Langevin Blog

Put it in Writing: Delivering Flawless Presentations

August 22nd, 2011

When it comes to public speaking or delivering presentations, I have learned (the hard way, I must admit) that regardless of my years of expertise on the subject, I must first put my words in writing.

Too often we witness what could otherwise have been a stellar speech or presentation totally flop or, at a minimum, fall short of being a great delivery because of the speaker’s overzealousness or overconfidence in their knowledge of the subject-matter. The result: a choppy, disconnected, uninspiring program that leaves the audience wishing they had signed up for a different breakout session, presentation, or perhaps not shown up at all.

What is the core of this problem? Often it is because too many speakers may think it a waste of time to write out their speech or program prior to actually presenting it. Most people jot down some key points or quick thoughts on a Post-It® note, or scribble some random ideas on a piece of paper. Have you ever seen someone look at their notes on the palm of their hands to recall what they’re supposed to say? What effect did that have for you? For me I am always left with the feeling that the speaker or presenter took my being there for granted and did not care enough to deliver the goods.

So what is one to do if you want to show your audience that you care about their being there and want them to receive what they came to get?

Whenever I have to deliver a keynote or a presentation, I write down my content exactly as I will be delivering it. Yep – that’s precisely what I mean – exactly as the words will come out of my mouth. And, yes, it is the most time-consuming, labor-intensive, and challenging part of the process. But why do this? There are numerous reasons but I will focus on only two.

First, when I take the time to write my thoughts down as I am planning to express them verbally, I have the opportunity to examine how they will actually sound to my audience – the people who will be coming to hear me speak. This means I am not writing with the same format and guidelines that I would follow if I were writing an article for a trade publication. I write as I will speak the words. This increases my chances that, as I rehearse and further develop the final touches of my program, I am making sure I am crafting it so I can connect with my audience at a personal level. I sound like a person, not a report, to them. It makes it more personal.

Second, it also helps me to identify terminology that, while it may position me as an authority, may alienate me as a pompous, detached, and/or conceited individual who is only interested in sounding as expensive as the price of admission. When I write my speech down, I have an opportunity to identify wording that can be simplified and turned into everyday language so that everyone may get the benefit of the information I am providing.

Does this mean the presenter/speaker has to say the words exactly as they’re written? No, of course not. It means that when the presenter is in the process of delivery, they have a better chance of being spontaneous, relaxed, and confident because they know what they have to say; all they have to worry about is connecting to the audience.

Do you write your speeches and presentations down before you deliver them? If so, tell us about the benefits you get from doing it and what processes you follow to make sure you sound like a star! I look forward to hearing from you.

The Langevin Team



2 Responses to “Put it in Writing: Delivering Flawless Presentations”

  1. Great article, José!

    I find writing out the content of your presentation in full helps ensure that you touch on all of your key points. Additionally, it lets you evaluate whether you’re transitioning logically between one idea and the next.

    If you have an opportunity to deliver the same presentation to different groups, you can incorporate feedback from participants into your next talk. Spend more time on complex topics, minimize your emphasis on topics with less relevance to the group.

    This approach definitely takes more time – but I find I sleep much better the night before a big presentation if I’m prepared! : )

  2. Christine Stait-Gardner says:

    I too have learned that this is the best way to prepare. I don’t end up following what I’ve written to the letter, it just means I’ve thought it through.
    It does take time, but it’s so worth it!

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