These days, the need to make presentations is increasing. From the home to the workplace; from different associations to religious bodies; individuals are constantly called upon to say one thing or the other in public. Employees are required to defend reports or present proposals to the board, a committee, a boss or colleagues. Team leaders are required to communicate effectively to other members of the group, failure to do that convince affects the performance of the team.
Leaders are not left out. They are required to make comments at every gathering, however, short it may be. Some even request for it, just to announce their presence. In all these, yours truly have discovered that the so-called experts make various mistakes in the bid to show how competent they are.
What you get is acronyms, jargons, insider languages etc.; even those who attempt to write their speech commit unpardonable mistakes. Have you seen our politicians make presentations? My heart bleeds when I watch those who govern us do things even little kids will not do in the name of delivering speeches. Even when these speeches are written for them by various experts, they can’t even present it.
Let us look at some examples. Arch Lustberg, in his book "How to Sell Yourself", gave some case studies. Carefully read the following. "It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the obfuscatory nature of formal discourse be dispensed with in the most propitious manner." This quote simply means, "Simplify your language."
In an effort to impress an audience with our brilliance, many forget to express themselves clearly, simply, briefly, and unforgettably. Another example, "Serving as a panelist with the other past president of motivational and business speakers, Nigeria is indeed a pleasure and a rare opportunity. It is hard to believe that a 10-year span of time has passed since our first session. What perspectives the various past presidents have brought to the hundreds of people who have attended our sessions through the years." Putting the above on paper will not be a problem. But try the words at the lectern and your guess would be as good as mine. Converted to a simple language the above could sound something like "I can’t believe, it’s been 10 years since our first session! It’s great to serve here with the other past presidents. Each has brought a unique perspective."
What is the essence of communicating in a manner your target audience will not understand? Should people make it a habit to come along with dictionaries each time they know you are the one making presentation? How about another example? "Those costs and the inconvenience to airline passengers can be reduced substantially, but fundamental changes in the funding and management of our air traffic control system are required." The audience may not remember anything from the above sentence when they leave your presence. But it could be simplified thus: "We could cut those costs. We could reduce the inconvenience to the passengers. But we’d have to make some changes, basic changes, in the way we fund and mange air traffic control."
Speeches made with simple language is easy to follow; and easy to understand. The use of big definitions and grammars makes it difficult for the audience to flow with the speaker as they struggle to interpret what has been said and in the process lose the next thought from the speaker.
Experience has shown that on the podium, long sentences will get you in trouble. You will be forced to look at your text and read when you should be looking at your audience and talking. Arch Lustberg recounted an experience in one of his workshops where a participant made the following presentations.
"Proposals submitted by offerors in response to the agency’s RFP HSCS-6 for an information management system were examined by the agency evaluation team in order to determine that 100 per cent of the mandatory requirements, considered paramount to the adequate function of the system to fulfil basic agency needs, had been met; and secondly to estimate the offerors’ ability to meet the evaluated optional features, as were set forth in the above mentioned RFP. It was determined by the evaluation team, using the stated evaluation guidelines, that XYZ Corporation was not in a position to provide the important, if not mandatory, evaluated optional features."
After the training, he changed it to:
"Buying a computer system isn’t that different from buying a car. First, you go to a few dealers and look at their cars. Then, you check the options you want.
Yes, XYZ Corporation did meet the mandatory requirements. Yes, their car had four wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel, but it didn’t have windshield wipers and the door didn’t lock!"
I think it’s better to share more stories when making a presentation than to use big grammar. Experience has shown that an audience will always remember a well-told, relevant story.
Clear and concise speeches will be remembered after a long time. One of the speeches remembered in history is that made by Winston Churchill.
We shall not flag or fail.
We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in France.
We shall fight on the seas and oceans.
We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.
We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches.
We shall fight in the fields, and on the streets.
We shall fight in the hills.
We shall never surrender.
An audience’s attention span is limited. You must be a dynamic speaker to hold the audience attention for more than 30 minutes. So make it short. Most people listen to a speaker for more than that out of respect. Many times they are just physically present while their minds would be focused on other things.
If you are making a presentation in the morning when your audience will still be fresh, then it’s advisable to prepare for 30 minutes. If it’s during lunch, keep it to a maximum of 20 minutes. If in the early evening or after dinner, limit your speech to 10 or 15 minutes and try to give it plenty of energy. This way, your audience will always thank you for been considerate