Build Your Leaders

Seven Tips and Seven Pitfalls for High Voltage Presenting

Presenters are at their communications best when they are:

  1. Prepared. To be prepared, high voltage presenters work on both content and delivery. I suggest to clients that they practice a minimum of three times. As a part of that practice, I recommend that clients ask what questions they fear most, then prepare responses for each.
  2. Passionate. Before making any presentation, high voltage presenters ask why they are passionate about the topic. If they cannot answer the question, they don't present. Nothing gives a speaker more credibility, likeability, and authority than passion.
  3. Personal. High voltage presenters share personal stories and anecdotes. They are not afraid to share their lives with the audience.
  4. Focused and limit their points. I suggest that clients try to limit their speech to three to seven points. Research shows we have difficulty remembering more than seven topics at one time.
  5. Providing illustrations, stories, and examples for each point. High voltage presenters are great storytellers and for good reason. Most audiences remember stories and examples even more than the points the speaker was explaining.
  6. Using visuals to enhance the audiences' comprehension and memory. Research shows we remember eighty percent of what we see and only twenty percent of what we hear. One of the best visuals is a dramatic example. One client who worked for a public relations agency was making a presentation to a bank. To show the number of newspaper stories he planned to generate in the first three months of work, he dumped three hundred news clippings on the conference room table; he was awarded the account that day.
  7. Involving audiences. A common means of involving the audience is asking questions to stimulate dialog. I recommend to clients that they follow the "70/30 Rule" where they do no more than seventy percent of the talking and no less than thirty percent of the listening during a presentation.

Presenters are NOT at their communications best when they are:

  1. Not conversational. Poor communicators focus on the words and their "performance" instead of simply having a conversation with the audience. They adopt a "stage" persona and do not let audiences see behind the mask.
  2. Practicing one-way communications. (High voltage communicators are two-way communicators; they listen with their ears and eyes, and they invite audience participation.)
  3. Not managing energy. Poor communicators are dull and lackluster and void of passion and conviction, or so energetic that their energy seems to bounce against the walls. (High voltage communicators manage their energy and direct it to individuals in the audience.)
  4. Not making strong eye contact with their audience. (Unlike poor communicators, high voltage communicators do not communicate to a room; they speak to individuals in the room by delivering one thought per person.)
  5. Moving targets. Fueled by nerves, poor communicators pace or rock until their constant movement becomes distracting. (High voltage presenters know that some movement is fine, but stay planted and grounded through most of their presentation.)
  6. Uncomfortable. When speakers are uncomfortable, audiences become uncomfortable, too. Most speakers are uncomfortable because they do not know their subject, the audience, or the room in which they are presenting. (High voltage communicators show their confidence by coming out from behind the podium, planting their feet shoulder-width apart, and speaking out.)
  7. Talking too fast. By not using pauses, poor communicators don't help listeners absorb the information. (High voltage communicators regulate the pace of their speech by looking for periods and pausing, scheduling pauses throughout their speeches, delivering "one thought per person," and checking in with their audience frequently to ensure comprehension and agreement.)

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Copyright 2004, Randy Siegel, All rights reserved

The Career Engineer" Randy Siegel works with organizations to take high-potential employees and give them the leadership and communications skills they need to be successful as they rise through the organization. Purchase his book PowerHouse Presenting: Become the Communicator You Were Born to Be through, and subscribe to his complimentary monthly e-Newsletter at