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Fine-tuning your Presentation
By Randall P. Whatley, President, Cypress Media Group

Often the hardest part of making a presentation is getting started. Once you begin, adrenaline kicks in, you become excited talking about your topic, and you find that the experience is actually enjoyable.

How to prepare introductions

Often the hardest part of making a presentation is getting started. Once you begin, adrenaline kicks in, you become excited talking about your topic, and you find that the experience is actually enjoyable.

Following are five easy ways to begin a presentation:

  • Tell a story
  • Establish a common bond with the audience
  • Directly address your subject
  • Illustrate a point
  • Use humor

Beyond serving to "jump-start" your presentation, introductions have a specific purpose. Good introductions should actually accomplish the following:

  • Capture the audience's attention by using one of the following techniques:
    • Ask a question
    • Tell a joke
      Give a quotation
    • State a startling fact
    • Give an example
    • Illustrate a point
    • Tell a story
    • Refer to an occasion
    • Refer to a historic event
    • Establish a common bond
  • Establish your credentials to speak to the audience
  • Establish your empathy with the issue, problem, or subject
  • Establish your desire to present your information
  • Provide your audience a reason to stay for the rest of your presentation
  • Provide an easy transition to the body of your speech

How to prepare conclusions

A poor closing statement can ruin the lasting impression of a well-prepared and superbly delivered presentation. Conclusions are also an important, and often, overlooked element of presentations.

Conclusions should be used to review your main points. This can be accomplished by using one of the following techniques:

  • Repeat your points in order of delivery
  • Summarize your main points
  • Combine a summary and a repetition

Ideally, presentations should end with a memorable statement. Use the following techniques to create a memorable statement:

  • Synopsize your main theme
  • Ask the audience to do take an action
  • Paint a verbal picture of the future
  • Return the audience to the past
  • Transition the audience to what will follow

Never do the following in the conclusion of a presentation:

  • Draw out your conclusion
  • Apologize for not doing a good job
  • Tell a dumb joke or story
  • Say that you've forgotten something
  • Steal an upcoming speaker's thunder

How to practice

Once your presentation is fully developed and fine-tuned to your satisfaction, it is time to practice your delivery. Use the following form to successfully and effectively practice presentations.

  • Pretend you are in front of your audience; practice everything (e.g., eye contact, voice inflections, gestures, using your notes)
  • Practice acting naturally
  • After you are familiar with your speech, practice in front of a mirror or videotape yourself
  • Practice in different locations to prepare yourself for the unknown
  • Practice in front of people who will give you constructive feedback
  • Become familiar with your speech before you begin practicing the use of visual supports
  • Practice using eye contact and gestures along with visual supports
  • Practice using visual supports in different rooms under different lighting

Use the following checklist to assist you in practicing your presentation:

  • Practice your speech at least six times
  • Become familiar with your broad themes
  • Practice silently at first, making notes to yourself on eye contact, gestures, tone, and timing
  • Practice your entire speech each practice session
  • Practice in front of a mirror or videotape yourself
  • Practice using your audio-visual supports
  • Once you are prepared, stop practicing




Randall P. Whatley, is a 26-year media veteran with diverse business experience. Whatley is president of Cypress Media Group, Inc. ( www.cypressmedia.net ), an Atlanta-based advertising, public relations, and training firm. He has extensive experience advising government officials, political candidates, public officials, and corporate executives on media relations and presentation skills. He has also written two syndicated newspaper columns and numerous magazine articles. Whatley has hosted his own television and radio program and appeared often as a TV and radio program guest, including a CNN appearance. He has produced hundreds of TV and radio ads and taught a myriad of seminars ranging from Public Relations Writing to Media Relations. He can be reached by e-mail at randy@cypressmedia.net.

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