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.

Subject – Verb Agreement

How to make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs

Subject/ verb agreement means that subjects and verbs must agree with each other in number. In other words, if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb that goes with it needs to be singular as well, and if the subject is plural, the verb needs to be plural. Even though this seems pretty straightforward there are some situations in which using the right form of the verb could cause problems.

In the sentence, ‘My brother is taking the bus to school,’ for example, ‘brother’ is a singular noun so the singular verb ‘is’ needs to be used. However, in the sentence ‘My brother, as well as most of his friends, is taking the bus to school.’ It is a lot less clear whether a singular or a plural verb needs to be used. The following guidelines will help you make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs. Situation number one”

1.         When the subject is made up of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by            and you need to use a plural verb.

            He and his sisters are on vacation.

2.         When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, you          use a singular verb. Like in this example:

      The chairman or the secretary is at the meeting.

3.         When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun      joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearest to the verb.

            The owner or his employees go to the bank every day.

            Or

            The employees or the owner goes to the bank every day.

4.         Number four is about not being misled by phrases that come between the subject and the verb. You just have to make sure that the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun that might be in the phrase.

            One of the men is injured.

            The girl with all the dogs walks down the road.

5.         Number 5. You should use singular verbs with the words: each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one.

            Each of these books is good.

            Nobody ever calls the emergency number.

6.         Number 6 is about what to do with nouns such as mathematics, civics, euros, measles, and news. Although they also need singular verbs.

            The news comes on at ten o’clock.

            Note: words like euros or, for example, dollars, are a special case. When you are          talking about an amount of money, you need to use a singular verb, but if you are           are referring to the euros or dollars themselves, so the currency, you need to use       a plural verb. So,

            Ten euros for a ticket sounds quite cheap.

            Euros are often used instead of Pounds.

7.         Number 7. Plural verbs are used for nouns like scissors, tweezers, trousers, etc.           

            Those trousers look very cool on you.

8.         Moving on to number 8. When using sentences beginning with there is or there are, make sure the subject follows the verb.

            There is one option

There are many possibilities.

9.         Number 9. Collective nouns, so nouns that are considered singular but are usually made up of multiple members, like team, committee, class, family, etc. take a singular verb when they operate together as a group, like in:

            The committee votes on the proposal.

            If the members of the group represented by the collective noun operate          independently, (so doing different things probably at different times) you should use a plural verb.  Like in:

            The class write their thesis papers this year.

This means that the people in the class write papers on different topics, probably       at different times during the year. They don’t operate in unison towards the same goal.

10.      The last one is number 10. When you use expressions like including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well, etc., the number of the subject does not change. If the subject is singular, so is the verb.

            The King, accompanied by the Queen, is visiting the Netherlands.

Revising Comma Splices in Writing

A tutorial on how to revise comma splices in your writing

You create a comma splice when you join two independent clauses with a comma but without a conjunction. To be able to understand what that means it is important to understand what an independent clause is and what a conjunction is.

 An independent clause is a clause that has a subject and a verb and that expresses a ‘complete thought’. This means that an independent clause has a meaning on its own and does not need another clause to give it meaning. A simple example of an independent clause would be I sleep until nine, for instance. Here the subject is I, the verb is sleep, and the sentence expresses a complete thought because it is clear what is meant.

Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases or sentences together, like in this example:

I like ice skating and field hockey, but I hate ice hockey.

Here and and but are the conjunctions that link the words and phrases together. As mentioned before, a comma splice is created when two independent clauses are joint together with a comma but without a conjunction, like, for example and or but.

The following is an example of how a comma splice is created starting with two independent clauses. The first independent clause is:

Spiders are not considered insects.

And the other one is:

They are arachnids.

When you join these two sentences together using just a comma – like in the example – you create a comma splice.

Spiders are not considered insects, they are arachnids.

There are three ways in which you can correct a comma splice. You can:

  1. Add a conjunction
  2. Change the comma into a semicolon
  3. Make separate sentences.

So, let’s take this sentence with a comma splice and rewrite it in these three different ways:

So, we start with:

He is not going to buy a house, he is planning to rent one.

This sentence contains a comma splice.

Adding a Conjunction

If you add a conjunction to the sentence, it would then read like this:

He is not going to buy a house, but he is planning to rent one.

So, the comma is still there, but it is now followed by a conjunction.

Adding a Semi-colon

Instead of using a conjunction, you could also add a semi-colon. The advantage of that is that the sentence would read the same as the originals sentence with the comma splice, the only difference being that it is no grammatically correct.

He is not going to buy a house; he is planning to rent one.

If you decide to use a semi-colon, it is important to make sure there is a close, logical connection between the two independent clauses. In this case the semicolon works because both sentences are about ways get a house.

Two Separate Independent Clauses

Another option is to divide the sentence containing the comma splice into two separate independent clauses. The sentence would then look like this:

He is not going to buy a house. He is planning to rent one.

Even though turning a sentence containing a comma splice into two separate sentences is an acceptable option, you have to keep in mind that good writing often means having to connect ideas. This is very difficult to do, however, if you use to many simple independent clauses, because it often leads to a very ‘choppy’ and simplistic writing style.

Acceptable Uses of a Comma Splice

There are also a few instances in which comma splices are acceptable. The first one is when using question tags, like in:

He is not here, is he?

It is also acceptable to use comma splices in short parallel contradictions, so when both phrases that make up the contradiction have a similar grammatical structure, like in:

I’m not rich, I’m poor.

Finally, comma splices are often used in fiction and poetry for the simple reason that in these types of informal writing the rules are a lot less strict. An example would be:

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.

Presentation Skills: ‘Signpost Language’

How to ‘signpost’ your presentation effectively to give structure to your presentation.

To make your talk effective, interesting and easy to follow, it is a good idea to use signpost language. You can use signpost language to tell your listener what you have just talked about and what you are going to talk about. In other words, signposting language is the words and phrases you can use to guide your audience through your presentation.

Good presentations usually contain plenty of signpost language and this language is usually quite informal and easy to recognize, so it help to memorize a number of effective phases.

Introducing the topic

The subject/topic of my talk is …
I’m going to talk about …
My topic today is…
My talk is concerned with …

Overview (outline of the presentation)

I’m going to divide this talk into four parts.
There are a number of points I’d like to make.
Basically/ Briefly, I have three things to say.
I’d like to begin/start by …
Let’s begin/start by …
First of all, I’ll…
… and then I’ll go on to …
Then/ Next …
Finally/ Lastly …

Finishing a new section

That’s all I have to say about…
We’ve looked at…
So much for…

Starting a new section

Moving on now to …
Turning to…
Let’s turn now to …
The next issue/topic/area I’d like to focus on …
I’d like to expand/elaborate on …
Now we’ll move on to…
I’d like now to discuss…
Let’s look now at…

Analysing a point and giving recommendations

Where does that lead us?
Let’s consider this in more detail…
What does this mean for…?
Translated into real terms…
Why is this important?
The significance of this is…

Giving examples

For example,…
A good example of this is…
As an illustration,…
To give you an example,…
To illustrate this point…

Summarising and concluding

To sum up …
To summarise…
Right, let’s sum up, shall we?
Let’s summarise briefly what we’ve looked at…
If I can just sum up the main points…
Finally, let me remind you of some of the issues we’ve covered…
To conclude…
In conclusion …
In short …
So, to remind you of what I’ve covered in this talk, …
Unfortunately, I seem to have run out of time, so I’ll conclude very briefly by saying that …..
I’d like now to recap…

Paraphrasing and clarifying

Simply put…
In other words…….
So what I’m saying is….
To put it more simply….
To put it another way….

Invitation to discuss / ask questions

I’m happy to answer any queries/ questions.
Does anyone have any questions or comments?
Please feel free to ask questions.
If you would like me to elaborate on any point, please ask.
Would you like to ask any questions?
Any questions?

Revising Faulty Predication

Faulty predication occurs when the predicate in a sentence or a clause does not explain what the subject of a sentence is or does.

A predicate in a sentence (or clause) tells you what the subject does or is. You could also say that the predicate is everything that is not the subject. So, to give you an example, in the sentence ‘The email contained many interesting details’, ‘The email’, is the subject, and ‘contained many interesting details.’ is the predicate.

In the sentence ‘The applicants for the job were skilled programmers.’, ‘The applicants for the job’ is the subject, and ‘were skilled programmers’ is the predicate.

What faulty predication means is that a sentence’s predicate doesn’t logically complete its subject, and there are three causes for it:

  1. Incorrect use of the verb Be
  2. Incorrect use of ‘Is when’ and ‘is where’
  3. Use of: ‘The Reason … Is Because’

Incorrect use of ‘Be

Faulty predication often occurs in sentences with a linking verb – a form of to be, for example. – in combination with a subject complementlll, like in this example:

Political corruption and Economic decline were the downfall of the Roman Empire.

What the writer says here is that ‘Political corruption and economic decline’ were the downfall of the roman empire, as if ‘the downfall of the Roman empire’ described or identified the subject ‘Political corruption and Economic decline’, while in fact what the writer meant to say was that they were reasons for the downfall.

What the sentence should have been is:

Political corruption and Economic decline caused the downfall of the Roman Empire.

Incorrect use of ‘Is when’ and ‘Is Where’

This type of faulty predication often occurs when the writer presents a definition that includes a construction with one of is when or is where, like here:

Arachnophobia is when a person has a fear of spiders and other arachnids.

When defining something is must be preceded and followed by nouns or noun phrases, which is not the case here so the sentence could be rewritten like this:

Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and other arachnids.

Now ‘the fear of spiders and other arachnids’ defines ‘arachnophobia’.

The reason …’ in combination with ‘ … Is because

Using The reason in combination with Is because leads to a similar problem as you can see in this sentence:

The reason they overeat is because they are bored.

When the phrase the reason is precedes because., like in the example, the word because means for the reason that, so the writer is saying the same thing twice. This is why because should be deleted and the sentence would look like this:

The reason they overeat is that they are bored.

Revising Mixed Constructions

How to correct sentences in which the subject is created through incorrect use of dependent clauses, prepositional phrases or independent clauses.

In order to be able to revise or even recognize mixed constructions in your writing it is important to understand what they are first. A mixed construction is created when a dependent clause, prepositional phrase or an independent clause is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence.

So, let’s take a look at what it looks like when a dependent clause is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence:

Because he works eleven hours every day explains why he is always tired.

To be able to understand this example it is important to know what a dependent clause is first. A dependent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb but which does not express a complete thought. For this reason, it is not a sentence and can’t stand alone. The dependent clause in this sentence is: Because he works eleven hours every day, and in this case this entire clause is incorrectly used as subject here. A revised version of this sentence could look like this:

Because he works eleven hours every day, he is always tired.

If you get rid of ‘explains why’ the clause ‘Because he works eleven hours every day’ is combined with an independent clause (He is always tired) and together they now form a grammatically correct sentence that expresses a complete thought.

The following sentence contains a mixed construction because, what’s called, a prepositional phrase is incorrectly used as the subject of the sentence.

By enlisting in the army is a good way to see the world.

Prepositions are words like at, on, in, by, etc., and if a phrase starts with one of these words, this phrase is called a prepositional phrase. You create a mixed construction if you use this type of phrase as the subject of a sentence, which was the case here. ‘By enlisting in the army.’ is an incorrectly used.

After revision the sentence looks like this:

By enlisting in the army, you can see the world.

The prepositional phrase is still there but you now is the subject of the sentence.

Sometimes independent clauses are also incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence, like in the following example:

She was rich made her buy more than she needed.

An independent clause is a sentence with a subject and a verb that expresses a complete thought and that, therefore, can stand alone. However, in this case it is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence.

She was rich is the independent clause here that was incorrectly used as a subject, and the sentence can be rewritten like this:

Being rich made her buy more than she needed.

Being rich is now the subject of the sentence and now the sentence works.

Presentation Skills: Talking about Visuals

A tutorial on how to present graphs, tables, and charts in an effective and engaging way

Many formal presentations include having to talk about numbers. These numbers could be research data, sales figures, or many other types of statistics. Numbers in a presentation, however, are not very memorable, especially not if you also need to talk about how different numbers relate to each other. Because data, exact sales figures, etc. are so difficult to remember, it often makes sense to present them in some kind of visual, like a graph, a chart, or a table. However, talking about these types of visuals is difficult to do, and not doing it well will often cause your audience to lose interest in what you have to say. Presenting graphs, charts and tables only works if it is done in an effective, engaging, and well-structured way. To achieve this, attention needs to be paid to:

  • Introducing the visual
  • Commenting on, and introducing the visual
  • Talking about change and development

Good visuals need to be highly memorable and,generally speaking, when presenting numbers and statistics, the simpler your visual is, the more people are likely to remember it. It also means that anything you don’t talk about should not be in the visual.

Good visuals should also reduce the amount of talking for the speaker. If the graph represents something that could be explained in an effective way using only a few words, you should not use a visual because then that would only be a distraction.

Finally, a good visual should help the speaker. This means that graphs, charts and tables should only be used for details that are difficult to explain. The visual should speak for the presenter and make his job easier, so you should always ask yourself whether the visual is necessary and whether it actually makes your presentation better.

Another important question you should ask yourself is which type of visual is most effective for what you want to achieve. Graphs, tables, and charts all do different things well, and it is therefore important to select the right type of visual.

A line graph, for example, works well if you want to show how a quantity of something develops over time. For example, this could be how many muffins were sold per day during a given week.

A bar graph, on the other hand, works well for comparisons. When you want to visualize in which month to most ice cream was sold, for instance.

Pie charts are often used when showing percentages, or quantities as part of a larger total.

Tables are of the most difficult to talk about because they often show many individual numbers on the screen at once without showing a connection between them, or a clear development. For this reason, when using a table, it may be a good idea to focus the audience’s attention on specific details by highlighting the ones you are talking about while talking about them.

Finally, flow charts are good at showing processes, or other things that can be divided into steps with a certain order.

As mentioned before, it is very important that you choose the correct type of visual for the right job, because failing to do so will most likely cause your audience to lose interest in your message.

Introducing the Visual

After you have put your visual on the screen, the next step is shifting the focus of the audience to the screen. You need to tell them to stop looking at you, and start looking at the screen. You can do this simply by pointing at the screen and saying something like:

Let’s have a look at this.

or

As you can see here, …

After you have told the people you are addressing to focus their attention on the screen, you need to tell them what they are looking at, because you don’t want them to spend their time studying the visual while they ought to be listening to you. You should explain the visual by saying something like:

This graph shows the amount of traffic to our website throughout the year.

 or

This bar graph compares the number of people who commuted by car to those who commuted by bicycle between 2015 and 2020.

The next step is to make a general comment about the graph as a whole, or about a general pattern or trend, like in these examples:

As you can see, the average turnover shows a steady upward trend.

or

What is clear is that the number of visitors to the Netherlands fluctuates throughout the year.

The final step in introducing your visual is to highlight the part of the visual you want to talk about in more detail. You could say something like:

If we look at 2018, …

Or

The period between March and September shows …

Commenting on the Visual

After you have highlighted a specific area in the visual, you need to make a comment about it. This means telling your audience what a specific number or data point in the visual represents. You give meaning to the numbers. For example, you could say:

2017 shows a significant spike in the number of online sales.

or

Here the table shows an anomaly in the results.

Then, after commenting on a specific section of the visual, you need to interpret it. You tell the audience what the underlying causes were that explain the detail you chose to discuss, or which conclusion can be drawn from it. To illustrate, you could say something like:

This number can be explained by the abnormally hot summer we had.

or

What we can learn from this is that we need to increase production.

It is important to repeat the cycle HighlightComment Interpret for each detail you choose to discuss. In this way the structure of your talk becomes clear.

Change and Development

A mentioned, after you have selected the best type of visual for presenting you data on the screen, you need to talk about it. Generally speaking, this is difficult to do in an engaging way, so it is easy to lose your audience’s interest while doing it, but in order to make sure that they won’t lose interest, you need to use effective language that can capture your points in a concise way. When talking about a line graph, for instance, it is important to use a range of different vocabulary that doesn’t only comment on how the data develops – so, whether the line goes up or down – it is also, helpful to comment on the speed at which it happens or how significant the changes that you choose to discuss are. The verbs in the table can help you do this:

increase/decreasedeclinehit a lowplummet
rise/fallremainstabilizedrop
fluctuategrowshrinkplunge
recoverpeakslumpShoot up
bottom outexpandnarrowTake off

Here are some example sentences:

The table illustrates that profits have stabilized during this quarter.

or

Last year, stock prices plummeted due to the trade dispute.

If you want to comment on the speed and the importance of the developments in the graph you can add effective adjective or adverbs to your comments, like in the table.

substantialnotabledisastrous
rapidspectacularsteady
moderatedisappointingslight
enormousencouragingsignificant

So, you could say something like:

The graph suggests an encouraging trend.

or

In 2018, overhead costs were cut significantly.

Conclusion

The example below shows a basic example of talking about a graph in an effective way, using a clear and concise structure.

So, I’d like to draw your attention to this graph.(Drawing attention to the screen) What it illustrates is the number of people killed in car accidents between 2000 and 2010 (Explaining the visual).  As you can see, the number fluctuated significantly during that time (General comment), but I’d like to focus on the year 2014 (Highlighting), when the number of casualties increased dramatically (Commenting). The explanation for this sudden rise in deaths can be found in the extreme weather during that period (Interpreting).

Presentation skills: Beginning the presentation

How to start off well during a formal presentation or speech

At the beginning of your presentation there are usually four things that you need to do, and the first of those is greet your audience. Also, when you are not presenting within your own organization – so when you are presenting to people that may not know you – you need to introduce yourself and say which company you represent. It is also helpful to say something about yourself and to welcome your audience.

Greeting your audience is usually what you start with. Apart from it being the polite thing to do, it is also important to make your audience feel welcome. Doing this helps to build, what is called, rapport between you and your audience.  You want to build a good relationship with the people you are presenting to and greeting them before your get to the actual presentation is an important part of that.

If you are presenting to a group of people that you don’t know, or to people who don’t know you, it is also important to introduce yourself by mentioning your name and, for example, the organization you are working for.  Just like when greeting your audience, it helps to build rapport. Also, it helps the audience to put you into a certain context as a speaker, like in this this example:

Hello. I’d like to welcome you all here this morning. I am Jill Anderson of Anderson and Brand International.

In this example it is likely that the audience will link the name Jill Anderson to the company’s name, Anderson & Brand International. This information may give the audience an idea of Jill’s position in the company, adding to her credibility as a speaker.

This is not always necessary, of course. Sometimes saying your name and mentioning how the opportunity to speak makes you feel is enough to build rapport. Like in this example:

Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be here today. My name is Peter Jones.

Sometimes it may be helpful to mention your name together with the name of your company if your company has a good reputation in your field, or if it is particularly well-known. Like here:

Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming. I am Rebecca Ferris from KPMG.

Similar to the first example, mentioning your name together with the name of a respected company could positively affect the impact your presentation has on the people that are going to listen to you.

After you’ve greeted your audience and have introduced yourself, it is often a helpful to say something about yourself. Not only does this help your audience to relate to you on a more personal level, it is also an opportunity for you as a speaker to showcase your expertise. Here is an example:

Before I continue, let me tell you something about myself. I’ve been working for Anderson and Brand for seven years.

Letting the audience know that you have been working for the company that you are representing for seven years tells the audience how much experience you have and how dedicated you are to that company. This could make what you are going to say more credible because your audience is more likely to assume that you know what you are talking about because of your experience.

If you have a lot of experience in a certain field, but have worked for a number of companies during your career instead of just one, you could use a sentence like this:

My career in finance began in the late 1990s when I joined …

… and then you add the name of your company. It tells the audience how experienced you are, and if you add the companies you worked for in the past, along with the job titles you’ve held, it could tell your audience something about your skillset.

The following sentence works in a similar way:

My experience in the field of environmental preservation started when …

… and then you can mention an experience that had an impact on your career. You may want to use a sentence like this when you are a freelancer, for example, or when you are not representing an organization.

Welcoming your audience is also important when you begin your presentation and it is often combined with thanking the audience for the opportunity to speak. Like here:

Welcome to Google. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you today.

This sentence not only expresses that you are glad that your audience showed up, but by expressing that you are grateful for the opportunity to speak, you are also expressing a level of humility. You are putting yourself on the same level as your audience and when your audience feels they are more or less the same as you, they are more likely to be interested in what you have to say. In other words, this way of welcoming your audience also builds rapport, just like the following sentence.

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today.

By using this sentence, you are positioning yourself as a guest of the audience, which suggests that you aren’t there to tell them what to do or to believe, but that you are there with them to discuss the topic of your talk together. You are putting yourself on the same level.

Now, let’s look at this sentence:

Welcome everybody. I appreciate the chance to speak to you this afternoon.

This sentence works in the same way as the previous one. It builds rapport between you and the audience by pointing out that you are there because of them.

So, to conclude. A successful presentation starts with an effective opening during which you greet your audience and introduce yourself, you provide some background information about yourself, and you welcome your audience by expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to speak. If you do this well, you will set yourself up for a successful presentation.

Video: Beginning the Presentation