6 Steps towards improving your Speaking Skills

How to effectively improve your speaking skills divided into 6 easy steps

Public Speaking

Just the thought of making a presentation, a speech, or having to speak up during a meeting makes many people very anxious. In fact, for many public speaking even is their number one fear and they tend to avoid it whenever possible.

However, public speaking is a skill that, if practiced sufficiently, can be turned into something that you can be good at and enjoy.  Below are six easy steps that will help you to turn yourself into a good and confident speaker.

  1. Speak clearly
  2. Develop ‘flow’
  3. Choose your ‘expert’ topic
  4. Become a topic expert
  5. Develop style
  6. Practice daily
  1. Speak Clearly

Clear speech is direct and takes responsibility of its meaning. This means that if you want to make an impact, you should not be vague or abstract. You need to make sure that what you say is what you believe, so you can ‘own’ the content of your talk. This means that you should be direct in how you address people. So, don’t say:

It wasn’t appreciated.

Instead, when you make a claim, make sure people know it is your claim and say:

I didn’t appreciate it.

Taking responsibility means that, if you are not speaking for other people but just for yourself, they should know that. So, don’t say:

We are not sure what to do.

When you are speaking for yourself, instead say:

I am not sure what to do.’

People will appreciate it when you are being direct and are taking responsibility for what you say because it makes you connect with them on a personal level. As a speaker, this makes you more believable, so your talk will have more impact.

Volume is also important if you want to be clear, because clear speech demands attention and gives you ‘presence’. People need to know that you are there and understand that you came to talk to them about something important. Speaking at a volume that is just right, so neither too loud nor too soft, makes people trust you. It makes you look confident and it makes your audience understand that you know what you are talking about.

It is also important that you speak with passion. Showing that you are enjoying what you are doing will rub off on the people that are listening to you, and they will want to share in your passion.  To look at things differently, you cannot expect people to enjoy your speech if they think you are not even enjoying it yourself.

Speaking clearly also means not overusing slang and jargon. Slang tends to be quite informal and, therefore, not appropriate in all situations. So, don’t say:

That is an awesome idea.

Instead, you should use more neutral language and say:

‘That is a great idea.’

Jargon should also be kept to a minimum because just the people that are familiar with it will understand it, and it will make your talk quite abstract. Let’s look at this example:

I can give you a ballpark figure.’

The term ‘ballpark figure’ is often used in sales, accountancy and finance. It is a rough numerical estimate of something. However, it is possible that only people who are working in these fields will understand you.

  • Develop ‘Flow’

Speaking with ‘flow’ means looking comfortable in front of the people you’re talking to and being able to speak about any topic with equal grace. Contrary to what many people believe, having flow is not a skill that people are born with, it can be practiced and learned.

Also, looking at ease when speaking to audience should not be confused with being at ease. Often, a lot will be going on in your head when you are speaking, but most of that is not visible to the people in front of you. To develop ‘flow’, there are a number of things to consider.

First of all, thinking about the pace at which you speak is important. Most people, especially when they are nervous, tend to speak too quickly. Speaking quickly affects accuracy and understanding negatively and therefore it is important to take your time. When you consciously force yourself to speak slightly slower than you normally would, your pace tends to be just right for your audience.

Pausing is also important when presenting, for a variety of reasons. Not only can it replace the ‘uh’s and ‘uhm’s, and the filler words that people use in everyday speech, pausing can also be used for emphasis. For instance, many good presenters build in a short pause right before saying something important. In this way, what they say has more impact and is therefore is more likely to be remembered by the audience. Pauses are also used in other advanced presentation techniques.

  • Choose your ‘Expert’ Topic

When trying to become a better public speaker it helps to choose an ‘expert’ topic that you can use to practice with. Often this is something related to your passions or interests. The advantage of choosing something that your care about is that when are talking about that subject, you will probably already be knowledgeable about the subject, so you can spend less time thinking about the content of your talk and more about the delivery. In addition, it will also make you look confident. An added benefit is that your passion for the subject is likely to shine through and you will look more excited about what you are going to say.

  • Becoming the ‘Expert’

Because it is much easier to talk about something that you already know a lot about, it makes sense to choose these types of subjects to talk about if you can, or become a topic expert if you need to. In this last instance that means it will definitely be worth it to study up your subject so you can start your presentation with confidence. Once you are confident, you will find that you will naturally aim for conversations that you are comfortable with, pursue positive reactions from your speaking partners when you talk to them and naturally divide your talk into subtopics, all because you are the expert.

  • Develop Style

Now that you have become a topic expert, you can develop your style. Style is personal, which means that there is not one way, or just one style in which you should present. Your style needs to go with your personality and often it takes quite some time and experience to discover what your personal style is.

To develop your presentation style the volume at which you speak, and particularly the variation in it, can help you to make your talk more memorable. For instance, you could speak up when you are (or want your audience to be) excited about something.

Varying your pace is also a useful tool that can help you discover your style. Not only do certain advanced presentation techniques require you to speed up, slow down or pause, varying your pace could also help you express emotions effectively.

Showing good body language is also an essential skill to develop if you want to be a better presenter. Your gestures and expressions not only support the content of your talk, they also tell the audience a lot about how you feel as a presenter. For this reason, being aware of how you look and how you move in front of your audience is something worth working on.

Adding some humorous comments of jokes to your presentation could also help. It is a good way to establish rapport between you and the audience, especially during your opening. You do have to keep in mind, however, that humor is very personal and culturally specific. What some people find hilarious may not work on others. Because of this, you have to keep in mind that a joke can work wonders if people find it funny, but it can be disastrous for your presentation if it bombs. Therefore, if you choose to include a joke, you may want to choose one that is safe, or at the expense of yourself.

Telling a story can also work well. You can use it as a ‘hook’ to make your audience interested and to approve your credibility as an expert if you choose to a story that is personal. In general, storytelling will also make your talk more interesting because your story will link your subject to everyday life experiences and make your presentation come to life.

  • Practice Daily

When it comes to presenting well, practice makes perfect. There is no way around it; the more you practice, the better you’ll become. This doesn’t mean, however, that all your presentation should be ‘high stakes’. If you want to become better, most of your presentations should take place at home. You should ask friends and family for feedback, record yourself on video, and practice in front of a mirror. Setting specific targets for yourself will help you focus on specific skills. This means choosing one or two things you want to focus on every time you practice. Presenting at ‘real’ events will help you learn to present under pressure. This could range from simply starting a conversation during a party, to speaking up during a meeting, to being on the podium in front of a real audience. It doesn’t matter, as long as you practice, you’ll get better and more confident.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned steps will help you become a better, more confident, and more successful presenter. Just keep in mind that presenting is not a talent you are born with, but a skill that you can work on and develop over time until it becomes something you are skilled at and is fun.

Presentation skills: The Power of Changing the Focus of a Sentence

Making what you say during a presentation have more impact by changing the focus of a sentence.

Focus

In a presentation your content is of course essential. However, if you want to make a real impact, it is often not just what you say that is important, but also how you say it. Putting emphasis on certain points in your message by changing the word order of your sentences can help you focus the audience’s the parts that you think they should remember.

‘Given’ and ‘New’ Information

In English, important information is often put at the beginning or the end of a sentence, but there are two types of important information: ‘Given’ information and ‘new ‘information.

Given information is that which the listener already knows, and it is usually put at the beginning of a sentence. So, if the topic of your presentation is poverty, you can assume that this is given information for the audience. In that case you would probably use something like the following sentence:

Poverty is the state of being extremely poor.

‘New’ information is that which the listener has not heard before, and this information is put at the end of a sentence. 

Poverty is the state of being extremely poor.

Looking at this sentence, you will see that when defining the term poverty, that which defines the term is put at the end of the sentence. In other words, the information in the last part of the sentence explains, or gives meaning to the first part. That is because the definition of the term poverty is the new information.

This idea of putting given information at the beginning of a sentence and new information at the end can be very helpful when building  a well-structured argument if you make the new information from one sentence the given information from the next. In other words, the what you added to the last part of one sentence  as new information, should be put at the beginning of the next as given information, like in the following example:

Poverty is the state of being extremely poor. Being extremely poor has negative effects on the economy.

You could now continue your argument by making the new information from the last sentence, the given information in the next. In this case you would then start by taking negative effects on the economy as the beginning of your next sentence. Please note, however, that when using this technique, you should not always just copy the exact words from the previous sentence, since this would lead to a very awkward writing style. You should, however, repeat the information, so in many cases you should paraphrase instead of repeat.

Shifting Focus

As mentioned, shifting focus means changing the word order of a sentence to put emphasis on something in a sentence.  This could be, for instance:

  • A person
  • An object
  • A time
  • Etc.

Now let’s look at how you could change to focus of a sentence by changing the normal word order.

Normal sentence:

Alexander Fleming invented penicillin in 1928.

Focus on the person:

It was Alexander Fleming who invented penicillin in 1928.

Focus on the object:

It was penicillin which Alexander Fleming invented.

Focus on the time:

It was in 1928 when Alexander Fleming invented penicillin.

Changing the focus of the sentence by moving the things you want to emphasis to the front of the sentence allows you to formulate your words in such a way that your audience is much more likely to remember.

Introducing ‘New’ Information

Keeping in mind that new information usually goes at the end of a sentence, it makes sense that if you put it there when you introduce it for the first time. So, let’s look at the following examples:

Normal sentence:

Global warming is my subject today.

New information at the end:

What I’m going to talk about today is global warming.

Normal sentence:

Profitability is essential

New information at the end:

What is essential is profitability.

Clarifying Points

When talking about complex topics, or when, for some reason, you digressed from what you planned to talk about, you will need some expressions to put the focus back on the main points of what you wanted to say. Here are some expressions that will help you do that:

Let me put in another way …

Look at it this way …

What I’m trying to say is …

The point/thing is …

Conclusion

Putting focus on specific information by changing the word order in order to change the emphasis in a sentence can be a very powerful presentation technique. Just by carefully thinking about how you say what you want to say could dramatically improve the impact your message will have on your audience, so use it to your advantage.

Presentation Skills: Effective Openings

How to effectively open your presentation and ‘hook’ your audience to grab their attention.

Starting your presentation with an effective opening is extremely important for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, people form an opinion about each other usually within the first few minutes of meeting for the first time, and this is no different for you as a presenter. This means that the audience will have already formed some kind of opinion about you before you reach the main body of your talk, and if this opinion is positive, they will be more open to your message.

Also, starting your presentation well makes you feel confident, and speaking confidently is essential to get your message across and grab the audience’s attention. In order to do that, you need a ‘hook’, which is a way to make sure that your audience wants to listen to you.

There are several ways in which you can earn the audience’s attention, for example, by starting your presentation with an interesting story or an anecdote that links to your subject. It often helps if this story is personal, and based on an experience you had. Personal stories tell your listeners that you have experience, and that you know what you are talking about.

Revealing something personal will also help you to establish rapport between you and your audience. There may be people in the audience with whom you share certain experiences or interests and connecting to them on a personal level will make them more likely to want to listen to you.

If you decide to ‘hook’ your audience with a personal story or anecdote, it helps to do this in a conversational style, so you are easy for the audience to relate to. You could start with phrases like:

When I think about what life would be like without internet access, I …

I remember when I had to take my first important exam. I …

Have you ever been in a situation where you walk into a room and everybody starts looking at you? Well, I …

Another way of ‘hooking’ your audience is by giving them a problem to think about. By doing this you not only put them in the right mindset to be susceptible to your message, you also make them feel that you are asking them contribute to finding an answer to the problem you are going to discuss. They are becoming part of the presentation, which is another way of establishing rapport between you and the people in the room. Phrases that you could use are:

How would you react if you were given the opportunity to invest one million euros in a company of your choice?

How many people here this morning feel that they are spending too much time online?

Suppose you were given to opportunity to go back to college, what would you study?

You could also use some interesting facts or statistics to earn the attention of your audience. Doing this adds gravity to your message because what you say isn’t just your opinion but your claims will be supported either by what people believe to be generally true or by verifiable proof. What makes this work is that what you say will be supported, which makes it easier for your audience to believe you. Here are some example phrases:

Did you know that the Netherlands has twice as many bicycles as cars?

Research shows that, on average, mobile internet users spend nearly three hours online every day.

According to a recent study, around fifteen percent of the carbon released into the environment is due to deforestation.

Presentation Techniques: Effective Openings

In conclusion, you only get one opportunity to make a first impression, which means that it very important to start your presentation well. Coming up with an effective ‘hook’ will help you to grab the audience’s attention so they will be open to what you have to say.

Revising Sentence Fragments

How to correct fragmented sentences that were created because the sentence lacks a subject, a verb, or both, or because the sentence does not express a complete thought

As the word ‘fragment’ suggests, a sentence fragment is a ‘part of’ a sentence. In other words, a sentence that is not complete. To be able to talk about sentence fragments it is important to talk about a sentence first.

For a group of words to form a complete sentence, it needs to first of all be a complete thought. This basically means that what is being expressed makes sense. The sentence should have a clear meaning by itself, without relying on other sentences around it to give it meaning.

Secondly, for a group of words to be a sentence, there needs to be a subject. This is the someone or the something that the sentence is about.

The third condition for a group of words to qualify as a sentence is that it needs to have a main verb. The main verb helps to explain what the subject (so the someone or something) is or does.

The following is an example of a complete sentence:

The researchers chose three random samples.

In this sentence ‘The researchers’ is the subject and ‘chose’ is the verb. Also, the sentence expresses a complete thought because it has a clear meaning by itself.

So, let’s move on to the sentence fragment.  In a sentence fragment, important information is missing and therefore it does not express a complete thought. These sentence fragments often occur in informal types of writing, for instance when the writer tries to use a more journalistic style, but in formal writing, fragments should not be used. Now, let’s look at these three examples of fragments:

Because the team made three awkward choices.

A plan with many risks involved.

Potential for making money everywhere.

There are four reasons groups of words are considered fragments.

  • There is a subject missing
  • The main verb is missing
  • They are both missing
  • The writer has created a subordinate clause.

The Subject is Missing

One way in which a sentence fragment can be created when you write a sentence that has no subject, like in this example:

By simply shipping more units can make this business profitable again.

Here the writer mistook the prepositional phrase ‘By simply shipping more units’ for a subject, which created the sentence fragment.  To correct this mistake, the preposition, so ‘By’ could be taken out, making the activity of ‘Simply shipping more units’ the subject of the sentence. Now it is a complete sentence that works.

The Main Verb is Missing

Sometimes a fragment is created because the sentence lacks a main verb, like in the following example:

Affordable products sold everywhere.

Possible revisions, in this case, could be either completing the verb, creating:

Affordable product were sold everywhere.

or turning the fragment into the direct object of the sentence by adding a subject and a verb. Like here:

They saw affordable products sold everywhere.

The Sentence Lacks a Subject and a Verb

Sometimes the subject and the verb are both missing from the sentence, like in this example:

Without a suitable explanation.

In this fragment there is no someone or something, doing or being anything, and it is also not a complete thought.  To revise this fragment, (to turn it into a sentence), a subject and a verb could be added, and the sentence would look something like this:

She left without a suitable explanation.

The Writer has Created a Subordinate Clause

The final reason why a group of words is a sentence fragment is that the writer has created a subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause, so a clause that needs independent clause to make a sentence).  A subordinate clause is a group of words that does contain a subject and a verb, but that does not express a complete thought because this type of clause needs to be combined with an independent clause to give it meaning. A subordinate clause by itself is a sentence fragment. Here is an example:

Until all the preliminary data has been processed.

To turn this fragment into a sentence it needs to be combined with an independent clause (In this case ‘the project cannot move forward’), and the sentence could look like this:

Until all the preliminary data has been processed, the project cannot move forward.

This is now a sentence that expresses a complete thought.

Using Parallelism in Writing

A tutorial on how to use parallelism in you writing effectively and how to revise faulty parallelism

Using parallelism means using matching words, phrases or clauses or sentences to express equivalent ideas. The reason for using parallelism is that it adds unity, balance and force to your writing.  On the contrary, when your writing lacks parallel structures, your writing style may seem awkward, which, in turn, could obscure the meaning of what you are trying to express. In other words, lack of parallelism could create confusion.

Using Parallelism Effectively

Parallelism emphasizes the relationships between equivalent ideas because it highlights the correspondence between:

  • Items in a series
  • Paired items
  • Elements in lists and outlines

Items in a series

When presenting items in a series, you should present them in parallel form. Like in these examples:

Baby food consumption, toy production, and school construction are likely to decline as the population of the Netherlands grows older.

Three factors influenced his decision to seek new employment: his desire to relocate, his need for greater responsibility, and his dissatisfaction with his current job.

Paired Items

Paired points or ideas should also be presented in parallel form because it emphasizes their equivalence and connects the two ideas. Here are two examples:

Roosevelt represented the United States, and Churchill represented Great Britain.

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Items linked by correlating conjunctions (such as not only/but also, both/and, either/or and neither/nor should also be parallel.

The design team paid close attention not only to color, but also to texture.

Thirdly, parallelism highlights the contrast between paired elements linked by than or as, like here:

Success is as much a matter of hard work as a matter of luck.

Items in a list

You should also  present Items in a list in parallel form, like in this example:

The Irish potato famine had four major causes:

  1. The establishment of the landlord-tenant system
  2. The failure of the potato crop
  3. The inadequate financial support by England
  4. The passage of the corn laws

Revising Faulty parallelism

Faulty parallelism occurs when equivalent ideas in a sentence are not presented in parallel form, like in for instance:

Many people in developing countries suffer because the countries lack sufficient housing to accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them, and their healthcare facilities are inadequate.

After revision, this sentence could look like this:

Many people in developing countries suffer because the countries lack sufficient housing to accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them, and sufficient health-care facilities to serve them.

Faulty parallelism when pairing items can be revised by making sure you use matching elements. This means that you have to pair nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, and phrases and clauses with similarly constructed phrases and clauses.

The following is a sentence with paired elements that should be revised:

Faulty:

Popular exercises for men and women include spinning, weight lifters, and jogging.

Revised:

Popular exercises for men and women include spinning, weight lifting, andjogging.

Sentences are often clearer and more emphatic if you repeat certain keywords (articles, prepositions, and the to in infinitives, for example) in each element of a pair or series, as illustrated here:

Faulty:

Computerization has helped industry by not allowing labor costs to skyrocket, increasing the speed of production, and improving efficiency.

Revised:

Computerization has helped industry by not allowing labor costs to skyrocket, by increasing the speed of production, and by improving efficiency.

When repeating relative pronouns, the relative pronoun constructions who(m) … and who(m), and which … and which are always paired and always introduce parallel clauses. When you revise, check to be sure a relative pronoun introduces each clause. To illustrate, let’s look at this example:

Faulty:

The Thing, directed by Howard Hawks, and which was released in 1951, featured James Arness as the monster.

Revised:

The Thing, which was directed by Howard Hawks and which was released in 1951, featured James Arness as the monster.

Revising Unwarranted Shifts

A tutorial on how to revise unwarranted shifts in writing to avoid awkward or confusing sentences

Verb tense in a sentence, or in a group of related sentences, should not change without a good reason. A good reason could be to indicate a change of time, for instance. Like in this example:

Pulp Fiction is a classic film that was made in 1994.

1.

Unwarranted shifts in tense, like in the following sentence, can make your text confusing.

I enrolled in the business course because I wanted to take over my father’s business. However, after a few months I start losing interest.

This would be an unwarranted shift from past to present and a revised version of this sentence would look like this:

I enrolled in the business course because I wanted to take over my father’s business. However, after a few months I started losing interest.

The verb start is now in the same tense as in the related sentence.

Unwarranted shifts don’t only occur from past to present, but also the other way around.

2.

Shifts in voice can also occur, for instance from active to passive, or from passive to active. The following example shows an unwarranted shift from active to passive:

Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of Steve Jobs, and later a biography of Leonardo da Vinci was written.

This awkward change in voice could be revised like this, by making the passive voice (was written) active (wrote):

Walter Isaacson wrote a biography of Steve Jobs, and later wrote a biography of Leonardo da Vinci.

There are instances where a shift in voice from active to passive within a sentence may be necessary, however, like here:

Although the students protested, the legal drinking age was raised.

In this case the shift from active (protested) to passive (was raised) keeps the focus on the students and the fact that they protested. Saying who raised the drinking age (for example, the government), in an active sentence would change the emphasis of the sentence here.

3.

Mood indicates whether the writer is making a statement or asking a question, which is called the indicative mood. Issuing a command or making a request is a called the imperative mood, and expressing a wish or a hypothetical condition is called the subjunctive mood.

Shifting between moods also leads to awkward sentences, like in this example, where the sentence shifts from the imperative to the indicative mood for no reason.

Next, place the slide under the microscope, and you should make sure to refocus the lens.

A revised version of this sentence would look like this:

Next, place the slide under the microscope, and be sure to refocus the lens.

4.

Person indicates who is speaking (for instance first person I or we), second person (So, who is spoken to (you)), and who is spoken about (he, she, it and they), which is third person. Unwarranted shifts in person often occur between third and second person, like in this sentence:

When someone buys a house, you should compare mortgage rates.

Here is the revised sentence:

When you buy a house, you should compare mortgage rates.

5.

Number indicates shifts between singular (for instance, words like it, business,  or cell) and plural (they, them, businesses, or cells). Singular pronouns should refer to singular antecedents and plural pronouns should refer to plural antecedents, which is not the case in the following sentence

If a person does not exercise regularly, they will not remain physically fit.

Here plural they refersto a singular noun, a person. The revised sentence should be this:

If a person does not exercise regularly, he or she will not remain physically fit.

6.

Direct discourse reports the direct words of the speaker or writer using quotation marks and an identifying tag (for instance she says), like in this sentence:

My teacher said, ‘I want you to report to the principal’s office.’

Indirect discourse summarizes the words of the speaker of writer and no quotation marks are used. To introduce the reported words, that is often used in case of a statement. For questions, who, what, why, whether, how, or if are used. Here is an example:

My teacher said that he wanted me to report to the principal’s office.

Shifts from in direct to direct discourse often cause the sentence to be confusing. Like here:

During the speech, Jake Anderson strongly emphasised the regulations and said I am in charge.

How to Write and Elevator Pitch

How to write a clear and effective elevator pitch

How to make an elevator pitch

Before you start making your elevator pitch, there are a number of things that are important to know. You need to understand what an elevator pitch is and why they are important. Also, you need to know how to write one, and to help you do that, it is a good idea to look at some examples and tips.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short presentation that usually is under two minutes in length. It could even be under one minute. The reason why it is called an elevator pitch is because the duration of the presentation is about the same as how long it takes to ride an elevator to the top of a tall building. Another way in which the term elevator pitch could be explained is that it was based on the hypothetical situation that you could run into an important business executive while sharing an elevator and that you would have the length of the ride to run your business idea by him/her.

An elevator pitch could be about yourself – for instance, if you are looking for a job – or it could be about a business idea, a product or a service.

Why is an elevator pitch important?

You could look at an elevator pitch as a mini-presentation that is always ready to go, and there is a variety of reasons why it is helpful to have one. First of all, an elevator pitch could serve as a good icebreaker to start a conversation and it is a useful way to get a lot of information across in a short time. Also, your pitch could work as an effective transition from the online-version of you, to the real-life version of you. It could serve as a way to be more than a person on a phone or a screen and could help you to make an impression. A well-prepared elevator pitch also helps you in exciting or stressful situations in which you want to rely on information that you have already thought about and prepared. Finally, an elevator pitch may also create opportunities for you to take the lead in conversations in which you need to make an impact.

How to write an elevator pitch

An effective elevator pitch is made up of four parts. First, you need to introduce yourself in a way that is short but memorable. Also, you need to provide a summary of what you do. This is important because it helps the listener to assess whether you, or the idea, product or service you provide, could be of help. Once you have made this clear to your audience, you need to explain what you want. In other words, this is the part in which you explain what you have to offer, or which problem you solving. Finally. your elevator pitch should always end with a call to action. This means that you have to make something happen that will help you to maintain the relationship between you and the person you are pitching to. This could be trying to set up a meeting, offering to call, sending an email, etc.

Now let’s look at these four elements in a bit more detail.

Explaining who you are

When you meet someone for the first time, you need to say hello and give your full name. Depending on what the custom is, you accompany this with a handshake, or a bow, etc. After that, you may want to add a pleasantry like, ‘It’s nice to meet you.’, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ or something along those lines.

Explaining what you do

Explaining what you do starts with describing your background and briefly giving an overview of your education. This helps your listener to determine who you are. After that, you need to explain what your work experience is, so the person you are pitching to can assess whether your skills and your background could be useful. It also helps to emphasize any specialties or strengths you may have, because these may set you apart from potential competitors. Here’s an example of how to introduce yourself and explain what you do:

Hi, my name is Yui. It’s so nice to meet you! I’m a PR manager with a special focus on overseeing successful initiative launches from beginning to end. Along with my seven years of professional experience, I recently graduated with an MBA from Osaka University, with a focus on consumer trust and retention…

Explaining what you want

After you have explained who you are and have told your listener a bit about your background, you need to make clear what you want. What that is depends on the situation, of course. You may want to pitch yourself, an idea you have, a product of a service, but what all these have in common is that they should all include an ‘ask’. In your ask’ you specifically state the goal of your pitch. This could be a job opportunity, an internship, or just the contact information for a follow-up meeting.

Secondly, you need to explain the ‘value’ you bring to the table. In other words, you need the explain what your audience has to gain by listening to you so they understand what you have to offer.  Let’s look at the following example:

I find the work your PR team does to be innovating and refreshing—I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company…

Finishing with a call to action

Now that your audience knows who you are, what you do, and what you want, you need to end your pitch with a call to action, in which you explain what you would like to happen next. This could be a request for setting up a meeting, getting the opportunity to express your interest in a job, etc. What is important is that you make something happen that will lead to further contact between you and the people you spoke to.

If your request is agreed to, you need to thank your audience for their time and obtain their contact information. Be sure to end your conversation with a ‘task-oriented’ goodbye, like:

Thank you for your time. I will send you a follow-up email tonight. Have a great day.

Here is another example:

Would you mind if I set up a quick call next week for us to talk about any upcoming opportunities on your team?

Examples

As mentioned, what your pitch will look like very much depends on what you would like to achieve or what your ‘ask’ is, so next are some examples that have been put into context.

Context: Adding a contact

Job title: Business analyst

Hello! My name is Anwar, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I have a background in Business Analytics with just over 10 years’ experience creating data-driven solutions for various business problems. Specifically, I love and have had great success in the strategic evaluation of data analysis with our executive staff. It sounds like you do similar work—I would love to keep in touch to learn more about what you and your company do.”

Context: Seeking a job opportunity

Job title: Media Planner

Hi, I’m Tom. I’ve spent the last eight years learning and growing in my role as Media Planner, where I’ve developed and optimized strategic media plans for our top client and managed a subset of planners as a Team Lead. One of my proudest achievements was a pro-bono project that was recognized as a top non-profit campaign last year. I’ve been interested in moving to non-profit for quite a while, and love what your company does in education. Would you mind telling me about any media planning needs you may have on the team?

Elevator pitch tips

Of course, your elevator has no value on paper; it needs to be presented orally, so you can make an impression. In order to prepare your pitch, there are a number of things that you can do. First, it helps to read the pitch out loud to yourself to detect any mistakes and opportunities to say things more concisely. Also, you may want to ask a friend to help you practice out loud so you can receive some feedback. This will give you an opportunity to polish and finetune your pitch. Finally, keep in mind that most people, when they get nervous, tend to speed up and start rushing through their speech. Just remember, to keep your pitch short and concise and then take your time and speak at a normal pace.

Advanced Presentation Techniques

Advanced presentation techniques to make your presentation more effective and more memorable.

When doing a presentation, what you are going to say (the content) is most important. Of course, as a presenter, you want your audience to focus on the important part of your message. It needs to stick in their memories so they can act on it if they want. Because presentations as a tool to get information across in a memorable way are not particularly effective (the retention rate is quite low), how you say things becomes just as important as the content of the presentation.  To increase this retention rate, there are a number of presentation techniques that you could apply. They are:

  • rhetorical questions
  • dramatic contrast,
  • tripling
  • machine gunning
  • build-ups
  • knock-downs
  • simplification.

 Also, there are a number of ways to create rapport with your audience.

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions, when used well, do three things. First of all, they make your audience feel involved. Even though you are the one doing most of the talking, rhetorical questions invite your audience to think along with you while you are presenting. In this way your presentation comes across as a two-way conversation rather than a one-way monologue in which you tell your listeners what to think and to believe. Putting rhetorical questions into your presentation also creates anticipation. What you are really doing by asking the question is telling the audience what you are going to talk about next. You are giving them a glimpse into the future, so to speak, by asking a question and then answering it yourself. Because of that, you are allowing the audience to anticipate what’s coming. In this way, the structure of your presentation becomes more apparent to them.

So, let’s look at some examples:

As you know, many of our competitors have shown disappointing results last year. So, why haven’t we been able to capitalise on this?

Let’s say you are talking to a group of business executives. By asking the question of why they ‘haven’t been able to capitalize on this’, they will feel more involved because you are asking them to think along with you. Your talk will feel more conversational to them because they will be answering a question you asked them, even though it will only be in their heads instead of out loud. The rhetorical question will also allow the audience to anticipate what’s coming because they can assume that the question will be followed by an answer. So, so it will act as a structuring device.

The next example works in the same way:

Obviously, we won’t see the results of these lay-offs in the near future. So, how do we know they’ve been effective?

The question allows the listeners to think along. It creates the feeling of having a two-way conversation with the presenter, and it tells them what you are going to talk about next. 

Emphasizing the connection between the rhetorical question and its answer is also a good way to add more structure to your talk. Like in this example:

So, how big ARE the consequences of this economic downturn going to be?

They are likely to be giGANtic.

Here, stress is put on the verb ARE in a question with an adjective in it. In this case the adjective is big. In the answer, a stronger, stressed adjective is then used to emphasize the connection between the question and the answer. This makes the structure of your talk better.

Rhetorical questions can also be made more powerful by repeating the important words from the question in the answer. Again, this shows the connection between the two. To do this effectively, you can first introduce the question with a statement in which you describe the situation. Then you ask the rhetorical question, and you follow up with the answer. This pattern makes the connections between what you have to say more powerful. As an illustration, let’s look at this example:

The fact is that our competitors made a take-over bid last week.

So, what can be done about this?

What can be done is keeping the share price high.

As you can see, the important words from the question are repeated in the answer. This creates a strong connection between the question and the answer and makes the structure of your talk clearer.

Dramatic Contrast

Dramatic contrast can be used to reinforce a point that is being made, like in these examples.

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

or

A year ago,we were market leader. Today we are on the verge of going under.

Making a point using two strongly opposing ideas is a good way of attracting the attention of your audience.

Tripling

To make what you say more memorable, your points can be divided up in threes. When it comes to providing your audience with arguments or reasons for believing something, number 3 is the ‘magic number’. This is because you can convince your listener in two ways: either you can give them a small number of arguments that they will be able to remember, or you can choose to give them a larger number of reasons for whatever it is you want to convince people of, and impress them with the quantity of reasons. However, this second option has the disadvantage that your audience will not be able to remember what all the reasons were. If you mention three, your audience will be able to do both; they will be impressed by the number of arguments you came up with, and they will be able to remember what these arguments were. This is why tripling is so effective. So, let’s look at some examples:

Our service is swift, efficient, and professional.

or

What’s needed now is time, effort, and money.

Machine Gunning

Machine gunning is similar to tripling in that you mention a number of points that should support the claim you are trying to make. However, contrary to tripling (for which it is important that the audience can remember the arguments you make), machine gunning aims just to impress people with the number of arguments you have, regardless of whether your audience is able to remember them, like in this example:

It is cheaper, newer, faster, bigger, clearer, safer AND better designed.

The effectiveness of this technique is in the delivery. The adjectives (in this case) should be delivered quickly, monotonously, and one after the other, so it sounds a bit like a machine gun being fired. If it is not delivered like that, the effect of the technique is lost.

After you’ve delivered your list of arguments, it is also a good idea to build in a short pause, and finish with a concluding remark. It could be something like this:

What more can I say!

The effect of this remark is that you are suggesting that there is nothing more to add, and that what you just said is the only logical conclusion.

Build-ups

A build-up is a technique in which you support your point by feeding your audience one argument at the time, like in this example:

As far as this contract in the Netherlands is concerned, we are pretty tied up with a lot of other projects at the moment.

So, there is no way we could meet their deadlines.

We have very little experience in this kind of work, anyway.

And, to be honest, they are not prepared to pay us what we want.

The idea behind this is that the people in the audience will put these arguments together and come to the logical conclusion that (in this case) the contract in the Netherlands is a bad idea. For extra effect, you then build in a short pause to let their conclusion sink in, add a summarizing filler, and then add a concluding remark that reinforces the conclusion the audience members have already reached on their own.  You could say something like:

BASICALLY, it is out of the question.

Knock-Downs

The knock-down technique is very similar to the build-up in that it feeds the audience small bits of information one at a time to allow them to piece these bits together themselves to reach their own conclusion. However, what a knock-down does differently is that, instead of reinforce the conclusion, it contradicts it. You could say that a knock-down is a combination of a build-up and the dramatic contrast technique. Here’s an example:

Of course, the experts said that the tablet computer would never succeed.

They did market research that said people would just see it as a gimmick.

They said its memory capacity would be too limited for serious business users.

and they did a feasibility study that showed its touchpad would be too small for the fingers of a five-year-old.

Then, after your listeners have reached the conclusion that introducing a tablet computer was a terrible idea, you should counter that conclusion with a contrasting idea. It could be something like:

So, how come, it sold more than a million units in the first quarter?

Simplification

Simplification is about the fact that, in most cases, the simpler what you say is, the more impact it will have. Normally, you would say something like this:

Should we be thinking of expansion?  No, that would not be a good idea.  Why wouldn’t it be? Well, that should be obvious.  It’s much too risky.

However, if you want to leave your audience with a memorable conclusion of your talk, or you want to give them a quick and easy-to-digest summary of your main points, you could also say something like:

Expansion? Not a good idea. Why? Obvious. Too risky.

Please note, that the effectiveness of this technique lies in the contrast between how you normally speak and your simplified version. If you overuse simplification, your style of speaking will become awkward and choppy.

Creating Rapport

Creating rapport is not one technique, but a number of ways in which you can improve or maintain a good relationship with your audience. If you are able to this you will:

  • Make your audience feel involved
  • Make your talk more conversational
  • Make your audience feel like individuals

The first way in which you can make your audience feel more involved is by talking from thewe’ perspective, and use ‘us’ and ‘our’. Like here:

Basically, we all share the same goal. And our goal is to create profit.

This gives the audience the impression that, instead of you telling them what to think, you want to solve the issue that you are presenting on together. You are suggesting to tackle a problem together with the people in the audience by putting yourself on the same level as them.

You can also use question tags to push for agreement, like in this example:

And we all know what that means, don’t we?

If you are a member of the audience, it takes less effort to think ‘Yes, we do’, than to think ‘No, you are wrong. We don’t’. In this way can maintain the relationship with the people that you are talking to while encouraging them to agree with you.

Using negative question forms in your talk works in a similar way. It helps to put the audience in the same mindset as you, like in this example:

Haven’t we all had similar experiences at one time or another?

Here also, it takes more effort for the audience to answer this with ‘yes, we have’ than with ‘No, we haven’t.’

Making your talk more conversational by using ‘fillers’, like you know, actually, etc., is also an effective way to build rapport between you and your audience. For example, you could these phrases:

You know, there are different ways to address this issue.

or

Actually, the third strategy turned out to be the most effective one.

or

As a matter of fact, we have come up with a number of innovative ideas.

You need to keep in mind that overuse of fillers tends to make your style less formal, and could affect your fluency negatively.

Finally, making your audience feel like individuals is also a good way to create rapport. You can do this by putting yourself on the same level as the people you are speaking to by implying that you and your audience are the same or share similar interests, like in the following examples:

If you were anything like me, you would take this opportunity.

or

And if I were to ask you to come up with some advice, what would it be?

or

Now, I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t we react to this sooner?

To conclude, the presentation techniques that were discussed will really help you to make your presentation more effective and memorable, so it will leave a lasting impression on your audience.