How to write the perfect 10 minute presentation.
Copywriting and public speaking have a lot in common and a lot to offer each other. Listening to a good speech can teach you so much about writing and vice versa and as some one who gave my first presentation nearly 30 years ago, I’m still humbled by what I learn from listening to other speakers.
Some people undoubtedly have a gift for public speaking but even if you haven’t, you can still rock the socks of your 10 minute business presentation with some careful planning and a bit of practice. Public speaking is one of your most powerful marketing tools and a great way of showcasing your skills with no hard sell. I could write about this forever but as you haven’t got time for that, here’s my quick but super effective guide.
Presentation preps and prelims
1. If you can, visit the venue (this helps with nerves and is about being confident you know the room, the layout etc. It also helps to know how much you have to project your voice). Find out all you can about your audience. You want to fine tune your speech so that it’s relevant to them and that may mean altering your tone and your language.
Some networking events will have larger businesses attending than others for example and so if addressing them, I might adjust my language to talk about their marketing departments. Whereas smaller businesses often write their copy themselves so again, I’ll change the words I use accordingly.
2. Don’t forget to check how long you’ve got to speak and to send your host a short bio and a brief summary of your speech, with a killer headline. It’s your headline which will get bums on seats and all the usual rules apply about making it clear, intriguing and down right irresistible. You should even pop in a keyword if it’s going to be promoted online.
3. Finally, think about your speech notes. You want to use them as a support so that a quick glance at them tells you everything you need to know. I keep notes for a 10 minutes speech to one side of A4 (two at most). I use sub headings in extra large font with just a few words of prompt for each. if you prefer, try mind mapping or similar techniques. It’s all about what works for you.
And what about you?
Just like your writing, you want your audience to be able to relate to you. That means keeping it conversational (using the word you) and being yourself. Don’t patronise or talk down to your audience whoever they are. Try and make sure your speech includes a dollop of your personality, don’t take yourself too serious and rejoice in your flaws. They’re what make you human!
OK, remember this golden rule. Give your audience something they want or need to know. Think about them and the challenges they face and how you may be able to help them. We all want to showcase our skills but that will come naturally if you focus on your audience.
Then start at the end! Identify what I heard once described as your landing point! What do you want to achieve with your speech and what information do you want to give your audience? What’s the main point you want to make and you want them to remember and take away? And bear in mind, a week after a 10-minute presentation, your audience will only recall 10% of the detail.
Don’t neglect to do lots of background research. Look for interesting statistics, quotes and authorities. It will give you confidence and adds depth and authority to your speech.
In the beginning
Your first sentence and the following few, are super important. This is when you will capture their attention…or not. Think carefully about how to begin! Quotes, statistics, something they’re not expecting or a bit of audience interaction can all work well.
It’s then well worth while, summarising what you’re going to be talking about. It takes a lot of effort to listen carefully to a speech, so just like your writing, the more help you can give the better!
The main body of the speech
Obviously this is where you’ll put the bulk of what you’re going to say. The rule of 3 (or at most 5) is really handy for making it memorable for your listeners and easy for you. So that means, make 3 to 5 main points.
Try and conclude by bringing your speech full circle back to the beginning. Can you reference or repeat your opening line? Or perhaps answer a rhetorical question that you asked. You want your ending to be as powerful as your opening and remember the “landing point” you planned before you started. Give your audience a clear, easy message to take away or a call to action.
I sometimes write a speech out in full before I condense it into short notes. Once you’ve got the main gist of what you’ll be saying, this is the point to check for style and interest. Have you used examples to bring it alive, have you engaged your audience by asking rhetorical questions or getting them to imagine something.
Have you shown, rather than told or in other words have you used visual and descriptive language? Does it have a logical structure and flow, have you overly repeated phrases and have you used humour? Not laugh out loud funny necessarily but just gentle or subtle humour.
A good speech looks spontaneous but has probably been thoroughly rehearsed. Read yours and try it out loud. That way you can check your timing, listen for the rhythm and just make sure that it works. If you’re going to ask a friend to listen to it, choose wisely. Nonconstructive, negative feedback can do a great deal more harm than good!
Some quirky but very useful tips
- A valuable tip I learnt at the Association of Speakers Club is the value of a salutation before you start. Whether it’s “Ladies and gentlemen” or “Boys and girls”, by starting with a proper salutation you ground yourself and it helps make a confident and professional first impression.
- If you are very nervous, a) don’t worry – we all are and b) clench your butt cheeks – it really helps. It also helps with your posture (and not that you need to know this, your pelvic floor – which makes it a win win in my book).
- Acknowledge your audience’s mindset. If you think they’re expecting to be bored or are skeptical, try something like, “I know you think this is going to be another dull speech but …”
- Don’t apologise if you forget a chunk of your speech. They don’t know what you were going to say so just carry on.
- Listen to your audience (by looking at them) but don’t ask questions and try and avoid hecklers. Rhetorical questions are good because they don’t offer a chance to answer back.
- Remember to make eye contact with everyone and pause occasionally. It gives your audience a chance to keep up and you time to breathe.
- Don’t cling to the lectern or anything else. I know if I have a lectern or a pen, I’ll hang on to it like a raft in the ocean and that can be distracting. I deliberately move them out of my reach before I begin. Old court room habits die hard!
That’s it but don’t forget to enjoy it. Public speaking is a wonderful gift and a great opportunity and if you’re well prepared, you’ll find yourself loving it!