Oral reports, speeches, or giving oral briefings seems to make way too many people nervous when they find out they have been tasked to give one. The purpose of this post is to give you guidelines to help you not only give a professional briefing, but also set your mind at ease a bit.
PREPARATION: Always make sure you have produced the best report you can on the topic given the timelines. Practice your report in front of a mirror, video camera which you can review afterwards to see what you need to improve on, or friends to work out the bugs and make yourself more confident in the topic and speaking in front of others. You will find that you are more critical of yourself than your audience will ever be. Practice is imperative because even if you are the world’s foremost authority on a subject, if you get up there and stammer and hesitate awkwardly, it will make you appear as if you don’t know what you are talking about.
THE SPEECH: When speaking, always make eye contact with your audience. If making eye contact makes you nervous, at least give the perception of making eye contact. This can be accomplished by focusing on a point just past your audience while speaking. Get your audience to participate by asking for a show of hands on different non-embarrassing questions. Or, you can ask a member of your audience to relate a story on the subject of your speech.
The steps to a good briefing are:
1. Attention getter
4. Main Points and sub-points
The attention getter can be anything to grab their attention. A simple, but appropriate joke or a stunt seems to work great. Years ago I had to give a briefing on stress and how physical exercise can alleviate the negative effects of it. After all the other presenters had spoken, it was my turn. The emcee introduced me and then stepped aside for me to take the podium. I just sat there with my head down pretending to be preoccupied with something. The emcee walked over to where I was sitting and quietly told me it was my turn to speak. At this point I threw my notes into the air, screamed “I can’t take this, I quit!” and started out of the auditorium. As I neared the doors leading to freedom, I turned around and started back towards the podium. As I walked to the front again, I asked out loud “How many times have you felt so overburdened that you wanted to do what I just did?” No one, including the emcee, expected that and I had 100% of their attention. Having just scared my whole audience, I felt more at ease to make my speech.
The Introduction is a short spiel about who you are, your topic and what your qualifications are to speak on this topic. Keep it short and sweet.
The Overview is the non in depth synopsis of what you are going to say. “Today, I am going to speak to you about the negative effects stress can have on both your physical and mental well-being and how exercise can not only relieve the physical effects of stress, but can also strengthen your mind to combat it in the future.”
The main points and sub-points is where you speak about the most important aspects of your topic. An example would be:
a. Signs of stress
b. Positive effects
c. Negative effects
a. How exercise combats stress
b. Cautions to exercise
Depending on your situation, (i.e. professor’s lecture) you may have to go into more depth.
The review is where you repeat the highlights of what you have just spoken about. “Today, I gave you information needed to identify when you are under stress. How to identify whether or not it is good or bad stress. The physical and psychological effects of that stress. How exercise relieves stress and symptoms to watch for while exercising to ensure you do not harm yourself relieving the stress.”
Then, all you have left to do is thank your listeners for their time and attention and ask if there are any questions. You can always tell when you have done a good job because there will be a few questions that indicate you have stimulated interest in your topic and compliments tied in during this last phase of your speech.
Also, when giving a briefing, it is beneficial to give your listeners something to view so that they can follow along and keep them attached to what you are saying. Whether it be something as simple as a dry erase board or a PowerPoint presentation, eye candy is beneficial.
If you use a PowerPoint presentation, use the following suggestions:
1. Do not put word for word what you are going to say, use bullet statements.
2. Bullet statements are just brief main or sub-point reminders for you.
3. Do not use unnecessary sound effects. They are distracting and will eventually become annoying if used too much.
4. Do not use transitions for slide changes, but may be used to introduce one bullet statement at a time. Too many transitions are a distraction – Keep it simple!
5. Do not put in charts and graphs as filler. If there is an important point that can be represented by a chart, okay; otherwise stick with the bullets.
6. Use language and terms that can be understood by everyone in your audience.
7. Do not use acronyms without spelling them out first.
8. Avoid color combinations that clash or may make it hard to read by your audience.
9. Keep your presentation as short as you can while still covering the topic adequately.
When I was younger, the thought of having to speak in front of a group 10 people made me so nervous that I would not be able to sleep for several days before speaking. Now, I have given speeches to several hundred people at one time and it’s nothing more than a walk in the park.
Just remember that for a good speech: Grab their attention; Tell them who you are; Tell them what you are going to tell them; Tell them; Tell them what you told them; and Wrap it up.
I hope these tips help you on your future endeavors in public speaking.