The number one fear in the U.S. is Public Speaking. Everyone is familiar with that feeling before a big (or even small) speech: the uncontrollable butterflies in the stomach, the racing heart, the sweating, and for some, blacking out for the entire speech just to get back to your seat with no recollection of what you just said. 

As a former public speaking instructor, I have seen my fair share of good and bad speeches and presentations. Over the next two weeks, we’ll cover the five basic points that trace all the way back to Cicero’s De Inventione: (further reading on these points can be found here) with one unifying theme: PROPER PREPARATION.

  • Invention
  • Arrangement
  • Style
  • Memory
  • Delivery

This week, we’ll cover crafting your presentation with Invention, Arrangement and Style.

As I explain these terms, let’s pretend you are preparing a proposal for a boardroom. You need to sell your business idea to a group of executives.

1. Invention – Choose your topic. 

Once you have your topic, you need to determine the purpose and the scope. Your purpose will dictate how you proceed with the presentation. There are three purposes for a presentation: inform, entertain, persuade. Your scope will dictate what you will include in your presentation. There are different types of presentations: 1. Chronological – create a timeline of events leading up to the next big thing. 2. Compare and Contrast – comparing and contrasting products and presenting the argument of one product over the other. 3. Spatial – Discussing the relevance to the audience directly. For example, examining the effects of plastic waste, you may start on a city level, then state level, then national level, and finally on a world level. 

In order to sell your business idea, you need to persuade your audience by making it relevant to them. For now, you will start on the effect your product/idea will bring to your city, state, and nation. 

2. Arrangement – Determine a comprehensive flow of information 

Creating a comprehensive flow of information is important to stay on track, while also keeping the presentation interesting. This is the simplest part of preparation because every speech needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Always remember: Tell us what you’re going to talk about, talk about it, and then tell us what you talked about. The way to do this is to provide the audience a similar structure not unlike the essays you wrote in 8th grade: start with a preview, provide the information, and then review the information. 

Start your presentation with a preview: “Today, I am going to discuss the importance my product will have on our city, state, and nation.” Move on to your three main points (including transition statements) one by one, making sure to stay on topic. Finally, wrap up your presentation with a review, “Today, I outlined the importance my product will have on our city, state, and nation by explaining its manufacturing, uses, and benefits.” Style – Speak with your audience in mind.

3. Style – Speak with your audience in mind.

Andrew Pudewa states that “the vocabulary, sentence structure, and expressions used will affect the reader’s perception of the ideas.” Think back to a time when you had to listen to a presenter give a speech that they were reading off an academic or technical paper that they wrote. Maybe their speech patterns were monotonous, or they used technical jargon that you did not understand. Can you remember what the speech was about? Can you remember anything from that speech other than that it was boring? Probably not. Remember: your presentation is only as strong as the attention of your audience. When you prepare your speech, think of your audience. Will your audience appreciate that joke about thermodynamics? Will they know that the SEC you’re talking about is not referencing college football, but accounting? Take this into consideration when you’re building out your talking points. 

When you’re presenting your idea to the board, recognize that you are speaking to professionals who sit in meetings all day and listen to many proposals each week. How will your presentation stand out? How do you relate to your audience? Do you appeal to their emotions? Are you logical? What makes them listen?

Stay tuned for tips on delivery in Part 2.