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Seven Strategies for Polished Presentations

If you want to learn something, learn from the best. In this article, David Brooks, 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking, shares seven strategies for polished presentations.

Copyright by David Brooks, excerpted with permission.

You have earned a reputation as an authority in your field. Others want to hear what you have to say. Like it or not, you’re about to become a public speaker.

Yet, whether you are leading a seminar before a small group of your peers or delivering a keynote address to thousands of strangers, unless you have years of speaking experience, you are likely to feel awkward or uncomfortable when the microphone is in your hand.

It’s a common reaction--most people simply do not enjoy speaking in front of an audience. But your anxieties can be lessened if you remember these seven simple strategies.

1. Do not try to hide behind technology. 
A common--and disastrous--mistake is to say “I’ll put my presentation on PowerPoint. Then, nobody will focus on me.” Wrong. A bad speaker with PowerPoint is still a bad speaker. PowerPoint, used with restraint, can be an enhancement to your presentation. It is never, however, a substitute for preparation.

It doesn’t matter how many PowerPoint slides you have or how many bullet points you’ve squeezed on them, no one will ever leave a program saying “Wow! Those were great bullet points!” Instead, if they leave saying, “Wow! The presenter sure knew his stuff, and he illustrated his points well,” then you have done your job and exceeded most people’s expectations.

2. The audience is rarely the enemy. 
When asked why people fear public speaking, a common response is “Because the audience is just waiting for me to screw up.” Wrong. Though it is true that the audience may not always agree with your message, they almost never want you, personally, to fail. That is, no one comes to a presentation saying “I hope the speaker screws up.” Why not? Because a bad presentation is painful. Instead, since most people hope for a good performance, most people are inherently on your side from the start. Therefore, even in an audience of strangers, most will be allies, not adversaries. Take comfort in their support.

3. Begin by choosing one of four objectives. 
Everyone knows that before you start any project should determine your objective. Yet many speakers skip this essential step preferring instead to “Just wing it.” Bad idea. When you “wing it” it shows, and no one is ever happy with the result. Good speakers, however, always begin by asking “Is my objective to inform, to persuade, to inspire, or to entertain.” You can choose one, two, three, or all four, but you must choose at least one. Remember, if your objective isn’t clear to you, the audience will never figure it out. Don’t expect the audience to do your work for you.

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David Brooks
1990 World Champion of Public Speaking
Austin, Texas

David Brooks, won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in 1990. Since that time he has coached and/or mentored six subsequent World Champions and dozens of finalists. You may contact him at

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