Tips on Public Speaking

For those who do public speaking, I recently attended two webinars which provided great tips on organizing your presentation, choosing the best delivery method, creating relevant content and connecting with your target audience. The first webinar “Creating & Organizing your speech”, was hosted by LexBlog and Faith Pincus on May 18th. The second, on June 7th, was a webinar for upcoming speakers for the 2011 ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) Conference. I am speaking at this conference on a panel about “Next Generation Intranets” and will consider many of these tips and recommendations in planning and delivering my presentation.

Faith Pincus of Pincus Professional Education started her webinar by reminding attendees of the importance of “AMI” — Audience, Message and Image. To deliver an effective presentation, it is important to know your audience and its needs, provide a message that is coherent and logical, and project an image and delivery that is dynamic and confident. Faith then discussed five steps to help organize your presentation:

  1. Define the purpose of your presentation
  2. Write the purpose down, say it out loud and then edit 

  3. Gather supporting material which explains the concept
  4. Supporting material can include statistics, facts, quotes, cases, articles and stories. Stories are the most effective way to connect with the audience while communicating the overall message.

  5. Stick only to three main points 
  6. According to Faith, people absorb odd numbers rather then even numbers. Three points is just enough for the audience to retain the information you are trying to communicate.

  7. Select your organizational pattern
  8. How will you organize the delivery of the information: by topic, in chronological or sequential order, or in a problem/solution or compare/contrast format?

  9. Create your outline

Faith recommends creating a five sentence outline which describes the key concepts and purpose of your presentation. The sentences should be practised out loud to become familiar with the concepts and find out what works and what doesn’t. The sentences should then be reduced to a keyword outline. I have often transferred the keyword outline to index cards that can be used to rehearse my speech or spark my memory during the presentation.

Finally, Faith spoke about the importance of a strong introduction and conclusion. The introduction to a presentation provides the opportunity to define its purpose, control your image, establish credibility and preview the main points. A great attention grabber is to start with a quote, anecdote or rhetorical question. The conclusion should reinforce the purpose, the three main points and refer to the attention grabber in the introduction.

The ILTA speaker’s webinar had conference organizers and experts sharing their tips for speaking at the ILTA Annual Conference in August. The key message was to know your audience and try to make it part of the conversation. The experts offered various techniques for interactivity including crowd sourcing, polls, Q&A, asking for a show of hands in response to a question, or asking audience members for stories like a show and tell. Crowd sourcing is an interesting concept where you use social media tools like Twitter (hash tags) or a Wiki to collect ideas or to survey or poll the audience in advance of, or during, the session.

The following tips were recommended to create rich and relevant content:

  1. Tell stories and give examples based on experience
  2. Balance theory with specifics
  3. Manage content to the allotted time
  4. Set accurate expectations and deliver 

Provide more detail in the hand-out than on the power point slides was another excellent piece of advice. Like Faith, the ILTA experts emphasized the importance of an introduction that lists the objectives and purpose of the presentation, and a conclusion that reinforces the purpose and provides key takeaways and resources.

These are great tips if you are a public speaker or about to do your first speaking engagement.


  1. Hi Heather,

    Don’t know how I missed this but I did. I just popped up in a new facebook page preview for my company (posted by Sean Carter). Thanks! Great re-cap! Faith