Whether presenting a sermon, a sales talk, speak, or other proposal there are some things that hold true across the board for an effective and engaging presentation. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch, but they are three things I have found to be keys. These come from my own experience as a presenter as well as from sitting in as an audience participant.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.
I’m not sure it is possible to over-prepare. I know it is too often the case that someone under-prepares. A talented and good communicator can “wing-it” in many situations. However, a spontaneous approach is rarely the best. The ideal presentation is one that is well prepared, well-thought out, and delivered in a natural and comfortable manner. If a presenter does not adequately know his/her material, it will show and it will damage (or destroy) credibility with the audience.
Words carry weight and meaning. When giving a public presentation, those words need to be carefully chosen. This means preparation.
The audience deserves a presenters best efforts. More importantly, as followers of Jesus, we are to give our best efforts in all we do for His glory.
Preparation is the hard work of presenting. A 30 minute speech/sermon/talk should involve hours of study and honing the message. It is the speaker’s responsibility to make sure that his/her words are clear and able to be understood by the audience.
2. Be Confident
Do not read this as suggesting arrogance or cockiness in any way. Confidence is not the same as pride. Confidence is a simple assurance of knowledge and position. The person making the presentation is the one with authority and control at that moment. This works best when that person is not timid or hesitant. Again, they are not better than anyone else in that moment, they are simply the one in front with the floor.
Preparation is a big factor in providing healthy confidence. When you know and trust your material, it is easier to speak with authority.
The greatest speeches and sermons in history have this very much in common: the presenter was bold and confident at the moment.
It is hard to watch when someone gives a presentation from a posture of uncertainty and timidity. When someone seems to be apologizing through their whole presentation, it actually wears on the audience.
It’s good to be humble. It’s great to be humble and confident.
3. Say only what you are there to say
From personal experience on both sides, it is highly important to only say what is pertinent to the moment. Sales people lose sales, politicians get in trouble, and preachers miss the key moment (or simply bore the audience) when they say too much. This is not suggesting a hard time limit that is universal. Some people and some situations are fine for longer presentations, others require much shorter. They key is to know the audience, know the environment, know the subject matter, and know self. It is imperative that a speaker know and understand their style, ability, and demeanor to help determine the appropriate length for their presentation.
There is no reason to expound on the details of every point or story. Many details are not needed or even desired. Wordiness is rarely appreciated.
The best are succinct and every word counts. A great communicator says much with fewer words.
What are your thoughts? What would you add to this list?