presentation.
A presentation is an opportunity to share
ideas with a group of important people.
It is during your presentation, and possibly
only then, that you have their attention
focused. Therefore, you should not take
this opportunity lightly. You may never
get a second chance. The ability to give
a great presentation can be a tremendous
career booster, while the inability to
do so can keep you on a dead-end path.
No wonder, managers, whether experienced
or new to the office, would like to hone
their presentation skills.
present paper aims at giving you some
vital suggestions on how to make effective
presentations. It offers you some basic
and useful ideas, tips and strategies,
which will help you become more capable,
efficient, effective, and valuable assets
to your companies. As you know, not everyone
is a confident speaker at the beginning.
On the one hand, some are scared at the
idea of standing in front of a gathering
and giving a speech; on the other hand,
others are thrilled at the prospects of
communicating with a group of listeners.
We can place speakers on a cline of confidence
with avoiders and seekers at the two extreme
ends, and resisters and accepters in-between
(Mandel, 1999). If you are an "avoider"
or "resister", this paper will
help you become an "accepter";
if you are already an "accepter",
it will take you to the "seeker"
stage; and if you are a seeker, it will
enable you to make knockout presentations.
paper is divided into three main sections-
literature review, discussion, and conclusion,
followed by references. Categorizing the
available literature into three groups,
the review section briefly summarizes
some important books on the topic. The
discussion section deals with choice of
topic; analysis of audience, occasion
and location; collection, selection, and
organization of material; preparation
of visual aids; rehearsal and delivery;
language and body language; and questions
and answers. The concluding section briefly
captures the highlights of the discussion.
There are plenty of books on presentation
skills, since public speaking is consistently
rated a frightening experience. Someone
has very aptly said that the human brain
is a wonderful organ, because it starts
working as soon as we are born, and stops
functioning the moment we get up to deliver
a public speech. A hero in battle can
be a coward before an audience. This fear
of making a public speech is so pervasive
that it has produced hundreds of books
and articles on the topic. We have (a)
literature that deals with the topic in
general, and literature that focuses on
a specific aspect of the skill, (b) literature
that is basically process-oriented, nature-oriented,
or impact-oriented, and (c) literature
written for general presenters, and literature
written especially for business managers.
Expectedly, all books on the topic profess
that if you gain some good advice about
how to make presentations, you can overcome
the fear and become more effective.
(1976) tells you how to develop poise,
gain self-confidence, improve your memory,
make your meaning clear, begin and end
your talk, interest and charm your audience,
improve your diction, and win an argument
without hurting people. Carnegie and Carnegie
(1977) show you how to win others over
to your point of view by maximizing impact
as a speaker. Gaulke (1996) offers an
inventory of 101 audience-tested anecdotes,
experiences, quotes, and insights. Wilder
(1994) presents 10 steps to sell your
ideas. Dowis (1999) discusses how the
impact is lost if your speech is rambling,
illogical, and boring. Zelazny (1999)
talks about how humour and visuals, among
other things, can make your presentation
effective. Detz (2000) concentrates on
preparation, organization, delivery skills,
and the use of technology. Booher (2002)
introduces the basics that you must master,
along with advanced techniques for fine-tuning
your delivery and maximizing your impact
on the audience.
The author attempts to teach you how to
(i) establish rapport with your audience,
(ii) speak with passion, persuasion, proper
pacing, and punch, (iii) organize your
ideas and plan your structure quickly
for optimum effect, (iv) match your delivery
style to your content, audience, and purpose,
(v) add interactivity to your presentation,
and (vi) use multimedia to engage your
audience. Kaye, et al. (2002) help you
take your career to the next level by
communicating like a seasoned business
leader. Jeary (2003) shares with you eight
secrets that you can practise to achieve
dramatic results. In his opinion, speaking
is more a skill than a talent and requires
techniques such as reciprocation, authority,
scarcity, and tactics like knowing your
audience and overcoming anxiety. Leech
(2004) lends you practical advice on communicating
information. The book aims to help you
make your case using persuasive supporting
materials that illuminate and inspire,
win over the audience with persuasive
evidence, and create a positive impression
through voice and language, both verbal
and nonverbal. Mortensen (2004) provides
strategies for persuading, influencing,
and motivating others.
and Randall (2000) provide advice on how
to develop a dynamic speaking style to
project power, confidence and persuasiveness,
because your success depends on the confidence
and conviction you project. They guarantee
that your voice can make the difference
between prosperity and failure. Grant-Williams
(2002) elaborates on how to employ positive
vocal techniques and become a more
confident presenter. Finlayson (2001)
rivets attention on questioning techniques.
He argues that it is not enough to just
ask questions; it is important to know
which questions to ask and how to ask
them. When you master the art of asking
smart, meaningful questions, you not only
make an excellent impression, but also
improve your performance. Williams (2004)
explains the significance of strong, clear
feedback, which is a critical nutrient
for the presenter. Wempen (2004) and Atkinson
(2005) discuss powerful, practical, and
easy to apply techniques for PowerPoint.
at from another perspective, the literature
on presentation skills has three broad
focus points: the process, the nature,
and the impact. For example, Bienvenu
(1999) and Diresta (1998) tell you how
to create and deliver your message with
power and punch. Peoples (1992) and Leech
(2004) have proven, practical advice on
how to communicate the essential information.
Kalish (1997), Diresta (1998) and Tisdale
(2005) have the recipe for "terrific",
"knockout", and "effective"
presentations respectively. However, whether
the book is process-oriented or nature-oriented,
the ultimate objective is to help the
presenter communicate effectively with
the audience. That is why Stevenson (2003)
and Atkinson (2005) aim at capturing the
audience attention, inspiring their action,
and producing results. Sampson (2003)
advocates the use of creative ideas to
influence the listeners. Pfarrer (1998)
and McCarthy and Hatcher (2002a, 2002b)
view presentations as the art of persuasion.
In Weissman's (2003) opinion, the goal
of a presentation is to connect with the
audience and win them.
all the books and articles mentioned above,
only some (Gaulke, 1996, Witherspoon and
White, 1997; Pfarrer, 1998; Rotondo and
Rotondo, 2001; Sampson, 2003; Stevenson,
2003; and Tisdale, 2005) have been written
with business people in view, and Villata's
(2003) has been written with medical presenters
Now let us get down to the basics of presentation
skills. First of all, you need to think
about the topic, the audience, the occasion,
the venue. Then, you have to collect,
select, and organize your material. After
that, you need to prepare aids, and rehearse
your speech. Thereafter, you will present
your ideas using effective language and
body language. Finally, you will take
questions from the audience and answer
them. These steps to a presentation can
be represented in the form of the following
me talk about these steps one by one.
"When choosing among possible topics,
you should consider three questions- (1)
Is the topic appropriate for your audience?
(2) Is it appropriate for you? (3) Is
it appropriate for the speech occasion?"
(Hybels and Weaver, 2004: 291). Topic
is one of the two main aspects of a presentation:
content and code, matter and manner, subject
and style. Code, manner, and style refer
to language and body language. Content,
matter, and subject refer to ideas, thoughts,
opinions, and information. Admittedly,
the manner of our speaking is as important
as the matter, because more people have
ears to be tickled than understanding
to judge. Now, you must be wondering if
these two aspects are independent of each
other. What do you think? Are they interrelated?
Are they separable? If you ask me, I will
say that they are inseparable. They are
like a dancer and her dance performance,
as it were. When we witness a perfect
dance, can we divorce the dance from the
dancer? The answer is an emphatic "No".
Then, why do we talk about these two aspects
as if they were separate or separable?
Obviously, we do so because it is convenient
other words, we can say that topic is
the soul of a presentation. So, we cannot
think of a presentation without a topic.
In a good presentation we find a perfect
fusion of matter and manner, subject and
style. When a presenter fails to integrate
the two, his performance falls short of
being effective. Some speakers have brilliant
ideas, but they are poor at presenting
them. On the contrary, some presenters
are amazingly magical in their expression,
though they do not have world-shaking
or cutting-edge ideas. In-between, we
have people who have something to say
but can't, and people who have nothing
to say but keep on saying it.
important point here is that topic is
the backbone of a talk. A talk without
a topic is like a flight without a navigator.
Now, a crucial question is who chooses
the topic? Well, there are two possibilities.
The presenter can choose the topic; alternatively,
the organizer may suggest a topic. So,
when you are invited to speak, the first
question you would like to ask is: What
is the topic? Are you going to talk about
business environment in India? Do you
want to talk about the advantages of outsourcing
work to India? Do your audience want you
to tell them about the pitfalls of doing
business in China or do they want some
advice on doing business in Japan? Does
your firm want you to speak about personnel
you are capable of handling any business
related topic under the sun. However,
the fact remains that different people
are good at attacking different types
of themes. By the same token, some people
are good at statistical presentations,
some are good at analytical presentations,
and some are good at powerful persuasive
speeches. People have their preferences,
strengths and weaknesses. So, the individual
speaker is the best person to know her
own interest areas. She may be quite comfortable
with certain topics and talk about them
with facility. On the contrary, she may
not feel at ease with some other subjects.
If she thinks she cannot handle a particular
area, it would be a wise gesture to tell
the organizer frankly. If she does not
do that, then she may end up making a
fool of herself. As the old saying goes,
nobody is perfect. An encyclopedia is
the result of team effort, not the job
of a single individual. William Hazlitt,
an English essayist, wrote a wonderful
essay titled 'Ignorance of the Learned'
the moral of which is that all of us are
ignorant in different ways. Wise people
know what their strengths and weaknesses
are and make their choices accordingly.
If the presenter is not pragmatic enough
to admit her ignorance and attempts to
be a jack-of-all-trades, then she will
lodge herself in deep waters. That was
what happened to an anecdotal business
executive who agreed to make a speech
about 'Twenty-Point Program' launched
by the government of India as a poverty
eradication scheme. He did not know what
the contents of the program were; neither
did he attempt to find out. Consequently,
this was the 'thesis' of his speech:
"What's a twenty-point program? Well,
it's a program with twenty points."
you know your topic, but do you know anything
about the people you are going to address?
Would it be an idea to gather some information
about them? In my view, it is a good idea
to have a comprehensive audience profile:
their age group, gender split, education
level, job type, experience, domicile,
religious and political affiliation, their
role models, their personality types,
and of course, their expectations. I know
this is a tall order! However, some information
about your audience is necessary. In fact,
a complete profile of the audience would
be an ideal thing. Let me tell you that
it is not difficult to produce an audience
profile. The organizer of the presentation
can arrange it for you.
profile has many advantages. It can help
you make your choices in terms of what
to say and how to say it. Let me explain
this with a couple of examples. Let us
think of a situation where you are addressing
semi-literate, rural audience, and your
topic is Using the Internet to Export
Farm Produce. Would it be a good idea
to use technical words, formulae and jargon?
Needless to say, it would not be a wise
thing to do so. Instead, you would prefer
everyday language and examples. On the
contrary, when you are addressing business
leaders, professors and researchers, you
might like to use specialized terms and
expressions. I am sure you would like
to use simple, informal language for uneducated,
rural, and inexperienced people, and technical,
and formal language and illustrations
for people who are studying, researching,
and working in the area of E-business.
The choice of your language and illustrations
will be determined by the educational
level, and job profile of your listeners.
must be wondering why you need to know
about the gender and religious affiliation
of the audience? Let me spend a moment
on this issue. Let us think of a context
where you are speaking about McDonalds
in India and you do not know the religious
affiliation of the people you are addressing.
You are not aware that your audience come
from various religious backgrounds, that
they comprise Hindus, Muslims, Christians,
Buddhist, and so on. At some point during
your presentation you remark: "Well,
friends try beef and pork hamburgers.
They are nutritious as well as delicious!"
You will be unwittingly offending the
religious sentiments of those listeners
who think that eating beef and pork is
an abominable dietary habit. That is why
it is important to know whether you are
addressing Christians, Hindus, Muslims,
or Buddhists, or a composite audience.
Furthermore, you should avoid sexist expressions
such as chairman, mankind, etc.,
which may provoke feminists. You will
have noticed that in my article I have
chosen to refer to the presenter sometimes
as 'she' and sometimes as 'he'.
Additionally, you need to know the role
models of your audience. As you know,
Ho Chi Minh, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela,
and His Holiness the Dalai Lama are iconic
personalities symbolizing national aspirations
of Vietnamese, Indian, South African,
and Tibetan people respectively. You may
inadvertently say something unacceptable
about these great personalities, which
may offend your audience. Moreover, it
is advisable to know whether you are addressing
new audience or old audience. If you do
not, then you might lodge yourself in
a difficult situation like the following
Once a popular speaker flew to Ho Chi
Minh City to give a speech to a large
gathering. Her topic was 'Foreign Investment
in Vietnam'. She had given this talk so
many times that she knew it by heart.
When the driver picked her up at the airport,
she asked him:
'Who are my audience this time?"
"The same people you spoke to last
year when you talked about Foreign Investment
in Vietnam," the driver said.
you do not know anything about your audience,
then it will be quite difficult for you
to empathize with them and pitch your
talk at the right level. Consequently,
your presentation will most likely fail.
More importantly, in the absence of audience
profile, you may deliver a monotonous
and boring speech. I remember a politician
who was once invited to speak on 'Children's
Day'. He did not take into consideration
the level of his audience and consequently,
he said, "Well, folks, eradication
of desires, self-abnegation, and a continual
pursuit of spiritual values alone can
lead you to the salvation of the soul!"
Understandably, the poor kids started
looking at each other with confused looks
on their innocent faces. Incidentally,
this reminds me of a cryptic conversation
between a guest and a dignitary. The former
asked the latter if she had ever had her
ears pierced. The dignitary, capitalizing
on the dual meaning of the word 'bore',
murmured, "No, but I have often had
preceding discussion goes to prove the
fact that audience is central to communication
as all communication is targeted at them.
We cannot afford to ignore our audience
or be indifferent to them or undermine
their role. A presenter is a presenter
by virtue of their existence and their
attendance. In the absence of the listener,
the speaker loses her identity as a presenter.
Here, I would like to record that the
nature of the audience has a direct bearing
on the choice of the topic. Hence, the
best topic is the one that suits your
audience, you, the type of occasion, and
the length of time you have. Just as you
can enjoy talking on a subject you know
well, or you are interested in, your audience
can enjoy listening to a talk that attacks
a topic relevant to their needs and interests.
Your audience will listen willingly if
your topic is of concern to them. Therefore,
it is necessary to perceive their individual
interests and their interest as a group.
importantly, you need to have a clear
understanding of your objectives. You
can grab the attention of your audience
and sustain their interest only if your
objectives are clear. One simple way to
understand the purpose of your presentation
is to answer the questions: Why do your
audience want to hear you? Why do you
want to address them? You must define
your general and specific purpose: to
interest or amuse the audience, to inform
or teach them, to stimulate or impress,
to convince or persuade. When you know
your audience and your objectives, you
can use a variety of techniques to maintain
audience attention: inviting them to participate,
exercising their imagination, arousing
their curiosity, role playing, stating
striking facts and statistics, and telling
a story (Pearson and Nelson, 1999: 259-60).
It is common knowledge that some occasions
are informal and some occasions are formal.
For example, a friendly gathering is an
informal occasion and a business meeting
or conference is a formal occasion. The
topic, the style, and the occasion should
match with one another. The speaker who
loses sight of this common sense principle
projects a poor image of herself. The
audience will tend to conclude that the
speaker is so much engrossed in herself
that she forgets the demands of the occasion.
Her aim is to express something she very
much wants to, but has had no occasion
to express. In all probability, such a
speaker would turn out to be a big bore.
When you know the nature and type of the
occasion, it is easier for you to choose
a topic that suits it. For example, when
the occasion is 'Children's Day' you know
that the audience will comprise children.
Naturally, you must select a topic that
appeals to children and is not beyond
their reach. Obviously, abstract, philosophical
ideas will be beyond children's comprehension
as their conceptual and experiential knowledge
is very limited. So, if you talk about
pursuit of spiritual values, self-abnegation
and salvation, children will get confused,
and will not feel interested in the talk.
Instead, if you appeal to their imagination
and curiosity, they will feel absorbed.
That is why cartoon films, fairy tales,
and fables fascinate children. To cut
the long story short, if you want to succeed
as a speaker, you should understand the
dictates of the occasion.
The success of your presentation will
depend on several factors. One, you need
to understand your audience. Two, you
need to know the nature and type of the
occasion. Three, you should familiarize
yourself with the location. If possible,
you should visit the place a day or two
before your presentation. You should see
whether things are in working condition.
When you visit the location, you can decide
where to keep the lectern, the projector,
video player, etc. You can decide where
you will stand, where you will keep unused
transparencies, and where you will keep
the used ones. You can check the furniture,
switchboards, fans, and other gadgets,
and arrange an appropriate and convenient
seating arrangement: oval, circular, etc.
You can also check the acoustic conditions
of the hall. This is important, because
in some places the speaker's voice echoes.
The hall may not be sound proof or may
be on a busy and noisy street. In such
circumstances, you will find it difficult
to concentrate on your presentation. The
audience will find it difficult too. At
times, the hall may be too big for a small
number of listeners; conversely, it may
be too small for a big audience. In the
former situation, people will get a feeling
of emptiness; in the latter case, they
will feel suffocated. This will adversely
affect your presentation. You know you
have prepared thoroughly and your material
is very useful, relevant, informative
and interesting; your tone is lively,
interested, and enthusiastic; you sound
very positive, friendly and straightforward;
and you have a great sense of humor. All
these qualities are, no doubt, important,
but if the hall is too small or too big;
the acoustic conditions are poor, the
furniture is uncomfortable, the gadgets
are old and decrepit, and the venue is
noisy, then it is hard for a talk to succeed.
Well, you have familiarized yourself with
the audience, occasion and location. Now,
it is time for you to gather material.
Where do you get your material? Well,
the first great source of material is
your own head. You can brainstorm
on the topic and jot down your own ideas.
I am sure you have read something about
the topic or heard some speeches or have
thought about the topic. You can recollect
your ideas, thoughts, experiences, and
observations and write them down.
you have brainstormed and listed your
own ideas, you can look for more ideas
in newspapers, magazines, books, and
encyclopedias. Fortunately, there
is no famine of ideas; they are floating
around you all the time. You need to catch
them and internalize them, personalize
them, and support them with your own experiences
and observations. Furthermore, you may
interview some public speaker,
specialist or expert, or discuss your
subject with your friends, colleagues
and family. Yet another source is the
audio-visual library. You can have
a look at its catalogues to identify relevant
cassettes/DVDs, view them and select portions,
which you think will add spice to your
presentation. The audio-visual impact
will enliven your speech.
must be wondering why I have not mentioned
the Internet. Certainly, the Internet
is a rich source of information. You can
get information about nearly any topic-advertising,
managerial styles, personnel management,
inflation, recession, equity markets,
etc. And it is not at all difficult to
access the Internet. Just get some website
addresses, type them in the search box
and hit the Enter key, and the whole magic
box will display a wealth of data. It
is an 'open sesame' to a flood of information.
the wheat from the chaff.
The presenter's time is limited; so is
her listeners' time. Once when a popular
Korean speaker stood up to make her speech,
she asked the chairperson: "How long
shall I speak?" The chairperson said:
"Take as long as you like - we will
leave after thirty minutes." The
presenter has a responsibility towards
her audience. Cordell (2005), while talking
about the presenter's responsibility,
says, "Consider a 1-hour presentation
attended by 20 people. The cost is 20
human hours times the hourly value of
each person's time. That's a lot of time
and cost, not to mention the effort required
for each audience member to travel to
the presentation and break up their day
to do so. To justify this cost, the presenter
must be well prepared and the information
thoughtfully presented and pertinent to
the listeners' needs." This implies
that you cannot present the bagfuls of
material you have collected. The simplest
guideline here is: Don't be over-ambitious;
be pragmatic. It is a good idea to know
your constraints. Let me suggest an easy
procedure: List your points; cut your
points to as few as possible; forget some
points - forgetting is a blessing in disguise!
Combine minor points under the major ones.
Three or four points are easy to remember.
One should not bite more than one can
chew. One should not spread it too thin
either. Let's remember what Plutarch said:
"I do not think him a good shoemaker,
who makes a great shoe for a small foot."
this requires you to select your material
keeping in mind (i) the time limit, (ii)
audience interest, and (iii) purpose of
the talk. As a result, you have to separate
the wheat from the chaff, the essential
from the inessential. You have to sift
through your material to distinguish important
information from disposable information.
I usually use a three-circle model to
arrange my ideas - the inner circle, the
outer circle, and the expanding circle.
Accordingly, I put my ideas into three
groups: core ideas, secondary ideas, and
disposable ideas. Since a presenter does
not have unlimited time, you need to talk
about the core ideas from the inner circle
first. In case you get extra time, you
can discuss ideas from the outer and expanding
circles. If you have only a few core ideas
and do not have extra ones, you may find
yourself in a difficult situation. For
example, if you dry up in the middle of
your talk or exhaust all your material
in half the allotted time, it will be
embarrassing for you. Therefore, it is
a good idea to have some extra material
ready on hand. It is also a good idea
to have lots of telling examples, because
examples speak louder than statements.
It is common observation that a talk without
specific examples is ineffective.
brief, you should choose only a few points
to present and keep some points in reserve.
If you include too many ideas in your
presentation, then your talk will be too
dense and you will have to hurry up to
cover all these points. This will result
in unnatural speed of delivery of an unedited
speech. As a result, your audience will
lose patience and their attention will
fade away, and they may even leave your
presentation in the middle. Therefore,
it is a wise thing to find out how much
time you have and how much you can present
during that time.
Organize your ideas.
how much time you have is a key to selection
and organization of your material, which
in turn is a key to success. Pearson and
Nelson (1999, p. 258) rightly say, "Organizing
your speech is one of the most important
skills you can learn. First of all, organization
is often the key to understanding. The
audience is more likely to understand
your message if it is organized than if
it is not. Second, you are more likely
to include the best information, arguments,
and evidence if your speech is organized
than if it is not. Organizing a speech
forces you to select, to prioritize, and
to choose the best of the available information.
Third, the audience is more likely to
evaluate you positively if you sound organized.
A well-organized presentation has three
main sections: a beginning, middle, and
an ending. "The introduction must
grab the audience attention. It should
clearly state what the speaker is about
to present and how it will be presented
The body of the presentation must develop
ideas clearly and logically, and connect
them by means of appropriate transition
Finally, the conclusion should be anticipated,
never abrupt" (Villata, 2003).
introductory part of your speech is like
the take-off and ascent of a flight. The
main body resembles the journey between
ascent and descent. The concluding part
is similar to the descent and landing
of a flight. As you know, the take-off
and landing are very crucial stages. Nine
of ten aviation accidents take place during
these stages. Therefore, the captain has
to be very careful. Your presentation
is like a flight and you are like the
captain of a flight. The introduction
to your talk is like the ascent and the
conclusion of your speech is like the
descent of a flight. You must be extra
careful when your speech is taking off
and ascending, and equally watchful when
it is descending and landing. The first
and last impressions are lasting impressions.
the introductory part of your presentation
catches audience attention and provides
signposting from which they can extrapolate
the direction of the presentation. The
audience gets a clear map of how they
will travel and what they will encounter
on the way. So, how do you go about introducing
your speech? Well, several strategies
are available. You can start with a quotation,
saying, proverb, epigram, joke, anecdote,
aphorism, story, folktale, or a dramatic
and controversial statement. You can open
the talk in any way you like as long as
you succeed in arresting the attention
of the audience. Let us say, you are talking
about the role of women in business and
industry, you might start with the following
words: (i) "Well, friends, I believe
that God cannot be present everywhere.
So, he created woman"; or (ii) "Well,
friends, let me tell you that I spent
the best period of my life in the arms
of another man's wife- I mean, my mother!"
Or, let us say, being the CEO of a famous
car company, you are speaking about road
accidents resulting from the poor quality
of cars, you might start like this: "Dear
customers, life is short. Let's not make
it shorter! Use our cars. Your life is
safe in our hands when our steering wheel
is in your hands."
introduced the topic in an interesting
way, you then proceed to develop the main
body of your presentation. An effective
body of a speech can be informative, persuasive,
or amusing. An informative speech adds
to the listener's knowledge; a persuasive
talk presents a problem and proposes solutions.
The latter type reminds me of a personal
experience. One day I was trying to get
a cow into the barn. I pushed the animal
with all my might and I even whipped her
a little. I had a hard time subduing her.
When my father saw my plight, he used
his wisdom and experience and held a bunch
of lush green grass in front of the cow
and slowly walked into the barn, the cow
following him meekly. My father looked
at the problem from the cow's viewpoint
and succeeded in making his idea very
attractive to the cow. Likewise, an effective
presenter exploits the viewpoint of her
audience and gently persuades them into
docilely accepting her views. Depending
on the type of presentation, you can develop
your speech using various strategies:
you can advance your arguments, supply
the data, and provide examples. You can
quote experts to support your argument,
because authority, testimony, quotation,
and evidence help you sell your ideas
effectively. Moreover, it is a good strategy
to support every idea with an illustration
that is germane to the purpose of the
talk. Being specific, definite and clear,
a good illustration expresses the meaning
let me have a word about the concluding
part of a presentation. What do you do
to end your talk effectively? You arranged
your ideas in a series, and climbed to
a 'crescendo' step by step to gradually
reach the climax. But this is just one
way to reach the conclusion. An alternative
way is the reverse of crescendo. In music
parlance we call it 'diminuendo'. In the
former case, the tempo rises and reaches
the climax; in the latter, the tempo diminishes
and finally dissolves. Different speakers
choose different styles. Whether you select
this style or that, you should plan your
conclusion in advance, because if you
think of it at the last moment, then you
might end up projecting a poor image of
yourself. Incidentally, once I witnessed
a very embarrassing situation where speaker
asked a guest sitting beside him how to
conclude his speech. Expectedly, the audience
foregoing discussion attests to the several
advantages the structure of a presentation
gives us. First, it draws audience attention
and brings things into focus. Secondly,
it holds people's interest. Experience
tells us that it is difficult to hold
human attention and interest for a long
time, but structure helps us do that.
A speech without organized ideas is boring
and may be good for patients of insomnia
or sleeplessness. Thirdly, a methodically
presented speech helps people understand
the message and perceive the links easily.
Fourthly, it makes the message stay in
public memory for a longer time. In brief,
an organized presentation grabs and sustains
audience attention, and achieves a lasting
your presentation aids.
One may be a very confident, fluent and
eloquent speaker, but one cannot make
a point as effectively as a picture or
a diagram does. A visual conveys an idea
faster and better. There are several visual
aids you can use: pictographs, line graphs,
photographs, diagrams, bar graphs, charts,
blackboard, flannel board, transparencies,
motion pictures, and so on. Some presentation
aids are readily available for you to
buy them. If suitable aids are not available,
then you can use your creativity and imagination
to produce those that suit your topic,
audience, occasion, and purpose.
usefulness of presentation aids can hardly
be overemphasized. They have several advantages.
They arrest audience attention, rekindle,
stimulate, and sustain their interest.
When the listener looks at the visual,
she understands the point easily and effortlessly.
A visual sticks the idea deep in the listener's
mind and helps her remember it for a long
time. A picture is more revealing than
a hundred words, because it communicates
an idea more clearly, quickly, and vividly
than most other devices. It gives a presentation
a strong punch and presents the idea as
a whole at one time.
me add a word of caution here. Presentation
aids used in a wrong manner or used carelessly
will create a poor impression. Therefore,
it is important to use them properly,
judiciously, wisely and sparingly. Excessive
use of visuals can have an adverse impact
on the audience. So, you need to handle
PowerPoint visuals with great care. First,
while using them, you should look at the
audience and speak to them, and should
not talk to the visual or the projection
on the screen. Secondly, you should number
the visuals so that they do not get mixed
up. Their sequence should go hand in hand
with respective ideas you are presenting.
Thirdly, in case you are using transparencies,
you should be careful while displaying
them on the projector so that you do not
place them upside-down or they do not
drop on the floor.
brief, presentation aids should be prepared
carefully to match the available equipment,
should not be too many or too complicated,
and should be used skillfully to reinforce
Right! Now you are ready for the big moment.
You chose the topic; prepared profiles
of your audience, occasion, and location;
you collected, selected and organized
your material; and you created presentation
aids. Now, you must ask yourself: "Would
it be a wise thing to go to the podium
and make the presentation? Shall I try
it at home first?" If you are an
experienced speaker, you can skip the
rehearsal stage, but if you are a beginner
or you are not fully confident, it is
a good idea to rehearse your talk before
you mount the platform.
this point two questions are likely to
surface to your mind. One, why should
you rehearse? Two, where do you rehearse?
Let me answer your second question first.
Well, you can rehearse in front of a mirror
or request some of your relatives, friends
or colleagues to attend your presentation
and be ruthlessly critical of the content
and the manner. You can request a speechmaker,
and a presenter to attend your talk. Or,
you can do it by yourself: record your
speech and play it again. Now, let me
answer your first question. The advantages
are obvious: practice makes perfect. Rehearsal
improves performance. Your rehearsal audience
can give you feedback on your pronunciation,
vocabulary, grammar, and organization
of ideas, body language, and time management.
They can comment on the strengths and
the weaknesses of your presentation. They
can tell you which part of your speech
was effective and which ineffective. In
the light of their suggestions, you can
edit your speech, refine your content
and language, and get rid of faults in
the structure, errors of logic, poor usage,
irrelevant examples and quotations, and
so on. Furthermore, rehearsal will help
you check your timing and reduce your
nervousness. Thus rehearsal helps you
to improve your presentation skills through
peer rating, self-rating and reflection
(Yamashiro and Johnson, 1997).
Deliver your presentation.
Finally, the big moment has come! You
find yourself standing on the dais. You
have put in great effort; you have the
cue cards ready to boost your confidence.
You know you will not falter. The prompt
cards will enable you to speak more freely,
almost conversationally; they will also
free you to look at your listeners. Your
presentation aids are ready. The audience
waits for the take-off. Luckily, your
take-off succeeds in getting their attention;
but you must use all your resources to
maintain a grip on the audience. The two
major resources that you have are language
and body language.
about these two resources, Tubbs and Moss
(2002: 315) observe, "For years two
guidelines for effective delivery have
been naturalness and poise. A speaker's
delivery should not draw attention from
the content of the message as it might,
if it were overly dramatic or reflected
lack of confidence
involves much more than mere fluency in
speaking. It includes the effective use
of many visual and vocal cues: eye contact,
hand gestures, posture, and general physical
appearance as well as vocal quality, pitch,
volume and rate of speech."
let me talk about language. I cannot help
remembering what Ben Johnson said about
language: Language most shows a man: speak
that I may see you. It springs out of
the most retired, and inmost parts of
us, and is the image of the parent of
it, the mind. No glass renders a man's
form, or likeness so true as his speech.
Obviously, language plays a very crucial
role in a presentation. Although the level
of formality of the language will vary
from occasion to occasion and topic to
topic (for example, the formal expression
'bovine spongiform encephalopathy' and
the informal term 'mad cow disease'),
a good public speaker usually employs
the familiar language of person-to-person
conversation. She uses positive and polite
language to bridge or at least reduce
the distance between her and her listeners.
The use of "I", "my,"
and "me" has distancing effect;
on the contrary, "we," "our"
and "us" have a zoom in effect.
Thus her talk is personal and familiar
like a chat. Everyone understands her
meaning, because every sentence is plain
and simple. She practices what Disraeli
said: I make it a rule to believe only
what I understand. I think this is a great
idea! Your audience will not believe what
they do not understand. Therefore, it
is necessary to use short, simple words,
and familiar examples. A good speaker
uses technical language only when it is
unavoidable. She uses words that say exactly
what she means and uses images to sharpen
her points. If her subject is abstract
and complicated, she tries to present
it in concrete and simple language. Occasionally,
she can use sensual images and figures
of speech. Her main guiding principle,
however, is what Emerson said: "Speech
is power to translate a truth into a language
perfectly intelligible to the person to
whom you speak".
about tone of voice? Is it significant?
Does it play an important role in communication?
Yes, it certainly does. The following
anecdote is evidence of its impact. G.K
Chesterton, the British writer and critic,
tried an experiment to test the effect
of tone of voice on the listener. One
day he went to a fish market to buy some
fish. On that occasion something very
revealing transpired between him and the
woman waiting on him. To the woman waiting
on him, Chesterton said in a low, endearing
"You're a noun, a verb, and a preposition."
The woman blushed, because she felt flattered
that such a cultured person saw these
qualities in her.
After buying the fish, Chesterton said
in a rough, higher voice:
"You're an adjective, an adverb,
and a conjunction."
The woman thought that Chesterton had
said something bad of her and so gave
him a resounding slap.
short, your words, accent, tone of voice
communicate meanings and messages, feelings
and attitudes. Your language can make
people feel flattered or can infuriate
them; it can interest them or bore them.
That is why you need to be very careful
while choosing words and tones.
language is just one aspect of communication;
body language is another facet, which
is equally important, or perhaps more
important. Let us take the case of eye
contact, for instance. Our eyes send messages
and receive impressions from another person's
eyes. What can we see in our audience's
eyes? Well, we can read a whole lot of
messages - interest, willingness, comprehension,
satisfaction; incomprehension, boredom,
irritation, etc., because all our souls
are written in our eyes. The interchange
of looks is the first step toward rapport.
If you have to read your speech, your
eyes are riveted on the text and you cannot
look at the audience. Eye contact is like
a lubricant; it reduces friction, acts
as an adhesive and binds people together.
Just as an accelerator increases the speed
of your vehicle, your eye contact speeds
up your listener's comprehension. When
you look them in the face, they understand
faster and better.
and facial expressions greatly contribute
to the effectiveness of your speech. Nobody
would like to listen to a speaker with
a stone face, because a speaker is not
a statue. Gestures and expressions help
you illustrate your ideas, express your
attitudes, and regulate your interaction
with your audience. Moreover, gestures
can emphasize, highlight, complement or
contradict the verbal message.
What a relief! You have finished your
speech and you might think that your job
as a presenter is over. But wait a minute.
Your audience has several questions, which
you need to answer. He has a question
here and she has a question there! Your
presentation will be complete when you
have answered their questions. Incidentally,
not every question will be sensible. Only
one in five may be an intelligent question.
However, you cannot afford to lose your
patience; you have to keep calm. Poise
is very important, because poise is the
ability to continue speaking fluently
while the other fellow is picking up the
as there are several types of questions
(factual, probing, etc.), there are different
motives behind questions. As they say,
"Judge a man by his questions rather
than by his answers". Someone raises
a question because she wants people to
notice her presence. This man here has
a different perspective on the issue under
discussion and so voices a question. That
woman over there would like you to answer
her question, because she has not understood
a particular point you made. The gentleman
sitting in the first row wants more clarification.
That gentleman in the corner wants you
to repeat a large chunk of your talk,
because it was beyond his comprehension.
In such a situation you should not say
what a popular orator once said to one
of his listeners. One day, one of his
listeners said to him:
"Mr. Speaker, it was a very good
speech, but certain points were beyond
The speaker looked up and said:
"I'm sorry for you. I once had a
dog that had the same trouble with fleas."
(Reader's Digest, 1972, p. 506).
intelligent and probing questions is an
art; answering them convincingly is an
art too. The first thing you should do
is to welcome the question. If necessary,
compliment the questioner on her question.
First, say that it is a probing, intelligent,
good question and then answer it. If you
do not know the answer, tell the questioner
you do not have the answer and apologize
to her for not being able to provide a
satisfactory explanation. There are several
ways to assure the questioner that you
want to help her. You may appeal to the
audience to try to answer her question.
I am sure they will not mind helping out
at all. In fact, they will be glad to
help out. In case they do not have the
answer, you may leave your email address
with the questioner and request her to
email the question to you. Alternatively,
you can direct her to a particular article
in a specific journal where she may find
an answer to her question.
are several ways to handle questions.
Things will be easier if you are a ready-witted
presenter. That reminds me of an anecdote
about Einstein. As you know, Einstein
used to be invited all over to talk about
his theory of relativity. Because of extensive
traveling and busy schedule he sometimes
felt terribly exhausted. One day, he was
so fatigued that he was in no mood to
deliver a talk. Seeing his plight, his
chauffeur, Hans, asked him to relax and
volunteered to deliver a speech on relativity.
When the surprised Einstein asked him
how he would manage to talk on such a
complex scientific topic, he said that
he would be able to speak on the topic
as he had heard Einstein so many times
that he had the theory by heart.
Einstein sat among the audience while
Hans roared on the stage and was given
a thunderous applause after his speech.
But he saw a problem brewing when a naughty
professor shot a knotty question at him.
Hans could not have answered it as he
had just parroted the theory of relativity
without understanding even an iota of
it. However, he did not lose his poise.
He said to the professor, "Professor,
that's a very simple question. My chauffeur,
who is among the audience, will answer
it." Luckily for Hans no one knew
that the man sitting in the audience was
Einstein who then got up and thundered
a brilliant answer to rescue Hans! This
could happen because Hans was ready-witted.
Now, let me sum it up. I have discussed
the various stages to presentation. First,
you need to select a subject of the presentation:
it is the anchor of your presentation.
Secondly, you need to be clear about the
purpose of your speech: to give a general
introduction to lay people, to describe
findings to experts, or to engage in a
dialogue with the audience Thirdly, you
need to familiarize yourself with the
location, occasion, and audience. The
more you know about them, the better.
Is the presentation hall damp, smelly,
noisy, air-conditioned? Is necessary furniture
in place: a platform, podium, etc.? Is
the public address system working? How
about distractions and interruptions?
Is it a quiet place or a noisy one? What
kind of occasion is it? Is it a formal,
informal, or casual occasion? You must
find out answers to these questions. You
need to familiarize yourself with your
audience too, because your presentation
is a joint venture, a common pursuit,
and a co-operative endeavor between you
and your audience.
you enter the second major phase of preparation.
You pool your ideas, views, statistics,
etc. You need some incubation period to
internalize the information. During this
stage, you can test the validity of your
ideas, think about them, and look for
illustrations to support those ideas.
You must take care to keep your material
flexible; for example, you can use old
material from earlier presentations, but
you must remember that earlier occasion,
audience, and objectives were different.
This awareness will enable you to adapt
your material to suit the new occasion
and audience. Having collected your material,
you need to structure your presentation
in a manner that best suits your purpose:
logically, argumentatively, or chronologically.
You may present a case when your aim is
to convince the audience of your opinion.
Alternatively, you can present your ideas
in a narrative way, in the form of a story.
But, your story must be relevant to your
objectives. Furthermore, it should form
a part of an overall structure, make a
particular point, and must be well told.
Then, you have to introduce, develop,
and conclude your talk. The introduction
should be dramatic enough to whet audience
appetite, arrest their attention and focus
their thinking. The body of your presentation
is the longest part and so you must use
your resources such as humour to maintain
audience interest. Finally, the ending
should contain the THESIS (THESIS being
an acronym for THE Speech In
a Sentence) of your speech.
a moment. Your preparation is not yet
complete. You will require other resources
such as graphics to enhance the impact
of the structure of your presentation.
It is common knowledge that presentation
aids add spice to a presentation. You
can use them to demonstrate a process
or an event, to add a professional touch
to your talk and to make it memorable.
However, you should not show endless sequences
of visuals. Moreover, you need to handle
your presentation aids carefully. A video
in a wrong order, or slides and transparencies
in a wrong sequence will create an undesirable
impression. Furthermore, you should use
audio-visual aids as supporting materials;
too many of them may take over your presentation.
More importantly, you should check whether
your presentation aids jell with your
overall perspective, because it is occasionally
the case that they present a differing
now your material preparation is over,
but you need to rehearse the presentation
in order to be mentally ready for the
job. A main advantage of rehearsal is
that you can overcome nervousness. You
may be nervous, because (i) it is your
first performance, (ii) you think you
will not come up to audience expectation,
(iii) you fear you will dry up in the
middle and make a fool of yourself, or
(iv) you are afraid you will not find
the right word, remember a point, an example
or a story.
you can claim that you are ready to for
the task. The rehearsal is over and you
can present your ideas. While doing this,
you establish rapport and camaraderie
with your audience, entertain them, and
make them feel comfortable. You should
see to it that you do not undermine your
audience or threaten their image. You
need to create a co-operative climate,
be courteous, receptive, flexible, responsive
and professional in you approach. You
need to maintain a right degree of formality,
control your enthusiasm, display a good
sense of humor and move your presentation
forward step by step.
is equally important to use clear, precise,
appropriate, dynamic and pleasing simple
language. Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves
of Grass, "The art of art, the
glory of expression and the sunshine of
the light of letters, is simplicity."
Easy grammar and simple, concrete, specific,
vivid and sensory vocabulary is listener
friendly. Personal language (I, We, You,
Sung, Shintaro, etc.) is better than impersonal
language (one, somebody, a person, people,
etc.). Moreover, verbs are more effective
than nouns. Before I conclude, let me
remind you that tones, pauses, silences,
sentence stress, gestures, facial expressions,
and postures convey messages and attitudes.
Finally, you should welcome questions
from the audience and answer them. You
can answer most questions using your common
sense and experience.
you follow the steps and tips offered
in this paper, I am sure you will be able
to make effective presentations. Having
read the paper, some experienced presenters
might be wondering if the paper has anything
novel to offer. I would like to conclude
the paper by drawing their attention to
Borges cited in Bekerman and Neuman (2005).
Borges opens one of his fictions with
an insight he attributes to Francis Bacon:
Solomon said that there was no new thing
upon the earth, that all knowledge was
but remembrance, and all novelty was but
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