Published 4/1/2012
Lauren Pearson Riley

Presentation Tips to Help You Shine

How to grab and hold an audience’s attention

Whether you are speaking to a group of patients at a health fair or requesting more funding from hospital executives during a business meeting, you can be more successful if you follow these solid principles of public speaking.

Communication on a face-to-face basis involves three elements—words, tone of voice, and body language. But they don’t carry equal weight in communicating. Research has shown the following:

  • Words (the literal meaning) account for 7 percent of the overall message.
  • Tone of voice accounts for 38 percent of the overall message.
  • Body language accounts for 55 percent of the overall message.

Although the words you speak are important, who you are and how you say them will ensure that your messages are heard. The following tips will help you prepare presentation content, design visuals to support your content, and deliver a presentation that is memorable, simple, and unique.

Presentation basics
Use a formula every time you start to outline a presentation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What do you want the audience to do or believe when you finish?
  2. What one, two, or three things do you want the audience to remember?
  3. Who is your audience? What beliefs, prejudices, and tendencies do they bring to your presentation?
  4. How do you need to present yourself without trying to change your personality to reach them?

Key messages
Key messages are one to three core ideas, facts, beliefs, or calls-to-action you want the audience to remember. Key messages should be accurate and supported by facts or anecdotal stories. They should also be concise and memorable. When key messages are used in conjunction with descriptive stories, they enable the audience to identify with you and your message.

Define your jargon
Define the buzz words that roll off your tongue but are probably unknowns to your audience, and always use the “real words” along with any acronyms. For example, when you talk about the AOA, do you mean the American Osteopathic Association, the American Orthopaedic Association, or the American Optometric Association?

Don’t memorize
The danger in trying to memorize a presentation is that you may end up with “speaker’s black out,” simply forgetting the next line … or all the next lines. Instead present from an outline, using effective visuals to emphasize your points.

Room set-up
Try to find out about the room before you arrive to speak. Will you be in a closed-door room or on a stage? Will you have Internet access? Will there be a podium for your notes? If you will be speaking from a podium, avoid leaning over or gripping the podium during your presentation. It gives you a nervous appearance.

The Q & A
Because the question-and-answer session (Q & A) is often the last thing the audience will hear, it’s important to prepare so that you leave a positive impression. Your key messages will be useful. Anticipate the questions you will likely be asked (including some that might not be on the topic) and determine how you can use one of your key messages in the answer.

Incorporating visuals
According to a Bureau of Labor study, people learn 11 percent by hearing and 83 percent by hearing and seeing. Similarly, people remember 20 percent of what they hear and 50 percent of what they hear and see. When you appear in front of an audience, you want to tell them something, explain a process or concept, teach a procedure, and answer questions.

You can increase your audience’s understanding and enhance retention if you incorporate visuals in your presentation. The following tips can help:

  • Less is more. Your audience will try to read the slides while you are talking, so keep text brief, allowing people to read quickly and return their attention to you.
  • Use graphics on each slide to help illustrate your point.
  • Only include bulleted thoughts or phrases on each slide, never full lines of text.
  • Do not read your slides from the screen. If your computer monitor isn’t in front of you, have a printed version of your slides on the podium to reference during the presentation.
  • Keep the lights on. If you turn out the lights, you not only lose control of your audience, you might wind up with “sleepers.”
  • Arrive early and run through your visuals on the equipment provided to be sure everything is in working order.

Practice, practice, practice
To make your presentation appear natural and relaxed, practice speaking your presentation. The following tips can help:

  • Use natural and appropriate gestures. If you do add gestures, make sure to do them chest high, right in front of you, but do not cover your face.
  • Change your voice inflections. Practice the words you want to emphasize.
  • Take a commanding stance. Stand square, with your hips above your feet, and make eye contact with the audience’s eyes, not their foreheads.
  • Stand with one foot in front of the other to avoid rocking from side to side.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets; don’t lock them on the podium or fiddle with jewelry.
  • Breathe normally throughout your presentation. Don’t try to rush through it by not taking a breath.

In addition to presentation training skills, the AAOS public relations department offers media training resources. To download the most recent version of the AAOS PR and Media Manual, go to www.aaos.org/prresources

Lauren Pearson Riley is manager, media relations, in the AAOS public relations department. She can be reached at pearson@aaos.org

Presentation Skills Course
A free presentation skills training course, offered during the 2012 AAOS Annual Meeting, included not only information but also the opportunity for attendees to hone their skills. Plans are underway to repeat the free course during the 2013 AAOS Annual Meeting in Chicago. If you are interested in participating, watch for more information when the Preliminary Program is released, and sign up early! Spaces fill quickly, and it’s first-come, first-served.