Having a terrible public speaking blank? – Remember the building blocks

It’s one of the speaker’s worst nightmares -that terrible blank moment – or getting to the end and realising you have forgotten important points that are crucial to the success of the presentation.

The first solution we automatically want to adopt is to read the material either from paper or from slides. Unfortunately it is really difficult to maximise the impact of your presentation if you read it. It can question your confidence with your subject, and it dampens your personality.

So we need to develop other ways of remembering our material and presenting it in the best way to create an impact.

You can start by remembering the structure of your speech.

As you created the presentation, you chose the main sections and the best order for them. Remember that decision, the logic and power of it and it will be the basic framework of your memory.

When you created the speech you would have created a single sentence that embodied what you wanted to achieve with the speech – the purpose of the speech and the message you wanted to put across. That will be the first memory cue. If you use nothing else (and I hope that is NOT the case !) then you can always return to this one cue and it will guide you back to what you want to do.

Do a little well …

“Better do a little well, than a great deal badly.”


Public speaking tip: Are you pushing out your audience by pushing in the dates, figures and statistics?

Dates, figures and statistics are all very powerful ways to support your points.

Overuse them, though, and they just become boring, and your audience will turn off.

If data is absolutely necessary, use your slides to create a visual rendition of it.

Tell stories about it.

Find some way to relate it to your audience – percentages of people like them, for example, or of their country.

Passion and focus

A good orator is pointed and impassioned.

Marcus T. Cicero

You’re not a natural comedian? That’s fine …. here’s how to find humour to use in your presentations

Most audiences will respond to humour. You don’t need to be a comedian, or even a humorous speaker, if it is not your style. You can still use humour to engage with an audience and have them be comfortable with you and your presentation.

“But I’m just not funny and I’m hopeless at telling jokes” Yes, I know – me too. So where do we find humour to use in our speeches? There are three main places to find humour. They are readily available to you, and they are used by all successful speakers and comedians. Those places are life, jokes and situations. Let’s look at how to extract the humour from them.

The first place to find humour is to look around you – look at your life – look at everything within it. Look at the conversations that make people laugh. Use them. Or look at what worked to make people laugh and use that. When you find yourself laughing or even smiling, look at why. What made you smile? Yes, I know you have your own sense of humour, but it is your own sense of humour that will make the humour in your presentations authentic, strong and personal. Select from that, what you think will appeal to your audience and what will best support your points.

Seek out humour. Look at the internet – not to copy jokes (we’ll look at that in a minute) but, again to see what makes you laugh. What makes other people laugh? Go to the library. Look into magazines and ezines. Read humorous writers, go to comedy clubs, listen and watch radio and television. What works and what doesn’t and why? When you find out what works and what doesn’t and why, then you can go back to your own life and watch for those same things, what works, what doesn’t and why – those same conversations, those same situations. See the humour and how that humour can be used in your presentations.

When they are situations and conversations and events that have happened to you or around you or to those around you, they have so much more impact. They have all the added benefits that storytelling brings to a speech. They are authentic and not some joke that you are repeating and trying to twist to suit your point. And they are certainly not a joke that your audience has heard before.

Another source of humour is our own speaking experience. You will discover, as you speak, what people find humorous about you and your style. Sometimes you may make an aside or a throw away remark that was not intended to be humorous, but that makes people laugh. You may make a point using exaggerated body language and people laugh. You might create a situation with the audience or the stage that creates a laugh. Note it well, and use it again. Next time it will be deliberate, certainly, but you can make it look spontaneous if need be. If it works, keep it!

Other people’s jokes are a very dangerous source of material for your humour. Part of the danger lies in the way people use jokes. Some speakers, desperate to be humorous, plan to simply tell jokes to get a laugh, relax their audience and create engagement. If it is not your joke, you risk it falling flat. If it is just a joke on its own, you increase the risk because everything is riding on that joke being funny, you telling it well, the audience being in the mood for that sort of humour – all sorts of pitfalls. If, on the other hand, you choose to use the joke as a support for a point you are making, then you decrease the chances of failure. If worst comes to worst and your audience does not respond, you can just carry on as if it were a story and not necessarily a funny joke. If it succeeds then you have got double value from the joke in creating a memorable tag for the point you were making. You can find jokes in all of the places I mentioned above – the internet, the library, magazines, other comedians and so on. You can use quotations and crazy predictions. You can search in the area of the subject of your presentation or in the expertise of your audience. Just be very careful that the joke suits you audience and the occasion, that it suits your style and your sense of humour and that it suits the point you are trying to make.

The final source of humour is one that works really well. I will call it situational humour. Find humour in the situation you find yourself in, for this speech. You can use geographical humour – compare your home country with this country. Tell the story of something funny that happened here on this occasion, or on another occasion. Use the organisation or the people in the audience or the event. Research the history of the organisation and its culture. Find (appropriate) humour in that. Find humour in your relationship with someone in the audience – something funny that has happened or that the person said had happened. Turn someone’s idiosyncrasies into humour if t can be done respectfully. Use current events – in the world, the country, this town or this audience. All of these are particularly useful in your opening segments that will help relax the audience and to make build engagement with them.

Focus your ideas for a speech on: The Back of the Napkin

The Back of the Napkin

by Dan Roam

Management consultant and lecturer Roam begins with a watershed moment: asked, at the last minute, to give a talk to top government officials, he sketched a diagram on a napkin. The clarity and power of that image allowed him to communicate directly with his audience. From this starting point, Roam has developed a remarkably comprehensive system of ideas. => http://bit.ly/SDH4D0