Making speeches and presentations Advocates are frequently invited to make speeches and presentations at various events, and these can serve as important opportunities for promoting your group’s key messages. However, beyond simply accepting invitations that are offered, advocates should proactively identify key events (not always related to AIDS) at which AIDS can be discussed. They should then approach the organizers of these events to determine whether a speaking opportunity is available. Preparing an event calendar for the year ahead will help you plan your speech and presentation time and efforts. Some people fear or feel uncomfortable about speaking in public. This is not an unusual situation, but it is one that can and must be overcome if you are going to be an effective advocate for a cause. There are a number of ways to overcome shyness, hesitancy, or nervousness about public speaking. Here are some tips to help better prepare you for public speaking opportunities: Always have a written speech, even if you are an excellent speaker. It is not necessary for you to read from the speech, but the process of creating it will help you consolidate your thoughts and messages. The speech can also be distributed as a hand-out to those attending the meeting, and to the media which will extend the reach of your remarks. Know the audience. It always helps to know what your audiences want to hear. Try and find out how much they know about AIDS and your organization, what opinions they already have, what opinions you share, and why they have asked you to speak. State your objectives at the very beginning. It is important to let you audience know what you are going to talk about and the issues you will cover. Use clear and simple language. This advice applies even if you are talking to technical experts. Clear simple language holds the audience’s attention better and minimizes the opportunity for misunderstanding. Keep your key messages to the minimum. Key messages are those you want the audience to remember and take home. Having too many messages will leave the audience confused. Try to limit the key messages you really want to communicate to three or less. Use ownership language. Give examples and anecdotes from your personal experience. Use “I” instead of “you”. This will increase your credibility as an expert. Use humour, but do not make flippant or derogatory jokes that might be misinterpreted. Do not talk too fast. People miss the importance of your words and messages when you speak too quickly; a slower measured pace is best. Stick to your time limit. Agree beforehand with the organizers about the time allotted to you for speaking. Tailor your speech to fit within the time limit. In many instances, you might have less time than you anticipated. If you have less time, prioritize beforehand what you want to convey. Summarize with hope. Do not end your presentation or speech with a gloomy message. End on a positive note, suggesting how people can help and change the situation. Tips for preparing a presentation Increasingly, advocates are using flip charts, computers, videos, or overhead or slide projectors while making speeches or presentations. A well prepared presentation can enhance the audience’s message retention. A presentation is essentially a performance. It attempts to win over an audience, and to give them something to take away. It does this by entertaining them. Effective presentations have a clear direction, are concise, and are tailored to the event and audience. In general, it is best to limit the length of your presentation and to always leave time for questions. Getting the equipment right Check with the organizers about the equipment available. It is advisable to arrive early and make sure that the equipment is working. It might be useful to take the copy of your presentation on a diskette, as well as overhead projection transparencies. Always have hard-copy printouts. Preparing the content Have attention-getting titles on your slides or transparencies. These help to convey the central point you are making. Use transparencies to flag key points and messages you really want the audience members to retain. Keep them to the minimum. The more you use, the less likely they will remember what you say. A written speech to accompany the slides can ensure that you do not go beyond your time limit. Always include one transparency about your organization and what it does. Each speaking opportunity is a good way to tell people about the goals of your organization. If adding a graphic, comment or extra bullet point does not clarify or add value to your message, do not include it. Presentation layout Keep each slide to six words per line and six lines per slide. Leave a great deal of empty space. It is essential to balance the amount of information within the space on the slide. Use visuals and graphs, but keep them simple. Visuals and graphs can be powerful in illustrating your key messages. But do not overcrowd your transparencies with text or visuals. Use a variety of graphic images. If you have a bar chart on one slide, have a line chart or pie graph in the next. Make your backgrounds simple. If you are using any kind of backgrounds, make sure that they do not dominate the screen. Create a high contrast between the background and the text. Avoid colour schemes that are too close in hue. Avoid red/green combinations since colour-blind people may not be able to distinguish the colours. Do not make your audience have to strain their eyes to see your points. Do not use many different types of fonts and be consistent in their use throughout the presentation. For example, your titles could be in one font and your main text in another. The following table illustrates the size of the fonts which ensure easy readability. Standard computer print sizes Transparencies Slides Hand-outs Title 36pt 24pt 18pt Subtitle 24pt 18pt 14pt Other text 18pt 14pt 12pt Using animation can increase the effectiveness of your presentation, but do not abuse it. Be consistent about the way you use animation. Avoid the use of sound unless it is to emphasize a point or to illustrate an example. Look at your slides in black and white. A good design should look as good in black and white as it does in colour. Always spell-check your presentations. Making your presentation Position the screen to your left (the audience’s right). People read from left to right, so by positioning the screen to your left, the audience is less likely to forget the presenter. Do not turn your back to the audience. Never talk to the screen. This means that you will have to practice your presentation beforehand and know the content well. It might help if you have a printout in front of you, or if you tilt your computer screen so that you can easily glance down to review the points you would like to make. Do not stand in between the screen and the viewer. Speak with more volume than is normally required. Remember, the listener’s attention is divided between you and the screen. If the room is darkened, you need to speak more loudly in order to hold attention. Do not display your presentation until you are ready to use it. Hand-outs, and when all equipment fails you Having your presentation available in a printed-out format can also be useful in small or one-to-one meetings. Having a prepared presentation indicates to your audience that you are serious about what you want to say and are prepared. Do not distribute hand-outs during the presentation. Distribute them either before or after it. CHECKLIST FOR MAKING A PRESENTATION Know your audience. Your presentation should include information the audience wants to hear, but it should not always be what they expect to hear. Know your topic. Have plenty of information and be prepared to give examples and answer questions. Do not try to improvise. Even the most experienced presenters develop an outline and think about what they are going to say. ‘Headline’ your presentation. Tell the audience what you are going to say, make the speech, and then briefly repeat what you have just told them. The spoken word is not as firmly absorbed as a text that is read. Key points in a speech often need to be repeated in order to be absorbed. Be enthusiastic and energetic throughout your presentation. Make your talk come alive by using illustrations, analogies and personal observations. When possible, incorporate attractive easy-to-understand visuals. Make sure they are clear and complement your talk effectively. Finish on a high note.
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