A Solid First Step
Wise folks in China said that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step … I wish to add to that by saying – A successful journey of 1000 miles starts with a firm first step.
Start well and you will find the rest of it happening as expected – beginning well adds to your confidence and improves the probability of the remaining steps going according to plan.
Whether you are preparing a speech or a sales presentation or even a quiz there is a logical sequence of steps that need to be followed to ensure success (a friend wrote back after reading yesterday’s article and said that the steps I outlined for presentations work just as well for the quizzes she presents):
- Organize all the material
When the topic or subject is chosen / decided your first step is research – gather all the necessary material: data, visuals, graphs, videos, interviews, evidence, information on people, places and time – you are ready now to start preparing for the presentation.
Even after you have started working there may be new developments that may necessitate a totally new tack – change in structure, direction and key issues. But that comes later on; to begin with you need to all the material organized as per the original plan.
- Who is the audience
Know in advance who is your audience? Speaking about Conservation to a bunch of kindergartners or a group of college students or to members of the Board require totally different approaches. The kids would be interested in a presentation that has a lot of visual and audio cues, the college student would be interested in things they can do (action oriented) and the senior executives would love to hear about profits and savings that can accrue from being nature-friendly.
- Start Strong
I once watched a friend make an impressive speech at the Toastmasters’ Club. His speech was about overcoming adversity and achieving excellence in our pursuits. He started the speech by saying that at times in life we need to take 2-3 steps backward before making the great leap forward – and as he spoke he moved back 2-3 steps, the final step taking him to the edge of the raised platform (he had us locked on – we worried whether he would fall) and from there he took a huge leap forward and the idea was bought.
The speaker had obviously decided to move away from the usual practice of making a smart opening statement and worked out a scheme to create impact with a something radically different.
Using a negative sounding statement as an opening gets people’s attention too – think of ways to get people interested.
- Develop the theme
After a crispy and crunchy start your speech gets into the meaty section, like in a properly fried piece of Chicken. You need to ensure that there is good material there to substantiate the start and topic is developed in a logic sequence. There has to be smooth transitions from one section to the next and substantiation for all the thoughts presented.
While you develop the theme think about the questions your audience could pose and prepare the answers – that reduces surprises for you and tells the other party that they are dealing with a competent person.
- Find ways to retain the audience’s attention:
A famous defense lawyer was known to use a visual trick to divert the attention of the jury and the judge from his opposite party’s summing up speech. He would keep a lit cigar between his fingers and permit it to burn down slowly, not bothering to tap the ash. That created tension in the room, everyone waiting for the section of ash to fall. The visual cue was used to reduce the impact of the prosecutor’s submission, by distracting the audience.
Think about ways you can create impact – with visuals or words or sounds. That will keep your audience actively engaged in the presentation.
- Sum up and close
Have a solid example which could be presented verbally or visually as evidence for all that you have said. It could be a testimonial or a completed product – at times a summary of all that you had said till then would do.
You can also end with a question which can prompt the audience to think / take action – in Social Media they use the term Call for Action Buttons.
Remember, an opening that grabs them, a meaty central section and a thought provoking end that will lead to action.