Thursday, 21 June 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi speech at Westminster Hall - Presentations must have substance

I am sure you have attended presentations where the pre-event  'hype' was somewhat better than the core content of the presentation.

The eloquence  of the speaker might have been evident  but like a cheap Chinese meal you were left somewhat hungry and disappointed soon after the presentation.

Content does matter as so do the actual words you will use and how you use them.

Aung San Suu Kyi will be addressing both houses of the British Parliament this afternoon in the historic Westminster Hall. This honour is usually extended only to heads of state. She will be only the second women after the Queen to do so.

 The publicity of her European tour , her first since 1998 has raised expectations but the Nobel Laureate and Burmese opposition leader still has to deliver a speech of substance.

Her undoubted charisma , personality and eloquence are important of course, but I guess she will have to have thought and prepared very carefully  what message she wants to convey.

Despite her outward serenity we can imagine that she will be nervous and excited by the occasion.

Mural Painting in Brighton, Sussex,  England of Aung San Suu Kyi

We may never have to make a presentation of such high profile as Aung San Suu Kyi's to the 'mother of parliaments' but the preparation of our presentation's content is the key to overcoming any nervous tension we may have as a speaker.

 Our confidence will increase in direct relation to the amount of preparation you have done for your presentation.

There will of course be occasions on which you simply do not have the time to prepare your presentation as fully as you would like.

 If, however you get into the habit of preparing presentations fully when you do have the time, you will find it much easier to put together an effective presentation when time is against you.

Opening a presentation file – ‘The Shark bait diary’

My Shark bait diary

So what does this preparation consists of ? 

When you first learn of an impending presentation, open a file into which you will place all the material you find that is relevant to the presentation. 

 It may be that in view of the subject and the audience, you need to do extra research in order to ensure that you know as much about the subject as you need.

You may like to open a folder on your PC but I prefer a physical folder. for this  job. Once you collect a lot of information it is easier to 'sort out the wheat from the chaff' when you can see and handle it.

There are many sources for this extra information:

·         Record all the stories, anecdotes, quotes you hear (if you don’t write it down, most of us forget the things that can make us smile!)

·         Talk to colleagues within your company and record their ideas and thoughts. Maybe write them on a 3M Post it note and stick them in your shark bait diary.

·         Read the sales aids which your company produces. Access learning portals and learning management systems if your company has such resources available to you.

·         Read the relevant professional publications. Whilst we still have a public reference library service in the UK use it and ask advice from the librarians / information scientists at the reception desks.

Every trade and profession has its own journal or magazine whether it is accountancy, marketing, computer technology or engineering.

Articles in these publications will contain interesting examples of work being carried out, problems that are being experienced and often amusing stories or anecdotes with which the writers ensure that they retain the interest of their readers.

Useful resources:

  • UKTI part of the Foreign Office can be a helpful resource

  •   also for Sales Information ISMM library ( for full access you need to be a member)

Also consider setting up Google alerts on your subject area and gather the useful data from it.

Have you noticed how, as soon as you know that you have to give a presentation on a particular subject or to a particular client, you start to notice items in the press or on radio and television programmes which relate to that subject or client? 

Capture news cuttings, magazines, newspapers etc .Your Shark bait diary

 Keep the press cuttings, make a note of the information you see and hear, and put all of these into your ‘presentation file' or Shark bait diary. 

 Many of us have to make presentations at short notice, so a source of entertaining and interesting data can be a valuable aid in creating a memorable presentation.

  Too often business presentations are very dry or heavily technical where the ‘human’ element is missing – interest peaks are anchored with illustrations, examples, stories, that will lift dull material out of the swamp of sameness.

Your Presentation's structure

As the time for your presentation comes ever closer, you will need to sit down and sort all of this material into a complete presentation.

As you sit down to write your presentation you will of course need a structure to ensure that your presentation is built around a solid foundation.

The traditional structure which is often recommended is that of the old style military method
                                    "you tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em;
                         tell 'em
                         then tell 'em what you've told 'em"
  Whilst this may be appropriate for perhaps a school lecture, there are more effective and interesting ways of structuring your business presentation.

The basic structure, which is far more interesting and stimulating, is to construct an opening, a central theme and a close.  It is simple, easy and it works!  In a typical business presentation the structure is as follows:

·         Open with a vivid, unexpected remark

·         Link it to your main theme

·         Move into an outline of your agenda for the presentation

·         Tell the audience how you plan to handle questions

·         Define for your audience their business objectives, whatever you perceive them to be:

e.g.    -     improve profitability

-          grow new high margin business

-          achieve targeted growth

-          lower down time

-          reduced maintenance

·         Present your core theme

·         Handle and answer their questions

·         Close

(Define what you want your audience to do next or use an attention grabbing ending.  Too often a good presentation can end on a rather weak summary or come to a grinding halt rather than the more upbeat effect that can be created by using headings such as

 ‘The next step’ or ‘Where do we go from here?’ or Action Plan etc.)

Although watch out for those cliche expression like 'moving forward' or 'going forward' which are becoming a bit hackneyed nowadays.

Preparing your 'leit motif' your central theme

  As the name implies, an effective presentation will have a theme or leit motif which runs throughout your presentation which brings logic and cohesion to everything you say in the presentation.

Now look at all the material you have gathered together in your file and ask the question “What points must I include in my presentation?”  When you have answered this question, you will have identified the main points of your presentation.  Be careful not to cover too many main points, or you will leave your audience overloaded with information which they will find it difficult to remember.

What will be the points Aung San Suu Kyi wishes to plant in  British minds  this afternoon?

Related links

Classic speech openings and closings used by Aung Sang Suu Kyi

Tips to control nerves  at business presentations

Use of VOICE in Effective Business Presentations

Tips on resenting with PowerPoint in business

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