6 steps to a successful speech or presentation

Each year on 15th March (World Speech Day), organisations and communities globally are invited to hold public speaking events to encourage people to give a speech, talk or presentation.  We thought we’d share our 6 simple steps to help you be successful with your next speech or presentation, regardless of whether it’s delivered in-person or via a webcam virtually.

1.  Who

Who is your audience?  Have you ever listened to a presenter and thought “they don’t know who they’re talking to”?

It makes no difference if you are talking to a large group of people in the same room, or an audience located in different places around the world, if you don’t know who you are speaking to then you won’t be able to make a connection with them.

Research your audience!  What industry are they from?  Are there cultural differences you need to consider?  What age range are they?  What challenges do they face?  How can you help them?

Once you know who your audience is, then you can tailor your presentation and this increases your chances of hitting the target.


2.  What

What is your purpose?

This sounds basic but it is vital.  You need to have a pre-defined purpose that is clear and simple enough that you can put into a single sentence.  On occasions your presentation may have more than one purpose.  It will usually be one or more of the following: to motivate, inform, convince or entertain.  Whatever the purpose is, you need to keep it at the forefront of your mind when you are creating your speech or presentation.

Remember, they may be thinking “so what” you need to give them the “so that”.


3. Brain dump

Literally dump everything you know about the topic onto paper as a list or mind map.  Mind maps are great and the MindMapper software is particularly handy if you have difficulty reading your own writing.  Once you have your ideas on paper or in a mind map, you can move on to…


4.  Outline

Using your brain dump make an outline, while all the time being mindful of the “who” and “what” above.  It can help if you narrow your outline to 3 – 5 main themes, points or categories.  Make your main points out in bullets, there is no need to write your speech or presentation in full – that way it will sound much more conversational and you don’t have to worry about memorising the whole thing.


5.  Visuals

Only when you have decided your content should you plan your PowerPoint, flipcharts, props, etc.  Your visuals are there to aid your content, not to be the content.  Remember people are there to see and hear YOU, not your slides!

Having said that, there are some considerations we need to keep in mind with our slides, when presenting virtually.  People may be watching on laptops or mobile screens, so any text on your slides should be in a large font size and kept to a minimum.  Your audience will respond better to images, videos, and any visuals that enhance what you are saying.  Also, in a virtual world, more on-screen changes can help to keep the audience engaged.  So, consider having more animating and building of slides and objects than you might have in a face-to-face communication.


6.  Practice, practice, practice…

… then practice again!  Words on screen or on paper can sound very different when vocalised.  Practice out loud, record yourself on your phone.  You don’t need me to tell you that the spoken word has a different impact than the written word.  Ask your friends and/or colleagues to listen to your speech or presentation and to give you honest, frank feedback.


Below you will find a simple infographic that we’ve put together to remind of you of these steps.  We hope you find it useful, and if you want to brush up on your presenting skills, or have a team who want to improve how they present virtually – check out our in company presentation skills masterclasses to see how we can help.


Speech infographic