As an instructor, you’re used to speaking in front of a classroom filled with students. You know how to design a lecture that thoroughly covers the material you need to address in each class session. You also have a presentation style that conveys your authority, knowledge, and passion for the topic.
But what happens when you need to present to a new audience, in a brief period of time? What will help you make your point successfully in just a few minutes?
In their book Essentials of Business Communication, Tenth Edition, authors Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy discuss how to create a presentation that develops an audience’s understanding of, and connection to, the message you want to convey. We’ve adapted these to apply to the short presentation format. Students can also use these tips for their own brief presentations (for example, if they’re entering a video to our Instructor for a Day college scholarship contest!).
Make Your Point Efficiently and Effectively: Three Essential Steps
1. Grab your audience’s attention.
A strong and compelling opening secures your audience’s initial interest. Guffey and Loewy maintain that your opening should accomplish three goals:
- “Capture listeners’ attention and get them involved.” For example, you might begin with a thought-provoking rhetorical question, a compelling quotation, or a brief demonstration. Humor can work, as it puts people at ease; but be mindful of your audience and the setting in which you’re presenting.
- “Identify yourself and establish your credibility.” Let your listeners know who you are and why you have the expertise to speak on this particular issue. You can also use a brief anecdote or a personal story that helps you build rapport.
- “Preview your main points.” Before you begin the body of your talk, state your key points succinctly; this gives your audience an overview of what’s to come. Supplement this with an overview slide in your presentation deck, if you’re using one. (392)
2. Create a strong outline.
A clear, cogent, and concise organization for your presentation keeps your audience engaged and enables them follow the thread of what you’re saying.
To maximize impact, limit the presentation to two to four key points. Back up each point with thoughtfully chosen evidence that best supports your position on the overall topic.
The order in which you present your material also contributes to your overall effectiveness. A few forms appropriate for a brief presentation include the following:
- A chronological organization works well when you want to trace the history of a topic or let your listeners know how to accomplish a particular task.
- You could also organize your points in order of importance. You may want to lead with the most important point; however, ending with the most important point can create emphasis as well.
- With a basic problem/solution organization, you can call attention to a pressing issue or challenge, then state the way you believe the situation could be rectified.
- By using the “Five W’s” (who, what, when, where, why), you can familiarize your listeners with the basic facts and figures related to the issue or topic of your choice.
3. Close with clarity.
If you only have a few minutes to speak, it may seem like a waste to devote the last of those minutes to a summary of what you just said. But these may be the exact points your audience remembers! For that reason, it pays to end well.
According to Guffey and Loewy, a strong conclusion includes:
- A freshly worded summary of your key points
- A “take-away” insight or idea that prompts action or further consideration from your listeners
- A final statement that closes your presentation with finesse
Reinforce your key points, and conclude with confidence! (Guffey and Loewy, 392-395)
As you can see, creating a strong brief presentation is much like creating a strong hour-long lecture. Take the time to craft a strong opening, body, and conclusion to your brief talk, and you’ll make your point succinctly and successfully.
When you have much to say, and a limited time to say it, how do you make your point in a compelling and concise way? What suggestions do you make to students who are crafting their presentations? Share your ideas in the comments.
Reference: Guffey, Mary Ellen and Dana Loewy. 2016. Essentials of Business Communication, 10th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.