Saturday, October 8, 2016

Public Speaking for Business Professionals

Speaking for Business Professionals

Fear of public speaking is one of the most common forms of anxiety. Yet most business professionals will be required to make a presentation in front of a live audience at some point in their careers. And as your role within an organisation becomes more important and strategic, your presentations will become more frequent and will need to be more persuasive, not just informative.
Whether you are speaking to clients, employees, investors or the media, effective presentation skills are essential to your professional success.

Unfortunately, public speaking is an art form that requires constant practice to master. While there are many books and courses on this topic, here are a few basic tips to improve your business presentations.

Know your key messages

The best public speakers are great story tellers. They introduce a human dimension to their presentations and take their audiences on a journey. They speak in sound bites and never give the answers up front. They lead their audience along, sparking their interest, and give them just enough information to leave them wanting more.

To ensure that their audiences retain the desired key messages, they divide their presentations into small, digestible chunks of complete information.

And above all, the best public speakers know precisely what lasting impressions they want to convey to their audiences. They craft three to five key messages that are believable, understandable, succinct, and relevant to the audience. And then they carefully build their entire presentation around them.

Rule of three

One of the oldest and most common techniques in public speaking is the rule of three. As it turns out, people are much more likely to remember something if you package it in a list of three. This technique has been used successfully throughout the ages, including Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address: “… a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The rule of three is also inherently persuasive, so always give your audience three reasons to believe any assertion you make.

10-20-30 Rule

Microsoft PowerPoint is still almost the de facto visual presentation tool in most business settings. Ironic, since only 20 percent of the population learns better visually. In fact, 78 percent of audiences say that PowerPoint slides put them to sleep, so use it sparingly. When used correctly, however, PowerPoint can be a very effective tool, especially when showing figures or complex operations to a large audience.

Your PowerPoint slides are not the structure of your talk.  They are only the aid to memory. You need to prepare your talk as if you will not be able to show your slides, for whatever reason. 

When developing a PowerPoint presentation, especially for clients, investors or the media, who all have a notoriously short attention span, follow the 10-20-30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, and at least 30-point font. And keep in mind that images are always more powerful — and memorable — than words.

This piece of advice on Public Speaking for Business Professionals is adapted from:

Sam Goodner is CEO of Catapult Systems Inc., an information technology consulting company. He was a 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner for Central Texas.  


  1. Tell me more, Milestone 3! I love Hong Kong. I've visited four times.
    Maybe we could collaborate?