III. DELIVERING THE SPEECH
The preparation for delivering an oral report should seem very simple. Yet many people would rather write a dozen reports than deliver a single one in person. Fortunately, few jobs require people who can address large groups with ease. Usually, oral presentations are confined to small groups like committees, or to informal meetings. If you have prepared your material with your listeners in mind you will need only a few guidelines to help you make an effective presentation.
Hide Your Nervousness. Face the fact that you will be nervous as you wait for your introduction. But remain confident, knowing that you have carefully prepared your talk. If you find that you have stage fright, take a deep breath before opening your mouth. The deep breath will help relax your vocal cords. Then cheer yourself up with the thought that you must be a very bright person. Speakers who are not at all anxious are either those who give talks often or those who do not know enough to be nervous. Controlled nervous anticipation is good for you. It will key you up and give your delivery some sparkle.
Check Your Volume. You know how annoyed, disinterested, and bored listeners become if they can't hear the speaker. Don't create this problem for your audience. If possible before the meeting, check your volume in the room where you are to speak. Have someone stand in the back of the room to tell you if you can be heard perfectly. If you cannot make this test or if you sense that the audience cannot hear you, ask at the beginning of your talk if everyone can hear; then adjust your volume accordingly.
If you have a choice, stand at a podium, table, or screen. Standing while others are sitting automatically confers authority and commands attention. It will also encourage you to project your voice out to your listeners instead of into your notes. You will be able to make eye contact with the whole group. Staving in your scat may make you feel secure, but this is a trap. A good presentation demands alertness and a bit of an edge.
Use overheads rather than handouts to present data. You want your audience heads up, facing you, not reading at their seats. The worst thing to do is to hand out printed material and then "ago through it." Eye-oriented people, often executives and managers, will read, rather than listen to you.
Follow the suggestions under "Graphical Elements of Reports" above, to produce effective overhead graphics. Make sure that the lettering is clearly visible to your entire audience.
Ascertain how long your presentation is expected to take. Normally, a speech is delivered at about 1 50 words a minute. Make sure your material is adequate for the time allotted. Of course, this does not mean that a ten-minute oral report will be as dense as a 1500-word essay. You will need to build in much more repetition to ensure that you are getting your point across. But planned repetition is one thing; rehashing points you have already made in order to fill up your time is a sure-fire way to annoy and frustrate your listeners. Leave time for questions and feedback. If there arc none, don't till the gap by answering questions nobody asked. This suggests that you are having second thoughts about the organization and planning of your report.
Use a Conversational Tone. Remember that you are talking to an audience, not giving an oration. Your voice should reflect the warm, easy, conversational tone that you would use if you were talking to a group of your very good friends. Also, remember that you will destroy any warmth created by your tone if you allow a critical, scolding, or sarcastic note to creep in.
Avoid Mannerisms. Mannerisms such as playing with objects, clearing the throat or wetting the lips, repeating "uh" or "and" frequently, and overusing slang expressions are objectionable to audiences. If you do not know whether you have such mannerisms, ask some of your friends, to watch and listen and report any they observe. A speaker with even one annoying habit cannot give the best possible talk, for mannerisms distract the audience and obstruct the thoughts the speaker is trying to convey.
Observe Audience Reaction. You can and should train yourself to watch the audience as you speak and to be sensitive to its changing mood. If, as you talk, you see blankness or boredom on the faces before you, this signal tells you that your listeners need perking up. You might then tell one of the amusing stories you keep in reserve. Remember, however, that jokes are only effective if used intelligently.
If your audience seems tired, if the hour is late, or if the previous talks have been overlong, you have two choices: accept the situation as a challenge and give such an interesting and sparkling performance that everyone perks right up, or have pity on your audience and cut your talk to the bare essentials. Sometimes it is better to omit part of a speech rather than give it before a weary audience.
Carefully Select the Closing Words. Inexperienced talkers often give themselves away by lowering their voices as they say the last few words or by dashing off the ending in a hurried rattle. Of course, a beginner is happy to see the end in sight and is eager to get the ordeal over. What a pity though to spoil the effect of an otherwise fine talk with a poor ending! Remember to keep your pitch up and to observe good timing to the very end.
IV. MODES OF DELIVERY
Public speakers use four main modes of delivery:
The impromptu speech is delivered with little opportunity to prepare. Its main virtue is that it is spontaneous; its main shortcoming is that it is usually not well planned. When you are urged to "say a few words" without any advance warning, what results is an impromptu speech.
Extemporaneous speaking is somewhat more formal than impromptu speaking. You have an opportunity to plan, and the resulting speech is better organized than an impromptu speech. You usually rely somewhat on notes, but you do not read to the listeners. Most public speeches are delivered extemporaneously.
A memorized speech allows for a well-planned expression of ideas. When presenting a speech from memory, however, many speakers tend to lose a certain amount of naturalness and sometimes sound and look quite wooden. The possibility of forgetting the speech is another negative aspect of the memorized speech.
Manuscript speaking is relied on for more formal occasions. When you speak from a manuscript, you can be very precise and carefully control the exact message you send the listeners. Of course, it generally takes longer to develop a manuscript speech. And the manuscript frequently becomes a barrier between speaker and audience.
Although individual presentations are much more frequent, presentations by teams of individuals are not unusual. Continuity is especially important here. The presentation should appear as a unified whole, rather than as a series of individual presentations. Through careful planning, team members should be able to avoid repetition and to structure the presentation so that each speaker paves the way for the succeeding speaker.
All of the principles of effective communication that we have discussed pertain to the team presentation also. The team presentation format also requires some other principles.
V. TEAM PRESENTATION GUIDE
• Plan the team presentation as a group, and divide the topics into logical and well-balanced divisions.
• Anticipate those questions likely to be directed at you following the team presentation and be prepared to respond to them.
• Unless you are the first speaker, begin your speech by referring to the previous speaker and thereby increase the continuity of the team presentation.
• Direct your speech primarily at the larger audience rather than at the other speakers.
• Stay within your time limit. Do not encroach on the time of the other speakers or on the patience of the listeners.
• While giving your speech, do not lose sight of the goal of the team.
• Listen to the speeches of the other participants and refer to them where appropriate in your speech.
The fear that many people express at the prospect of giving a speech can be overcome through preparation:
• Determine your purpose
- the general purpose (to entertain, to inform, to persuade)
- the specific purpose what you want to accomplish
• Analyze your audience so you can appeal to your listeners' interests
• Jot down your central theme, main idea and supporting details
• Decide how you'll organize your speech
- by topics (topical)
- by time (chronological)
- by place (spatial)
- by logic (logical)
• Select techniques for illustrating main ideas
• Draft your speech so that it includes
- an introduction (written last)
- a body (written first)
- a conclusion
• Choose one of the five modes of delivery
- impromptu (unlikely if you've got time to plan)
• Practise, practise, practise