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By Chelse Benham
“He who fails to prepare is preparing for failure.” – Unknown
Prior proper preparation prevents poor performance of the person putting on the
presentation. Try saying that three times really fast. That little alliterated tongue
twister is the key message preached by Lenny Laskowski, international
professional speaker and author of “No Sweat Presentations – Painless Way to
Successful Speaking.” Many people at some point in their careers will have to
make a speech, give a presentation or address a group of people and for most
the fear of public speaking is crippling.
“Act confident when giving your presentation or speaking in public,” said Dr.
Salma Ghanem, associate professor and chair of the Department of
Communication at The University of Texas-Pan American. “You may not feel
confident, but don’t let your audience sense your discomfort.”
Christine Stuart in her book, “Effective Speaking” cites a survey in the USA
where 3,000 adults were asked to list their 10 worst fears. Speaking in public
came out as the number one fear - above even fears of financial ruin and death!
Janet Esposito, president of In the Spotlight, LLC, a professional speaking
agency, suggests doing the following to alleviate fears:
• Visualize yourself at your best. Run through your presentation in your
mind over and over again. See yourself positively expressing and getting
your message across.
• Repeat positive affirmations to yourself such as “easy and effortlessly” and
“calm and relaxed.”
• Create a warm and friendly environment by making connections with the
audience. If you are able to greet people as they arrive, do so and make
eye-contact with them during your speech.
• Breathe deeply.
• Burn off excess energy by shaking your hands, jumping up and down and
• Turn that excessive energy into positive energy and an animated
presentation presence. Remember it’s not what you say, but how you say
it and your body speaks very loudly. It’s only when you marry your verbal
message and your non-verbal message that you command presence.
• Smile and your audience will smile with you. Remember people want you
• Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!
“The most important advice I can give someone who is about to make a
presentation is to prepare,” Ghanem said.
Before you ever get to the podium you will have to prepare your presentation,
rehearse it and evaluate its effectiveness. To do that you need to examine the
seven aspects of presenting according to Laskowski:
1. Speaker – Many people forget they ARE the presentation and NOT
the visual aids that they use. The fundamental factor a speaker
projects is attitude.
2. Message – The message refers to everything a speaker does or
says, both verbally and non-verbally in three basic ways:
Content is what you say about your topic.
Style is the manner in which you present your content,
formal or informal.
Structure is how the information you’re giving is organized.
3. A.U.D.I.E.N.C.E. – an acronym for:
Audience – Who are the members?
Understanding – What is their knowledge about the topic?
Demographics – What is their age, sex, educational
Interest – Why will they be attending this event?
Environment – What is the room like where you will be
Needs – What are your needs as the speaker?
Customized – How can you custom fit your message to your
Expectations – What do the listeners expect to learn from
4. Channel – Use as many channels to communicate to the audience.
Nonverbal – gestures, facial, body movement, posture
Pictorial – diagrams, charts, pictures
Aural – tone of voice, variations of pitch
5. Feedback – The process where the speaker receives information
through a question and answer session at the end of the
6. Noise – There are two types of noise to contend with; external
noise and internal noise. External noise is everything around you
during the presentation. Internal noise occurs if the speaker is
unclear or confused about what is being communicated and it
comes across to the audience.
7. Setting – Determine ahead of time what the facilities are like where
you will be speaking and determine how they will effect your
presentation. Check that you have a working microphone,
multimedia hook-ups and the necessary tools to deliver your
presentation before arriving.
Basically all presentations should follow a certain structure according to Ellen
Finkelstein, author of “PowerPoint 2000 Professional Results.” She warns
against using fancy graphics and “whiz-bang” animation in lieu of carefully
planned and organized text with a concise message. According to Finklestein all
presentations should have the following:
• attention getting opener
• brief overview of the topic
• description of the problem
• explanation of solutions to meet this need
• brief summary and conclusion
An effective talk can bring you recognition, increase business and add to your
company’s public relations outreach if performed well. But to get to presentation
panache you have to have polish. Add the personal touch advises Patricia Fripp,
executive speech coach and author of “Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It.”
She suggests you read over your presentation and confirm that it has these
• Evaluate how interesting the presentation is by asking yourself “Who
cares?” for each point you’re making. If a point doesn’t add something
new get rid of it.
• Make sure it is on track and not going off on tangents.
• Be concise and not redundant.
• Give supporting examples that are strong and effective.
• Make it personal by connecting with your audience by putting them into
• Make sure you are being politically correct by avoiding stereotypes and
“We have the Silver Tongued Orators Society, a student organization here at
UTPA, where students can participate in debates and act as docents for the
University,” said Dr. Dora Saavedra, associate professor in the Department of
Communication and the club’s advisor. “The organization really teaches students
how to handle themselves in public. Any student can join just by calling
When it’s time to give the presentation a few final tips can make all the difference
in the world. Fripp offers these nuggets of wisdom:
• Look the part. Looking professional enhances your credibility.
• Act naturally. Rid yourself of distracting mannerisms such as lip biting,
finger tapping, jiggling change in your pocket and pacing back and forth.
• Don’t tell what you can show.
• Arrive early and make sure everything you need is there and working.
• Choose your emphasis. Examine each word in your speech looking for the
emotion. The audience will get your message based on the inflection and
emphasis you place on key words and phrases. Eliminate verbal crutches
such as “umming” and non-essential phrases like “you know.”
• Move about if you can. Don’t stand behind the podium and never lean on
• Vary your intensity. The enemy of the speaker is sameness. Stand, move,
be serious, be funny, talk loudly and talk softly. Don’t speak in black and
white, speak in Technicolor!
Bottom line: If you want to feel sure about yourself during your presentation
prepare and rehearse your material as much as possible before ever getting to
“Act as if it were impossible to fail.” – Dorothea Brand, author of "Becoming a