Professional and Technical Writing/Presentations
Define Your Presentation's Objectives
Oral presentations are designed using some of the same techniques that you would use in written communication; however, there are different techniques since oral presentations are another form of communication. To accurately accomplish what you want to present, it is important to analyze the situation by looking at four differing aspects.
•Think about your listeners and your communication goals- Know who your listeners are and how you want your presentation to affect them. For example, ask yourself what you really want to tell your listeners and what they really want to hear from you.
•Think about what your listeners expect- Understand what your listeners’ expectations are about the presentation. For example, ask yourself, "what is the purpose of my listeners hearing me?"
•Know the time limit of your presentation- Listeners appreciate knowing how long the presentation will take. Have your watch or clock with you anytime you present.
•Assess the environment of your presentation-
- The size of your audience: With a smaller audience, you can use smaller graphics, present in a less formal manner usually, and can expect to be interrupted with questions.
- The seating of your audience: Consider what the seating is like and if your audience will be able to move their chairs to best see the visuals.
- The type of equipment available: The availability of equipment determine the types of graphics you can use. If a projector is not available, you will not be able to use PowerPoint or slides.
Planning the Verbal and Visual Parts of Your Presentation
Why Use Visuals?
Speakers who use graphics are viewed as:
- Better prepared
- More professional
- More understandable
- More persuasive
- More credible
- More interesting
To gain the full advantage of the combined communicative power of the verbal and visual dimensions of your presentations, you must integrate them fully. First choose the type of oral delivery and the visual medium you will use. Then plan how you will weave your words and images together.
Choosing the Type of Oral Delivery
Oftentimes at work, people generally use three forms of oral delivery: the scripted talk, the outlined talk, or the impromptu talk. Sometimes the situation or the profile of your listeners will dictate the types of talk you will give. At other times, you will be free to choose.
Scripted: A scripted speech is a word-for-word speech. Everything is written out that the presenter is planning to say. It can either be read or recited from memory. This offers security to the presenter if he/she is nervous or has a lot of specific or complex important information he/she needs to inform the audience about. It is also helpful for keeping within a time limit. Having a scripted talk ensures the presenter that each key point will be talked about, but be careful because this can make the speech rigid and is hard to deliver naturally.
Outlined: An outlined speech is just that, a speech that has been outlined to hit its main points. The outline helps the presenter remember to touch on a certain topic and offers more flexibility to “tune” the speech to the reactions from the audience. With this type of speech the presenter should be knowledgeable on the subject matter. Some may have trouble with phrasing an outlined speech or get tongue-tied. If critical information is not written down the presenter may forget to fully elaborate on key points that are vital to the success of the speech. This type of presentation is ideal when presenting information that is familiar to you.
Impromptu: An impromptu speech is given with little or no preparation. The presenter should be very knowledgeable on the subject matter. It is not uncommon for information delivered to the audience to be disorganized. Impromptu speeches are usually used in short informal meetings where the audience can interrupt and ask questions to help guide the speech and retrieve the information they need from the speaker. Although, depending on how interactive the audience is, without the help of proper questions, the speaker may miss the main point of the speech entirely.
Who is Your Audience?
When planning out your speech remember that in order for it to be effective it needs to be tailored as best as it can to reach the specific audience. If your audience cannot understand what you are trying to say you will find it much harder to deliver your message. This means that you should figure out who your audience is so that you can format your presentation accordingly. The easiest way to figure out your audience is to focus on their characteristics.
Be Mindful of Your Audience's:
• Knowledge Level
• Ethnicity and Culture
• Values and Morals
Keep in mind though; your audience members are individuals not stereotypes.
If you do not know much about your audience, research! Researching your audience can only benefit you, the more that you know the better prepared that you will be. If you are presenting to another culture or non-English fluent audience, doing research cannot be stressed enough. Different cultures have different ways of presenting speeches. For instance, in the Chinese culture all of their points are made indirectly and speeches do not give the audience an overview of what their presentation will cover. You will find instead, an introduction offering an observation of a concrete reality followed by a story.
→Important aspects to research include:
Opening format, organization style, directness, tone, eye contact, gestures, and visuals
Basic Guidelines That Would Be Safe to Follow For Any Speech:
• Avoid Slang (Generational gaps must always be kept in mind)
• Use Graphics to Highlight Key Points (Pictures can help break confusion or a language barrier)
• Use Full Sentences Not Phrases (Phrases can make you sound unintelligent, or lazy)
• Avoid Using Gestures (A friendly gesture in one culture could be considered rude or offensive in another)
• Avoid Jargon (Language or terminology that is industry specific)
• NEVER Discriminate (This includes age, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.)
• Maintain Good Eye Contact (Maintain with the entire audience, not just a select few)
• Speak Up (You want to sound confident and knowledgeable to your audience)
How Will You Start Your Introduction?
Will you start with a quote, statistic, personal story, a joke, or an overview?
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 they are used correctly. So be careful, because humor is only funny when it is told right, and humor can do more harm than good if it is not used properly. Be sure to avoid all sexual, religious, and racial topics if you open with humor. As far as opening with a statistic, quote, or sharing a personal story, it doesn’t matter which one you choose, just be aware that they have to be directly related to the main point of the speech.
Overview: An overview should follow whichever opening you choose, or can be just used as an opening. Formal speeches usually start with an overview as an opening. Using an overview as an opening would be the best to use if you are unsure how your audience will react to a joke or a startling statistic. Your overview for your introduction should contain the following: 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.
What the Body of Your Speech Should and Shouldn’t Include
The body of your speech should help you elaborate and develop your main objectives clearly by using main points, sub points, and support for your sub points. Try to limit both your main points and sub points to three or four points each, this goes for your supporting points as well. Select your main points according to the relevancy of your audiences need and interest. Develop a logical structure for your points, shorten words and phrases whenever possible, and be sensitive how your words sound, not just look. Keep you listeners in mind while writing, and if necessary make a good argument by citing evidence and providing examples. Don’t get set on using certain words and ignore the main goal of your speech. Also, use repetition, it adds rhythm to your speech and helps the words stick in your listeners mind.
George Orwell Summarized How to Write Well:
• Never use a long word where a short one will do
• If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out
• Never use the passive where you can use the active
• Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
• Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous (meaning: uncivilized, primitive, or lacking refinement)
Don’t Forget About Your Conclusion!
The last thing presented tends to be what the audience remembers best. Restate your main points in a short summary. You can create a lasting impression by using one of the techniques to open a speech with, a statistic, fact, or personal story, but remember only do so if it can directly relate. If possible, summarize the next steps your audience can take, and lastly always thank your audience.
Example of a Speech Outline
When Should You Ask for Questions?
Traditionally, the speaker asks for questions after the speech is finished and has thanked the audience. That is not always the case though. A speaker can guide the audience to ask questions throughout his/her speech, by simply pausing in between points and asking the audience. Or, a speaker could politely ask the audience to hold all questions until the end. If the speaker does not ask the audience members to hold all questions until the end, he/she should be prepared for interruptions and rehearse accordingly.
Tips for Answering Questions:
• Make a point to have everyone hear the question, repeat the question if you are in a large room and then follow-up with a response so that every audience member is aware.
• If you do not know the answer to a question 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.
What Visual Aids Will You Use?
To help your audience focus on and remember your major points, you should present them verbally and visually. Visual aids can help your audience better understand what you are talking about and reinforce the point you are making. Before you decide which types of visual aids to use, you need to figure out where you will be presenting, what technology will be available, and your audience. Figure out about the layout of the room and the seating, if you can move the seating around (if necessary), as well as how large your audience will be. These all will play a factor in choosing which visual aids you should use.
The Four Most Common Visual Aids:
• PowerPoint – a visual aid which can incorporate sound, video clips, photos, charts, tables, and graphs.
Advantages: Is beneficial for large audiences, easy to modify slides in a timely manner, and creates a colorful, attractive design for viewers.
Disadvantages: It has to be shown in a room with dim lighting which makes note taking for listeners difficult. Depending on seating, screen size, and room layout not everyone may be able to see. A projector and computer/laptop is needed which can be expensive to buy and challenging to rent. Also, many people make "poor power point presentations." Make sure to research what is proper power point etiquette before presenting.
• Overhead Transparencies – slides can be written on and observed through an overhead projector.
Advantages: Allows you to maintain eye contact with the audience, able to be write while talking towards the crowd, and can be created easily. Also, easy for note taking.
Disadvantages: Transparencies are plain looking without motion or sound, and has to be shown in a room with dim lighting. A large, deep room may have visibility problems from the back of the room. Overhead projectors are becoming outdated and contain light bulbs which may burn out.
• Chalkboards/Dry Boards – boards which can be written on with chalk or dry erase markers.
Advantages: There is no preparation necessary, very flexible, can be used to record audience responses, and are great for discussions. Fast, easy, and simple to use. No learning curve.
Disadvantages: Writing on a chalkboard/dry board can delay the presentation and may make you talk to the board instead of the audience. Does not present well for large groups and poor spelling and handwriting can become problematic. No sound/motion available.
• Handouts – materials with key points and information for the audience to use.
Advantages: Beneficial for large and small audiences and aid listeners with note taking. The audience is able to refer to the information later on. Can enhance key points of presentation by reiterating the points.
Disadvantages: Requires preparation and access to a copier. Audience members may read ahead or never look at the handout again. May be a distraction to the presentation.
Make Sure Your Visual Aid Uses Easy-to-Read Text and Graphics
Use graphics! People identify items more quickly when using graphics in addition to text alone. When creating your visual aids, however, make sure your text and graphics are easy to read.
•Use headlines and sub headlines in a larger font
•Bold, italicize, or CAPITALIZE important information
•Use bullet points or create lists to organize material. Make sure this is "nice" to look at (easy to read)
Charts and graphs
•Make sure there is clear information presented and support your presentation. Color coordinate charts/graphs if necessary
•Use text to support/explain your charts and graphs (be brief but cover the high points)
•Avoid charts and graphs that can be misleading to your readers
Wording and Lettering
•Use large sized easy to read fonts
•Be concise with as little text as possible. Also use simple language to avoid confusion
•Limit number of fonts to one or two
•Think about the age of your audience when setting font size and type
•For slides, limit the number of lines to no more than six lines per slide with six words per line
→Overcrowding slides is common and can be easily avoided by limiting the amount of text
•Use color for clarity and emphasis, not for decoration
•Use color schemes
•Keep a similar color scheme throughout the entire presentation
•Use contracting colors to highlight main points
Making a Proper PowerPoint
We have all encountered boring power points with overloading information and lack of creativity. The following are precautions to ensure that you are making a proper power point using PowerPoint etiquette.
• Do not write the entire presentation on your Power point. Instead, create bullet points and headings no longer than three to five words that give the main points.
• Have no more than five to seven lines per slide.
• It is better to have two slides than it is to cram to much information on one.
• Be consistent with your "theme". (Do not use a different theme for each slide)
• Do not overuse transitions. They are meant to enhance your presentation, not take over.
• Be careful with your color scheme. Again, this is meant to enhance your presentation. Make sure the audience can read the text.
• Make an outline of what you will be talking about so the listeners can know what to expect within the presentation.
• Use at least 18 point font, and for each sub-bullet portion use a smaller font size.
• Do not use complicated and unreadable font.
• Use a font color that stands out against the background.
Preparing for Your Speech
When preparing to give your speech, it is important to rehearse just as you plan to present it. This, then, 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- it is hard to sit through a long speech, even if it is interesting. Usually, people can 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.
• 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 a formal time of 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 pin-point 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 listening carefully to yourself during rehearsal. This will enable you to make sure that your words flow smoothly in an understandable manner.
Presenting Your Speech
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 show your audience this by how you dress and in how you present your speech. For your dress, consider what your particular audience will expect of you, in most cases this means business casual, but sometimes a suit/dress may be necessary.
Dress to Impress:
• Men – button-up shirt and tie, blazer (optional), dress pants, and dress shoes. Be clean shaven and have tidy hair.
• Women – button-up shirt, blouse, or a nice sweater, dress pants or skirt (of appropriate length – below the knee), and dress heals or flats. Not too much make-up and have tidy hair. 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. Also, find comfort in knowing your nervousness is not as visible to others as it is to you.
While standing in front of a large or small audience for a presentation body language is crucial. Audiences may become distracted with flailing laser pointers or fidgeting fingers playing with a useless pen or paperclip. 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 being a presenter.
Tips That May Help Calm You:
• Practice and rehearsal- the more you practice, the less nervous you will be
• Arrive early
• Talk with a few of the audience members before your speech
• Take a few minutes to relax before you speak
• Pause for a moment before you start talking
Involve Your Audience
The great thing about presenting a speech is you can gauge your audiences understanding by paying attention to your audience. If your listeners are looking confused, you can ask if they understand before moving on to the next point and 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.
Tips For Looking At Your Listeners
• Look at your audience before you begin
• Create and follow a plan for looking
• Pick a particular feature of your listeners' face
• Practice looking at the audience while rehearsing
• Avoid skimming over faces in your audience
Extra: Team Presentations
Team presentations are becoming increasingly common in the workplace. Usually each person will specialize on a certain part in the project and then each will present the piece of the project he/she is most knowledgeable on.
Team Presentation Tips:
• Make plans in advance and set dates for team meetings
• Plan thoroughly
• Allow for individual differences
• Make effective transitions between speakers
• Show respect for one another
• Rehearse together
• Be familiar with all parts of the presentation
• Have speakers discuss how the pieces fit together if it is unclear
Preparing For Your Speech
• Which speech will you present? (scripted, outlined, or impromptu)
• Who is your audience? (Consider: age, gender, knowledge base, etc.)
• What is your introduction? (Will you begin with a statistic or story? Or Start with an overview? What is your objective?)
• What is in body of the speech? (Elaborate on your main points)
• What is your conclusion? (Will you add a statistic in at the end? Be sure to summarize your main points and thank your audience!)
• When will you ask for questions? (Throughout the speech or at the end?)
• Which visual aids will you use? (PowerPoint, blackboard/dry board, handouts, or overhead transparencies?)
• Are you graphics easy to read and understand?
• Don’t forget to rehearse! (Yes, with your graphics!)
• Do not chew gum while your giving your speech
• Do not put your hands in your pocket, to stop yourself hold a pencil or a pen in your hand(make sure not to figit with it though)
• If your nervous, take a deep breath before you begin
• If your nervous about the crowd size, try and focus on one person until you feel comfortable
• If you lose your place, calmly look down at your notes rather than saying "um" or "ah"; it is better to pause for a moment to find your place than to fumble with your words
• If your feeling under the weather when giving your speech, bring a bottle of water with you because you can always pause for a second to take a sip
• When rehearsing, try practicing in front of a mirror so you see if you have any bad habits that you can try and correct before giving your speech
Presenting Your Speech
• Dress to impress!
• Arrive early!
• Look at the audience not your notes or the presentation screen
• Don’t forget to involve your audience! (Talk with them, not at them!)
• Smile and present with energy
• Deliver your message
• Thank your audience!