The 7 Key Components of Effective Presentations
Want to increase your visibility? Become a recognized leader in your industry? Sell your product or service? Motivate or inspire your audience? Deliver a toast or introduce a speaker at an important event? (To speak dynamically and make what you say unforgettable, download my free cheat sheet, "5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.")
To succeed in any of these situations, you need to know how to deliver a powerful presentation. You'll find plenty of advice—including among my articles—on developing dynamic presentation skills. And those skills are important. But if you want your message to resonate and move audiences to action, you need to understand what goes into crafting a successful talk.
Here are what I consider the 7 key components of effective presentations. Follow this road map, and you'll be well on your way to speaking effectively when it's your turn to take center stage.
Component #1: Greeting. Speakers often pay scant attention to their greeting. But that's a mistake. Your greeting is an essential element of your presentation, for all of these reasons: (1) It's your first and best opportunity to establish rapport with listeners; (2) Your audience is paying maximum attention at this point; (3) Your credibility and the audience's trust in you start here; (4) Your tone and "flavor" as a speaker are established now; and (5) You either demonstrate you're going to be interesting . . . or not.
Establish solid eye contact (don't keep glancing down at your notes as nervous speakers do). Know exactly what you're going to say so you get off to a strong start. To really wow your audience, download my free eBook, "12 Easy Ways to Achieve Presence and Charisma.")
Component #2: Grabber! You need to compel your audience's attention as you begin your speech. That means avoiding what I call the "Today, I'm Going to Talk About DOT DOT DOT Syndrome." What could be more boring? Instead, launch your presentation with something original, intriguing, and slightly creative. Here are 12 foolproof ways to open a speech by using an effective grabber. Use one of these or come up with another way to begin that you think will hook this audience. Do this well and your audience will be rapt at your every word.
Component #3: Preview of Your Speech. Let the audience know what you're going to talk aout and where you're going with this topic. Ever listen to a talk that has you wondering 5 minutes into the presentation what in the world the topic is? Audiences are much more receptive if they think they're in good hands with a speaker who knows where he or she is going. As the old advice reminds us: Tell 'em what you're going to say, say it, then tell 'em what you said. Listeners need to know the direction you're going in so they can follow you there. Here's an acronym that might help: B-L-U-F, or Bottom Line Up Front.
Component #4: Main Points, with Evidence. Make sure you clearly lay out the main points you're going to talk about. Big topics need a place for you and your audience to "land." And when you deliver those points, back up each one with evidence. Otherwise, it's just your opinion, and why should your listeners believe you over the person who tells them something different? Evidence can take many forms: expert opinion, personal anecdote, statistic, story, client testimonial, report, experimental data, photographic evidence—the list is as long as what is credible and supportive for your talk and your area of expertise.
Component #5: Vivid and Visual Language. If there's a forgotten child in the family of effective speaking skills, it's this one. Words can either denote (refer to explicitly) or connote (suggest an association). Of the two, connotations are much more evocative and, usually, powerful. For instance, my New World Dictionary tells me that "female parent" is explicit and serviceable enough; but the word mother connotes love, care, tenderness, etc.
Added to this is the fact that some aspects of language work best in writing; and others are better for speaking. Generally, short impactful sentences employing Anglo-Saxon (not Latin) words, and that include images and metaphors, will bring your presentation to life. And don't forget emotional words!
Component #6: Transitions. It's surprising how many speakers neglect transitions, and so harm their presentations. How many times have you heard these phrases: "The next slide . . ."; "My next point is . . ."; "Okay, now . . ."; and the infamous, "Moving right along . . ." The translation of each of these desperate pronouncements is: "I don't know how to get from what I was just talking about to the next main point, so I'll just baldly announce what's coming next." For your presentation to be a logical and organic whole, you must create effective transitions.
One particularly good way to do this is by using an internal summary followed by an internal preview: "Now that we've seen examined the system of alliances that existed in Europe at this time [internal summary], let's look at what happened in late July and early August 1914 that led to war" [internal preview]. Transitions can and should contribute to your talk's logical shape.
Component #7: Clincher. Just as your opening needs a Grabber, your closing will benefit from a Clincher. You must do more, in other words, than simply recap your main points, which is all that many speakers do. You must ensure that your conclusion is strong by making it "sticky." Whatever you say at this critical time must continue to resonate with your listeners long after you've finished speaking. Have you attended talks that accomplished this powerful effect?
Ask yourself—keeping in mind your audience and the speaking situation—what you could say that will help keep your message in the minds of audience members. Here's how to end a speech vividly and memorably.
Every speaking engagement is situational, depending upon the audience, the event, and other possible factors. There are few "rules" which must always be applied. But if you keep in mind the 7 components above, you won't go wrong in creating well constructed presentations that engage, influence, and perhaps entertain audiences.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- It's important to put together a well-constructed talk to influence listeners.
- Greet your audience warmly then grab their attention right away.
- Preview your speech so your listeners know where you and they are going.
- Use vivid language and pay attention to your transitions, for they matter.
- End vividly and memorably so your talk "sticks" in people's minds.