10 rules to follow for powerful presentations

Communications pros can excite and impress their audiences with these public speaking musts.

Though it’s important to be credible and knowledgeable, speakers must also be interesting, exciting and motivating.

From an introduction that will capture your audience’s attention to an ending that will leave them wanting more, it’s important to structure your speech and perfect your delivery.

Here are 10 commandments every PR pro can employ for effective presentations:

1. Know your audience

The first step in preparing a presentation is to identify your target audiences, including those who may hear your remarks second hand.

2. Choose your words

Create a list of keywords and phrases—”good words”—that you want your audience to remember.

3. Beware of numbers

Statistics are an important communication tool, but they can be difficult to comprehend and remember.

It’s helpful to limit your use of numbers, or characterize them. By telling your audience what the numbers mean, they can more clearly understand. Using visual aids will also help to reinforce key numbers.

4. Keep it simple

Identify a handful of key messages (“headlines”) that you want your audience to hear, believe, remember and pass on.

5. Illustrate with stories and quotes

Use strategic stories or memorable quotes to bring your messages to life.

6. Use guideposts

Guideposts are an agenda with purpose. They give your audience a clear road map of presentation and its purpose.

They can also keep you on track as a speaker, so stories and anecdotes won’t drag you or your audience off track.

7. Prop up your skills

If you refer to something and can drag it along, do so! Employing props within speeches can sometimes make your words resonate more fully with the audience.

Do not use visual aids as a crutch, though. They should enhance the presentation—not drive it.

8. Leave them laughing

Humor is a valuable tool for effective presentations, and it’s not used nearly enough.

You don’t have to do stand-up comedy to be humorous. Stick with positive forms of humor, and be willing to laugh at yourself.

Also avoid humor that doesn’t fit your personality. Ask, “What makes me laugh?”

9. Wrap it up

Good presentations demand more from the audience than just listening; they include a powerful call to action.

10. Control the Q&A

Think of the question and answer session of a presentation as a second speech.

You are still responsible for communicating your headlines, so remember your main points and stay in control while the audience asks you questions.

Merrie Spaeth is the founder and president of Spaeth Communications, a strategic consulting, training and crisis communication firm. A version of this article was originally published on the firm’s blog.

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