The Power of the Pause and Other Presenting Tips!

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Most people find it daunting to make a presentation and speak in public.

This is why Toastmasters is such a popular organisation around the world. I have gathered some tips from both Toastmaster publications and members from the club I attend along with my experience in the classroom to help you out.

People join Toastmasters at all ages. They also come from all walks of life and for different reasons. Basically we are all “life long learners” – whether you are giving a speech at a wedding, managing a meeting at work or presenting your research at school or university there are many common elements of an effective and engaging presentation. For some it is overcoming Glossophobia – a fear of public speaking. For some they aren’t afraid of it – they just want to keep getting better at it!
Here are some tips on what to do and what to avoid:


✔ Have a good structure:

A strong introduction that outlines say three things you will cover. The audience can follow that and when you recap in the conclusion they feel like they have heard  the complete package.

✔ Make it memorable and real.

How can you do this – especially with a science focus? Turn it into a story that  makes it personal.

✔ Make it enjoyable for you and them!

✔ Include humour, anecdotes, body language, and props.    

This engages your audience and helps them remember it.

✔ Give your listeners some useful information they can take away with them

✔ Be enthusiastic without waffling. Be clear, concise and brief.

✔ Look at your audience – make eye contact!


X   Having detailed notes

You will get lost and start “umming” and “aaahing”.

X   Reading a script or reading off a PowerPoint word for word.

 If you have simple ideas and pictures on a PowerPoint (if you have one) or on a  card they should act as a prompt. If you read it tends to be monotonal and not engaging for the audience. The more you practice the more familiar you get  with the content.

       X   Using fillers such as “um”, “ah”, “er”, “you know”, “and”, “but”.

Practice your speech in front of someone and just get them to tally up how  often you use these terms. Using these terms devalues the rest of what you really want  the audience to hear. Just pause. Relax, take a calm breath. Slow down. It is so  powerful!

      X  Clasping your hands.

What do you do with your hands? Get someone to observe your practice and notice  this and give you feedback. What could you do instead?  Having your hands  by your side is a more open gesture.

Toastmasters have a great range of resources. Here is one on better speaking that has been republished many times over the years and while you are there check out being a better listener and more!

Past blogs that you might find useful about different aspects of presenting are:

Engaging the audience

Once upon a time

Welcome everybody! – Some musings on introductions:

Eureka Trust Science Speech Competition resource links

TED’s secret to great public speaking

Graphic source:

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