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How to improve your presentation skills -

Part 4: Speak, don't read

The more you read a presentation, the more wooden and phony it sounds. The audience is less likely to retain interest and you stand to lose credibility. Additionally, you will have less emotional impact and risk the possibility of losing your place and your mind going blank. It is much better to know the material well enough to be comfortable and spontaneous.

Be sure to speak conversationally and use every day common English. There is a difference between oral and written language. The latter is usually more complex and filled with bigger, technical words we don’t use in everyday conversation. Sentences tend to be longer and contain too much information. When speaking, you want to make sure your thoughts are clear with room for inflection, pauses, and emotion.

A few years ago, a spokesperson for the local United Way campaign was a woman who had been abused by her husband. Understandably, she was reluctant to tell her story and had little experience speaking before an audience. We worked through her presentation for several hours, deciding what she wanted to say and the stories she wanted to tell. Ultimately, her presentation broke down into four main segments that she had on an index card:

  1. The abuse
  2. The escape
  3. United Way’s help
  4. Today

This preparation and practice gave her the confidence she needed and that year’s United Way campaign was a huge success!

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