You have the best presentation and slides. You have rehearsed it to the tee. However, the audience doesn’t seem to be impressed. You don’t seem to be making the dazzling impact you expected. What could you have missed?
People’s attention span are short and it’s pretty important to use different tools from your arsenal to grab on to it!
In this post, you’ll find 12 speaking tools that’ll help you ensure that you get the brilliant respinse you seek every time you present.
WHAT IS A SPEAKING TOOL
Speaking tools are aids that assist us in communicating more powerfully and keeping the audience interested.
You can use them at any point in your presentation based on the context and the situation.
ASK A QUESTION
We are subconsciously primed to pay attention when someone asks a question.
“Did you know that…
“How many times have you…
“Have you ever wondered.
When to use it: A question is a handy tool at any point in a presentation – whether you are beginning or in between when the interest seems to wane.
TELL A STORY
As cavemen who spent night after night sharing stories, this is something that appeals to our primordial instinct.
A story during a presentation/pitch doesn’t have to be a whole thing. It can be a quick one with just a few lines.
“There was a time when I was jobless and in debt…
“When I was working on a similar project a few years ago…
Pro tip: Make sure it connects emotionally with the audience and make it relevant to the topic at hand. A story just for the sake of it will only back fire.
When to use it: A story can also be used at any point, however, it should be most effective at the beginning of a speech. Too many of them through out your presentation could be overkill.
START WITH STATS
There is nothing like objective numbers to put things in perspective. Especially if they are relevant to what you do.
(And I don’t mean a mountain of data supported by graphs and charts).
“Did you know that over 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year? (shocking stat).
“In the past decade, there has been a 50% increase in remote work arrangements” (trend analysis).
“Small businesses account for nearly 50% of the total employment in our country” (economic significance).
When to use it: Stats are great when you are trying to make a significant point and win over audiences.
It instantly establishes your research and authority on the subject at hand.
USE A METAPHOR
This adds richness to your articulation. And also helps people understand a concept better by comparing it with something that they understand.
“Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint” (cliche, but true!).
“This final look of this program will look like Netflix” (easy to envision).
“Building expertise in communication is like learning to drive a car” (one of my personal favourites).
When to use it: This is best used to explain difficult concepts. If you are in fields like IT or Finance, this tool can do wonders to help your listeners understand you better.
MAKE AN UNUSUAL ANALOGY
Compare apples and oranges – and make it work.
This is a great way to make your message memorable – and make it stick.
A coach I worked with compared spending on a business to raising a new born.
You don’t cut corners on the essentials.
You spend on the best – tools for your business or the diapers for the baby – and it pays in the long run!
Personal branding is a lot like standing on rooftops and beating a drum.
WhatsApp advertising is like the fliers we found in our newspapers in the 90s.
When to use it: This is also useful for difficult concepts. Or to drive home a point like my coach did.
Pick the most common truth in your industry and go against it.
This works great to make people sit up – and once you have their attention you go for the kill.
“You don’t need a communication coach” – communication coach.
“You should be buying when the stock prices are at the highest” – financial advisor.
“Online networking meets foster more closeness than the offline one.”
Although, make sure that you set the record straight.
When to use it: This can be used at any point however be sure that it’s appropriate for the audience group, lest you offend them.
Summarising a couple of times during your presentation is a great way to get the audience to stick with you.
It makes your message memorable and gives both of you breathing time before you move on to new information.
“So, we’ve so far covered industry trends – now I’m moving on to what they mean for us as a company.”
“To summarise, I have covered industry trends and what they mean for us as a company. Now let’s move on to how this’ll help us make future decisions.”
“In conclusion, We looked at industry trends, what they mean for us as a company and how we can make future decisions based on this intelligence.”
When to use it: As the examples above show, summarising can be used at various points in your presentation – especially when you move to a new point – to ensure your audience is gently taken through the course of the content.
This is a classic way to ensure that the audience knows the whole path you’ve covered by pointing it out to them multiple times in the form of a summary.
It’s a great way to break the monotony of a presentation and also bring in some credibility into your content.
“Richard Branson once said….
“An old African saying goes…
“Plato, in his book, says…
When to use it: This can be used sparingly but at appropriate points.
If you are well-read, beware not to overdo it and come across as a show off.
If you aren’t and quotes appeal to you, make a list which you can refer to from time to time.
STARTLE THE AUDIENCE
It could be at the beginning or to surprise everyone’s attention back to your presentation, it works well if you do it right.
“200,000 – that’s the amount of money we lose every year. because of…
“All of us will be jobless by the end of the year…
“I hate [input your professions/topic]
When to use it: This could be one of the tools you have in your arsenal and use it when you think the audience and the topic calls for it.
TAKE A TRIP
Use the word – “Imagine” and take your audience into a world you want them to envision.
“Imagine, if we never have to chase business again….
“Think of a time when you were in college, think of one thing that you always wanted to do…
“Imagine a time when this project is finally complete – what do you see”
When to use it:
This should be a great tool when you are trying to convince your team for something they may not be open to.
Or motivate them to achieve something by making them imagine what it would feel like to actually get there.
If you often see the funny side of things, go for it.
Polish it to suit a professional context.
People will appreciate light moments in a presentation – maybe even look forward to it!
“We know you hate to see us – and after today’s presentation we will get the hell out of your offices” – internal audit teams.
“I know it’s almost lunch time and if you guys can resist imagining my face as a juicy burger for just another 10 minutes, I’ll be done” – for a pre-lunch meeting.
“Sure! More presentations is what we need post lunch” – for a post-lunch presentation.
When to use it: Use your discretion based on the audience and the context.
Warning: Do not try this if you aren’t 100% sure it’ll work. Also, be mindful of gender/cultural/racial undertones and avoid them at all costs.
DO SOMETHING JAW DROPPING
Use this with extreme caution but if done well it can be quite attention grabbing.
Did you know that Bill Gates released a vial of mosquitoes during his TED Talk on malaria on 2009?
You could go to the project folder and send it to the trash – while people can see it on their screens (make sure you recover it after you make your point).
Use a prop that’s relevant to your presentation – if you are expanding globally, bring an actual globe (or show on a virtual call).
When to use it: Use your discretion based on the audience and the context.
HOW TO USE THESE TOOLS IN REAL WORLD SITUATIONS
1. Pick 2-3 tools which might feel easiest to use. For instance, questions or stories
2. Start weaving them into your presentations at the planning stage
3. Reflect on how it went after you used them – how comfortable were you and did you get the desired result?
Add a new tool to try out ever 2 weeks or so. Always try out in low-stake meetings before you use it in important meetings.
Final word of advice: Voice modulation is key to carrying off any of these tools. You will get the desired effect only when you work on the delivery.