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Public speaking tip #2: When the goal is to inform or educate

Example of Visual Content
Example of Visual Content
Caryn Colgan

Before you develop the content of your speech, identify the goal. What do you want to accomplish with your presentation? The customary goals of presentations are to inform or educate, provide entertainment or to get others to take action.

When your primary focus is to provide information or educate the audience about something, having a clearly defined plan can help you meet your objective and keep the topic interesting.

The educational speech conveys information that the audience needs to know. Sometimes the topic may save lives, help them improve something or make life easier. Be clear about your objective and the information you want your audience to take away with them. Consider who they are and how much they already should know about the topic.

  • When your goal is to teach the audience something they need to learn ask yourself these questions:
  • What is my main point of my presentation?
  • How will they benefit from this information?
  • What data supports this key message?
  • Upon what authority do I base my data and arguments?
  • Who will be in the audience and how much should they already know about the topic?
  • How do I want them to apply what I teach them?
  • What visuals will I need?

Repeat you main point multiple times

If you have a point that you want to be sure they take away with them, repeat it several times. Some speakers define a motto or cheer and request the audience repeat it with them. Others opt to make the point but state it in different ways.

For example, an accountant who wants the audience to file their income tax returns on time might state several times that the deadline for filing individual tax returns is April 15. The accountant could state this in several ways such as:

  • “April 15 is an important date because that’s the deadline for filing individual returns.”
  • “To avoid penalties, each year on April 15 taxpayers line up at the post office to ensure their returns are properly postmarked.”
  • The speaker might also prompt a response by asking, “What is the important date?”

Repetition of key points emphasizes the importance of your topic and helps the audience remember it. By stating it in different ways, you avoid being redundant and boring.

Visual Appeal

Give your audience something to look at. Pictures, graphs, charts and other topic-related visual components add professional polish to your content. These visual components can a PowerPoint presentation, a poster on the wall, a brochure or a workshop handout.

Give their eyes a place to rest. Granted you want their attention to be on you but it is also a good idea to direct their attention to other relevant images.

Experiential Interest

Depending on how long you have to deliver your content, consider adding at least one interactive component. Experiential activities engage the learner in the material. For example, you might ask the audience to turn to another audience member and tell him or her how they plan to use this new information.

Another experiential option is to have them write an answer to a thought-provoking question you ask. You can also ask them to type the answer into a PDF document if your content is not in printed form.

Tell Stories and Give Examples

Nothing is more boring that a data dump. If you have ever heard a speaker who stood behind a podium and read a laundry list of facts and figures, you experienced the mind-numbing data dump.

To add appeal to you otherwise dry topic, add topic-relevant stories. Share an example of how someone used the information or could use it. Show a cartoon that helps illustrate the point.

A story from personal experience is most powerful and relevant. The speaker who wants to teach managers how to be better coaches might tell a story to highlight the need to suspend judgment about the person being coached. In this case, he would share an example of a time that he led a coaching session with someone who had been wrongly accused and discovered the error by not judging the person or situation until he had all the facts.

Keep the stories and examples short and concise. The audience does not need to know that the coaching session occurred on a Tuesday at lunchtime in a red brick building unless those facts are important to the story.

Informational presentations should not be boring.

Always summarize the key points you want to teach. Tell your audience how learning this information can benefit them. Include visual and experiential components to encourage your audience to learn. Tell stories and examples to make your content more interesting. Even dry data can be presented in a way that teaches and informs.