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How To Give A Talk, Presentation Or Speech

Updated on June 30, 2012

Get talking!

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones, but making a speech or giving a presentation still gives me the jitters, even though I have done many over the years.

My heart will start to thump away like mad and my voice often goes a little shaky when I start out.

Nevertheless, like most things in life, this nervousness can be overcome and most of us can put on a decent performance, providing we prepare properly and follow a few basic steps.

This lens is about how to make a speech, presentation or talk. It's not the whole deal but will give an insight into making say a powerpoint or sales presentation or even a Best Man speech - these are skills easily learned.

Photo: Crisis

I always learn my opening paragraph by heart but I still write this out in full. I then start off by reading from my cards or papers. This allows my voice time to settle down and the familiarity of the words helps to ease my nerves.

Once the opening paragraph is out of the way I move on to just using notes for the rest of my talk. By then I'm usually fairly in control.

A speech doesn't sound right if you simply read continuously, word for word, from a script.

There is more information on making notes for your speech below under How Do I Say It?

I'm probably getting a bit ahead of myself, so I'll start at the beginning of preparing for a presentation of some kind. Traditionally they are expected to have an introduction, a middle and an ending.

This may sound obvious but watch a lot of inexperienced speakers and you will see how they do not always follow this format. Everything can then turn into a jumble, with no real flow or continuity and often you can't be quite sure when they have actually finished, other than everything goes quiet!

Let's look at these three parts:-

#1 Introduction ~ This is where you tell 'em what you are going to say.

#2 Middle or Main Body ~ Now you tell 'em

#3 Ending or Summary ~ And finally you tell 'em what you said.

To balance a talk properly 10% of your allotted time should be for the introduction, 80% for the main body and the final 10% for your summary. A thirty minute talk, for example, would have 3 minutes allocated to both the intro and summary and 24 minutes for the main body. It is always preferable to finish a minute or two earlier than to overrun your time.

Many speakers find it difficult to gauge their time. As a rough guide the speed ought not to drop below 120 words or exceed 150 words per minute, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Firstly a look at the introduction for the presentation (i.e. tell 'em what you are going to say). Some suggestions:-

I ~ Start with something which is particularly Interesting or unusual, something your audience may not be expecting. Try to think of a way to grab their attention

N ~ Demonstrate the Need for the audience. Try to make it personal for them all. Convince them that they 'need' to give you their attention. Show the importance of the topic for each member of your audience.

T ~ Give the Title of your presentation.

R ~ Indicate the Range of your talk. Say what you will be including and what you must leave out. Tell them how long your presentation will last and whether you will be answering any questions

O ~ Establish the Objectives for your talk. Explain to the audience what they will know, or will have learnt, by the time you have finished, and how you expect them to react to what you have said.

Use this introduction to set the route which you intend to navigate, so they will be aware as to what you are going to tell them.

Now we move on to the Main Body of the talk (i.e. tell 'em). Here are a few things to consider:-

(a) The stages of the development of your theme should be very clear in your own mind.

(b) Only make those points which are fundamental to your objectives.

(c) To help you emphasise your points use (i) examples, (ii) analogies and (iii) any visual aids or objects that can be shown.

(d) Be sure that your linking summaries are both accurate and adequate for the purpose.

(e) Don't labour any arguments with repetitions. Instead illustrate and reinforce your points wherever possible (perhaps with i, ii or iii as above)

(f) Present your arguments so that only the main or important points will be remembered. Your system of priorities is important.

Finally we have the Summary (i.e. tell 'em what you said)

Don't end suddenly or stop too abruptly. Your finish must be part of the overall plan. The closing sentences of a well delivered talk will tend to linger in the minds of your listeners. Capitalise on this, and make this to your benefit.

Use your summary to briefly repeat and restate your main points, but try to vary your language. If there are any conclusions to be drawn - draw them. Do not introduce any new material, evidence or arguments in the closing stages. You are simply reiterating what you have already said.

What I have written above are just the bare bones of the subject, hints and tips that may be of help. Let's, however, presume that you have completed the draft of your presentation. The question then arises of, 'How do I say it?'

The most successful method of preparation involves a combination of memory and reading skills.

Use your memory, as I said earlier to learn the opening paragraph. Also learn off by heart your final paragraph (remember this will tend to linger in the minds of your listeners). It therefore makes sense to know exactly what you are going to say to make that final lingering impact.

Your notes are a reading aid and should be constructed as such. Whether you use cards or plain paper plan the layout. Print the words so that they are easily read and use letter sizes that will enable you to see them easily at a distance. Coloured inks and sketches also help.

Regarding your notes: it is a good idea to also have one Master Sheet which sets out clearly the stages of your presentation. This enables you to be aware of the overall plan and sequence of what you saying. If you should then indulge in anything off the cuff or get side tracked, it will help you to see where your are up to and put you back on course.

Once you have prepared your talk rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Make your friends listen, say it in front of a mirror, perhaps your dog or cat would like to hear, record it on tape and so on.

By repeating it over you may well find that you have to amend your notes. Sometimes the written word doesn't have the same effect when said aloud. It is important to stress that proper preparation will create confidence.

It is only a lack of confidence that prevents any of us from becoming effective speakers.

I'll finish up with a few points on the delivery of your presentation. Read over your notes, not into them.

Never apologise either for yourself or for the subject matter.

Speak in your natural accent and don't project your voice only to the back of the room. Talk to those in the front as well and look at your audience, talk to them and hold their eyes individually.

If you are addressing a smallish group you must make eye contact with them all at sometime during your presentation.

Make it a two way exchange, even if the words are only coming from you. And try to avoid 'umms' and 'errrs' and repeating loose phrases such as 'you know', 'you see', 'basically', 'personally speaking' etc. etc.

It's not too difficult to make a presentation or give a talk if you do your homework first. We can achieve most things in life if we really want to. It's simply a matter of effort and preparation mixed with a desire to succeed.

The Best Man's speech causes a lot of stress! But again there are lots of tips abot to help.

For example try the BBC'sTips For Best Man Speeches. This includes things like the classic opening line:

"This is the second time today I have stood up from a warm seat with a piece of paper in my hand... "

You'll also find actual samples of Best Man and other wedding speeches at Hitched

There are also tips and examples of Best Man speeches at USA Bride. They also give this funny best man clip from such a speech:

"Well I took Bob to the drugstore today before the ceremony and as we walked past the condom section he had a few questions. "What are all these condoms for," Bob asked. "Well you see that 3 pack there, that's for when you're in High School. One for Friday night and two for Saturday night." I respond. "Oh I see," Bob says, " and what is the 6 pack for?" "Well Bob that's for when you're in college. 2 for Friday night, 3 for Saturday night and one for Sunday morning," I say. "Ok, but then what the heck is the 12 pack for" Bob asks with a confused look on his face. "Oh that's for when you get married. One for January, One for February, One for March ... "

Further Reading:

Be the Best, Best Man & Make a Stunning Speech

Making the Best Man's Speech: Know What To Say and When To Say It - Add Wit, Sparkle and Humour - Deliver The Perfect Speech

Wedding Speech Jokes

Jokes can often be incorporated into a wedding speech. Here's an example of such ajoke from Wedding Speech Jokes.

"Rupert and Elaine, young couple, got married and went happily on their honeymoon.

When they got back, Elaine immediately 'phoned her mother and her mother obviously asked, 'How was the honeymoon, dearest?'

'Oh, Ma,' she replied, 'the honeymoon was wonderful. So romantic...'

Then Elaine burst out crying. 'But, Ma, as soon as we returned home Rupert started using the most ghastly language... saying things I've never heard before! I mean, all these awful 4-letter words! You've got to come get me and take me home.... Please Ma.'

'Calm down, Elaine!,' said her mother, 'Tell me, what could be so awful? What 4-letter words?'

Still sobbing, Elaine whispered, 'Oh, Ma...words like dust, wash, cook, and iron.'"

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      i hate speaking in front of people because i am REALLY shy. I only give a speech once in school because my teacher forced me too. Btw nice tips !

    • simpletouchclea profile image


      6 years ago

      I will be sure to use these tips during my next speech. Thanks.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the tips! nice lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the tips! nice lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I send all my clients to advertising and marketing consultants because if you can present well and confidently, that's half the battle

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      9 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I used to get SO nervous before a presentation, from gradeschool into college. I'd break out into a sweat and my eyes would twitch, and you could totally hear it in my voice. So then I forced myself to take a public speaking course, and that REALLY helped. Soon afterward, I took a job that would involve quite a bit of public speaking, including one speech in front of an audience of 800. I was pretty proud of myself, I have to say. It's been a while now since I've done public speaking, so I'm sure I'd get pretty nervous again, but hopefully not as bad as I once did. Anyhow, you give some great advice and tips here. Really well done!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Yep -- any time I give a speech, I am well-prepared but always get the jitters. Trying to be a perfectionist me thinks!

    • ArtSiren LM profile image

      ArtSiren LM 

      10 years ago

      Nice idea for a lens. I always used to write down the first line of research presentations to prevent 'brain-freeze'. Funny how I found it easy to talk for 30 minutes in front of 300 people, but got really nervous giving a 10 minute talk to a panel of 4 - the latter was a job interview though!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      10 years ago

      I stand in front of a classroom full of teenagers every day. That's easy, but tell me I have to give a presentation to my peers... I've done it many times, but not without a stomach full of butterflies.

      Thanks for the tips. Maybe I won't be so nervous next time.


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi Mike!

      Nice to find you on Squidoo too. Love this lens - wish I'd read this years ago - still have bad memories of my first presentations (I refused to do any more after that!)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Snozzle, great lens lots a great advice, just what I needed for a best mans speech I have comin up. Nice work.

    • SimilarSam profile image

      Samuel Franklin 

      10 years ago

      If only this lens had been around a decade ago when i was still doing oral presentations at school, thanks for the great and helpful lens.


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