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Our industry is extremely network-focused, and events, seminars, and conferences will always be an integral part of how we interact and get business done. When you can be the speaker at these events, not just a participant, it establishes you (and your organization) as a thought leader, provides you an opportunity to present your perspective, knowledge and insights, and helps you establish credibility and build rapport with your customers, potential customers, and influencers. Many organizations are also using webinars more frequently; here, as well, basic public speaking practices will help you deliver a more engaging presentation and help you win your audience’s hearts and minds. Following are some suggestions to help you take best advantage of these speaking opportunities.

Know your Audience and Speak Directly to Them

Obvious, but critical – write your presentation with your audience in mind, using language, references, and examples that will resonate with them. Who are you talking to – customers? Partners?  Scientists? High school students? How much background do they have on your topic? Are you introducing a new concept or are you updating a group about a project in progress? Think about what your audience will be expecting from your speech. Be sure and deliver what they need from the presentation – and a bit more!

Display Mastery

The more you know, the more confident and effective you will be. It’s crucial to really know your material inside and out – this will allow you to be natural and comfortable with your delivery. Once you master your material, you’ll have a much easier time conveying your key points to your audience. It also helps to be passionate about your topic – your audience will be able to tell if you’re talking about something that you truly believe in.

Organize Logically and Clearly

Something that successful speeches all have in common is that they’re organized and have a clear message. A well-organized speech guides your audience from start to finish, laying the groundwork for the information to be presented, providing the key points, then summarizing clearly, and closing with a memorable finish. Set the stage, and finish with a punch. When your main points are arranged in a logical manner, listeners will be better able to follow your presentation. Fleshing out your points with relevant, supporting data (such as a personal experience or research findings) will help your audience understand and relate to your remarks. Make sure you leave enough time at the end to fully summarize your main points. If it’s an informative speech, the closing statement is sometimes referred to as the “residual message” – this is a final, broad, brief statement that sums up the main message you want your audience to remember. If it’s a persuasive speech, you should conclude with a call to action – end by telling your audience precisely what it is that you want them to do. Remember: the speaker is always in control of the presentation. Your audience is there because they want to hear what you have to say; take advantage of this opportunity by taking the time to plan and prepare an informative and entertaining presentation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Public speaking is often cited as the one thing most people are afraid of. There’s good reason for that – it’s not easy to get up in front of a crowd and really hold their interest for a set period of time. Christopher Mortenson, an international Toastmasters winner, said that he practiced his winning speech 30 times before presenting it for the first time. When rehearsing, practice speaking to the room as if the audience was right there in front of you, and present out loud; reading over the presentation is fine, but that doesn’t replace a ‘real’ run-through. Practice using gestures when appropriate to intensify your points. The more you practice, the less jittery you’ll be in front of a live audience.   

When practicing, try to visualize yourself giving the best speech of your life. Steven D. Cohen, a Harvard University professor in the school of Oral Communication in the Workplace, believes that seeing yourself succeed is one of the most important factors to overcoming nerves. Remember that you were chosen to speak for a reason and that the audience is looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Don’t Let Visual Aids Hinder the Speech

Visual aids are often great assets to speeches; many speakers rely on PowerPoints to help their audience follow along with the presentation. It’s important to keep the amount of information on each slide to a minimum, as too much text on the screen can get distracting, and use large fonts so they can be read from the back of the room. Also, integrating artwork, photos, even videos, can make the presentation livelier. But don’t ever read the slides, and don’t let the visual aids dominate – some of the best presentations I’ve enjoyed have been just a person talking – with passion, excitement, and a great message. 

Create a Moment of Awe

People want to be wowed. Don’t just follow the written script – be sensitive to your audience and when you feel they want more information or insights around a certain point, go for it! This is a common technique of Dr. Andrew Scott Crines, a professor at the University of Leeds in the UK. Build a moment in the speech that elicits a strong emotion and use it to illustrate your point. Great speeches can feel magical, grabbing the attention of the audience and energizing them. And the more frequently you speak, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become – while you also boost your credibility and that of your organization. 

 

Creating headlines is a difficult skill that can be a struggle for many writers. Headlines are extremely important whether you are writing for online content such as blogs, social media, or webpages or you are writing articles and thought leadership pieces as a journalist or public relations professional. Being able to connect with your target audience in a quick and concise manner is one of the most valuable writing skills in today’s society of social media and online content writing. 

Even though the content of an article may be extremely well written, only a small portion of people will read that article. Headlines pull people in. A good headline will catch the eye and help the reader engage. The following tips can help you create a strong headline:

Be Accurate

Although it is basic, many people make the mistake of creating misleading headlines. It is crucial not to mislead the reader about the content of the story. Be fun, be catchy – but ALWAYS be accurate.

Here are some extreme cases of misleading headlines.

 

Misleading Headlines

Accurate Headlines

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

Nutritious Snacks Created by Kids

Two Soviet Ships Collide, One Dies

Two Soviet Ships Collide, One Person Dies

Hershey Bars Protest

Hershey Staff Protest

Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim

Squad Helps A Dog Bite Victim

 

Marry Your Headline with Your Subject

Let the reader know what the article is about quickly and in a focused manner. Being direct will help the reader know what to expect instantly. Being straightforward will lead the reader to the body of the article. Obscure headlines can turn away a reader as quickly as a direct one can draw them in. Having good flow in an article goes beyond the body; make the headline flow into the content itself.

 

Add Spice with Strong Adjectives

Adjectives really make a headline stand out. An expanded use of adjectives will draw readers into the article. Headline writing is about separating from the pack; finding unique strong language helps you differentiate your story from others. Think of strong adjectives as bright colors on a page -- the brighter the colors, the more likely a person is to see that color.

 

Spark the Imagination

Make the reader want to know more. Sparking interest is a key in headline writing. Ever wonder why “How to” articles are so common? They always seem to spark interest right away – largely because they promise to solve a problem for the reader. The reader feels connected to the story immediately.

On The Boston Globe’s website, sparking the reader’s interest is a regular occurrence. Check out some of the stories on their page for some great examples of interesting headlines.

 

Cut the Fat

Creating a headline that can be read quickly is extremely important. Your headline should be descriptive enough to give your audience an idea of what the article entails, yet short enough to ensure you don’t lose their attention before they even get to the first graph.

Making the headline short is especially helpful when writing online. If there is a short headline, it can not only be used for the site, but it can be blasted on social media exactly how it appears.

 

Use Active Voice over Passive Voice

Headlines should always have an active voice. Having an active voice makes the author sound more definitive, while a passive voice can make the author seem unsure of the topic. This is important, as it can affect the credibility of the writer.

CNN really has some great active voice headlines.

 

Use the Spark Notes Version

Headlines should almost tell the story -- they should almost sum up the article for the reader. Clearly let the reader know what is coming. The goal is to lead the reader into the context of the article; this will result in a larger number of reads.

 

Use Superlatives

Superlatives will help to draw an audience into the story. This is especially effective when writing for blogs or web articles. For example, at the blog Upworthy, the team is tasked with finding superlative phrases for story headlines. This is credited with helping them draw in millions of readers to their stories. According to the New York Times, the headlines that they produced created so much buzz that the site had 2.5 million new viewers in its third month of running.

 

Name Dropping Works

Having a name in the headline can be extremely helpful. It is especially effective if the client you are writing about has a strong brand. People want to know about the brands they care about. Using a recognizable name connects the story to the reader quickly, increasing readership interest.

News sites like The Washington Post name drop a lot in their headlines. Political subjects are a great place to name drop in a headline.

 

Most Importantly: Catch the Reader's Attention

The number one goal of a headline is to catch the attention of the reader. It's worthwhile to spend a bit more time on the headline for any story you write, to ensure it not only describes the article, but entices the reader. Hopefully these tips will help you make the story pop off the page. It is not an easy task, but this is a skill worth learning, to help you engage your audience and deliver your message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013. Advice Unlimited LLC.

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