Dear friends, October 1st, 2008
US-American comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said: At a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy, since public speaking stresses people out more than death.
Public speaking is an important tool for bearing witness for Christ and His message. The first half of success is achieved by one’s arguments which the audience must be able to grasp and accept (see our Letter for Europe last May, www.europe4christ.net/fileadmin/media/pdf/english/29__english_.pdf). The other half of success is one’s manner of presenting. With the following guide lines, you will prefer the microphone not only over death - you might end up enjoying it!
Whether you speak to a small or a large group of people, the following steps will be the same.
Please note: Even if you are not often invited to give a speech, be the Christian voice in the public debate by questioning a speaker when you are in the audience. Many of the steps below will also be helpful when you make an intervention during Q&A time. Never miss the opportunity to be the Christian Voice, even if a speaker seems to be hostile. Our goal is to witness the truth to everybody else.
For a Christian Europe,
Your Europe for Christ! Team
PS: International petition now online: On the celebration of the 60th
Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this December 10th,
there is now the possibility to sign a petition calling on UN Members States
to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting the
unborn child from abortion. For further information and your signature
please go to: www.c-fam.org/publications/id.95/default.asp
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How to Give a Good Speech
Steps and Guidelines compiled by Europe for Christ!
Know your presentation format!
Before you start planning your presentation, find out from the organizers, how much time you have and what format they envision for your talk (panel; short intervention; main speaker; toast; Q&A; etc).
Know who will be in the audience!
Find out who will be attending your presentation, experts or lay people? People who are ‘with you’ or opposed to your views? Depending on the audience, you will have to spend some time giving varying degrees of background on the material and explaining certain concepts.
Know where you will speak!
If you have the opportunity, take a look at the venue before the time of the talk. It will help you visualize the context of the event and ensure that you are not caught off guard by peculiarities of the space.
Define a take-away message!
If someone were to ask an audience member to sum up your talk, what would you like that person to say? Focus on that message and build your presentation around it.
Make a structured outline!
Once you have an idea of your presentation's main message, spend some time thinking about the structure of the entire talk. You do not need to explain every point but trust your audience to understand it in the proper context.
Have a strong beginning!
The first couple of minutes of your talk should be the most prepared and polished. Those are likely to be the most nervous moments so it is best not to leave anything to chance. By being well prepared, you can convey your messages with confidence. Catch your audience’s attention by an interesting start, such as an illustrative story which you could come back to at the end.
Explain your motivation!
What may be a fascinating topic to you may not be to the next person so don't take for granted people's interest in the issues you are discussing. Explain why they should pay attention and why your comments matter.
Stick to your time!
People rarely want to listen to someone for longer than the allotted time. Wrap up your talk on time, maybe even a couple of minutes before! Organize your talk and know it well enough to have the flexibility to skip certain parts or expand on others depending on the circumstances.
Be careful with commenting on your previous speaker!
A common mistake presenters make is to add unprepared introductory remarks to their talk. The temptation to address the previous speakers is great, but be careful with that. It takes much of your time, sidetracks the audience and isn’t the brilliant entry which catches your audience’s attention.
Show confidence and enthusiasm!
Make sure that you exert confidence during your presentation. Don't apologize for what you don't have with you to present or what you do not know. Rather, focus on what you can talk about and discuss the material with confidence. The more one knows, the more he knows how much he doesn’t know. It is the task of a good presenter to convey knowledge despite his awareness of not knowing everything. Be sure to enjoy your talk and show your enthusiasm about the content. Your interest in the topic will be contagious and will likely result in a more engaged audience.
Practice the presentation a few times; more if you have less experience or less if you are a more seasoned public speaker. It can be especially helpful to give the talk to someone who is not in your field and is not intimately familiar with the material. This is helpful in seeing whether you have made the talk too narrowly focused or overly technical.
Memorize the beginning and the outline!
Don't write out the material word-by-word and don't plan on reading the text even if you do have it all written down. Having the text written out and parts of it memorized will constrain you. Memorize the beginning word-by-word and then only the outline of the talk, but not every word.
Use slides only if necessary!
Show slides only when necessary for illustration. It distracts the audience and makes it more difficult to present with a flow. If you use slides, avoid excessively long texts in small fonts.
If there is a Q&A segment, be sure to stay polite at all times. Thank people for their questions and praise them for good points. If you are not sure how to respond to a query then express your appreciation for the insightful comment and note that you will look into it. Don’t pretend to be someone else – it is OK not to know an answer during Q&A.