Getting Better At Presenting

by Stephen Boyd | June 30, 2003

Many of you reading this are experienced and effective speakers. But as with any other skill, you either keep getting better or you begin to lose your edge as a skillful speaker. Here are some suggestions for the good speaker to become even more effective.

Memorize your stories and then practice so they don’t sound memorized. Write out your story and edit it carefully. Writing the story insures excellent word choice and conciseness in the telling of the story. Practicing the story using gestures and movement to complement the content will make you an even more powerful storyteller. Practice the story in conversation with friends at dinner or having a cup of coffee so you can get audience feedback. Practice also gives you an awareness of how long the story will take to tell.

Turn the sound down on the television set and watch the gestures and body movement of Jay Leno or David Letterman as they do their monologues. Concentrate on their nonverbal communication. This can give you ideas on improving your own delivery style. Notice the specific gestures they use. Look at their facial expressions as they speak. Observe how they use the stage from which they speak. Watch posture. Take note of how often they take steps. Consider how they connect with the audience through the nonverbal.

Videotape part or all of your next presentation and watch it in the privacy of your office. Punch the pause button two or three times to observe in more detail your delivery. You may find minor mannerisms that inhibit the overall effectiveness of your presentation. These you can easily correct. Listen to your rate of speech and the articulation of the words you use. You may find places where you run words together and determine how to articulate those more clearly.

Ask a colleague to observe and give feedback on a presentation you deliver. You might even have specific aspects of the presentation you want him or her to note and provide reactions on. Often people who know you well and are familiar with your one-on-one communication skills can provide input on how you could use certain speaking techniques more effectively because they observe you regularly in more informal situations.

The effective speaker wants to keep improving and moving to the next level of expertise. These suggestions can help you to continue to be a careful student of speaking and a constantly better speaker.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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