Speaking with Class

“Speaking with Class” helps you present with substance and style. How to get there? Read and respond to the blog articles under this section. Join in the discussion!

Feb 20 2012

No Surprises!


Holiday Inn trains its employees using the motto “no Surprises.” These two words are regularly repeated through their staff training. Translation? We don’t want our clients to have any unexpected or unpleasant surprises when they stay at out hotels. A surprise could be; “Sorry, breakfast is not served until 7:00 am.” “Sorry, you’re room is not ready yet.” “Sorry, you can’t check out at noon.” Client surprises like these are remembered and result in lost business.

So it is with giving presentations. As the speaker, you want to avoid any surprises that could have been prevented with thorough preparation. This is where the need for an “audit” arises. Take the time to get to know your client and attendees as best you can during your speech preparation phase. Do this by gathering information relevant to the needs and interests of your audience. What you gather during your audit will allow you to customize your talk, presentation aids and materials so that when giving your talk, the audience will feel that you are talking right to them.

What information do you need about your audience? Here’s a brief summary of the five areas I give focus to when completing my audience audit.

• Demographics

This will include things like the number of expected attendees, the male-female ratio, average audience age, education range, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

• Workplace Experience

Find out about the audience’s knowledge on your topic, their work experiences and any sensitive issues – political or organizational matters - that should not be raised during the talk.

• Factors Affecting Group Dynamics

Questions you might ask under this area include; Will there be decision makers in the audience? Will the attendees be coming by choice? What are their job successes and frustrations? What is the morale of the group – overworked, motivated, powerless?

• Expectations

Find out what the contact person expects. Survey a sampling of the intended audience via email to find out their expectations. With these two groups, I usually ask the question; “What are your top 3 expectations?”

• Venue

Include in your audit questionnaire questions about room size, room location, light and temperature controls, seating arrangements, AV equipment provided, time allotments, microphone needs and any competing events within the vicinity of your presentation.

I highly recommend the book “The Trainer in You” – chapter 3; which will give you comprehensive information and forms to guide the completion of an audit (see “Books” on this website)

A good audit will not only help you live by the motto ‘no surprises’, it will increase your level of enthusiasm about the group. Best yet, you’ll be confident that what you say will really matter to them!

Speaking with Class

Nov 10 2011

Gap Analysis Profile

How do you rate as a presenter?

Here’s a tool that helps you to identify your greatest strengths as a presenter and the areas where you might need more work. There are 20 statements, each one specifying a particular communication skill. Place an “X” on the dotted line to indicate how you would rate yourself on each skill. At the end of the exercise, draw lines between the “X’s” so you can see at a glance what communication skills you excel at and which ones need work.



Performance Skills
1. I find it easy to express my ideas in front of groups
2. I am able to deliver with minimal reliance on notes 
3. I’m comfortable using eye contact            
4. I welcome the opportunity to speak at a meeting     
5. I feel comfortable addressing a large audience         
6. My gestures are congruent with my message           
7. I find it easy to use humour with an audience          

Voice skills
8. I am able to project my voice – it is easily heard   
9. My voice does not fade at the end of sentences   
10. I avoid “uh,” “um,” an other verbal bumpers   
11. I use vocal variety to add meaning to my words   
12. I speak at a rate acceptable to the audience   
13. My voice feels good after an hour of speaking   
14. Hoarseness, nasality and hesitation are absent   

Technical Skills
15. I speak directly and concisely           
16. I use my planning time effectively       
17. I use appropriate grammar           
18. I’m good at creating appropriate visual aids   
19. I use anecdotes and stories to support my ideas   
20. I conduct an audience audit before I speak

My greatest strengths are…

My greatest needs are…


1       2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9      10
low                                                                               high





Speaking with Class

Nov 10 2011

Stimulate your audience with ‘quality’ questions

What types of questions can one ask a group they are presenting to?

I like Robert Jolles’s assessment of the four different ways to frame or orient questions.

Fact Based: Also called closed questions. They have a right and wrong answer. They can potentially put people on the spot, so they need to be used carefully. Inexperienced presenters often overuse close questions when engaging an audience.

Opinion Based: Also called open-ended questions. They require subjective answers that are neither right nor wrong. These questions are less intimidating than fact-based questions. They can however take groups into new or unpredictable directions, so they need to be managed well.

Comparison Based: These questions invite people to discuss the similarities and differences between  ideas. They help people think more deeply, more reflectively.

Conclusion-based: These questions require people to apply learning from the presentation. These questions make a direct transition into the application of presentation ideas.

Jolles, Robert L. 2003… “Presentation skills for Consultants, Trainers and Teachers.”  New York: John Wiley & Sons

Speaking with Class


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