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How To Give An Informative Talk

If you are a manager, employee, freelance consultant or business owner, you probably have to give many different kinds of talks as part of your work. These presentations could be informative, demonstrative (“how to”) or persuasive talks.  There also may be situations where you have to give a special-occasion talk or an impromptu speech.

Your goal is to be effective and look good in front of colleagues, your boss or clients, right? Here are some tips and strategies for giving an informative talk. Let’s look at some useful ways for:
[note]

  1. Preparing the talk
  2. Starting the presentation
  3. Moving ahead
  4. Ending the talk
  5. Having a Q & A session

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Preparing the talk

As in any project or task, careful preparation is one component to success. Ask yourself these questions:

– How can I be informative as well as persuasive and entertaining? Remember an informative speech is not only about sharing lots of information.
– How can I involve as many senses as possible during my talk beyond the auditory, for example by using visual aids? Do I keep it simple by using a flipchart or do I use a Powerpoint presentation?
– In what ways can I rephrase prominent points to have my listeners retain or learn more?
– How can I organize the information in small, well-organized amounts?
– What is my key message?
– What does my audience already know about the topic?
– What three essentials questions would my audience like answered?
– How can I best keep my audience’s attention? Remember not to give too much information. Be selective – cover a few points in depth rather than many points. Think of questions you could ask your audience to keep them engaged.

Case Study

[alert]Suppose you are a specialist in admissions to university. The parents committee at an international prep school has invited you to give a 30-minute talk before the student body on “Getting into University.”

There are so many things you can talk about: choosing the right school, school grades, standardized tests, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and more. Where do you start?

Since you don’t have a lot of time, you might want to focus on the first three points: getting into the right school, grade point average and the SAT – the math, reading and writing test.[/alert]

Starting the presentation

At the beginning of the talk, you should say who you are, state your purpose, list the main points, and stress the subject’s importance to listeners – which in this case shouldn’t be hard to do.

Case Study

Here are some ways to begin your presentation.

[alert]Good evening, my name is Victor and I help students get into their dream university.

This evening I’m going to talk about three of the biggest factors in contributing to university acceptance.

I’ve divided my 30-minute talk into three parts. In the first part, I’ll tell you why you must know yourself in order to pick the right school for you. In the next section, I will explain why your grade point average can make or break your admission to a top school. In the last part, I’ll show you what you need to do to increase your SAT scores.

By knowing how to deal effectively with these three points, you’ll increase your chances of success to getting into the university of your choice. Please stop me at any point if you don’t understand something.

I’d appreciate it if you kept any specific questions for the end.[/alert]

Moving ahead

In the body of the talk, you need to present subpoints to support each of your main points, to explain new or hard concepts by comparing them with something familiar using an analogy or a metaphor, to present examples or statistics visually if possible, and to ask your audience relevant questions.

Case Study

Here are some ways to move your presentation forward.

[alert]Now let’s look at the first aspect – picking the perfect school.

In the first place, you must attend a school that will help you achieve your personal, professional and academic goals. Let’s take an example. Andrea was smart and able-enough to attend any top university in North America or Europe.  But she decided to stay in South America. She wants to attend the best business school there and work for her father. Ask yourself these questions: What makes you happy? What kind of job would you like to have on graduating? Do you plan on doing graduate studies?[/alert]

Ending the talk

This is where you tie everything together, summarize your principal points, repeat the importance of the subject, re-emphasize the benefits to the listener, and make a call to action.

Case Study

[alert]Here are some ways to conclude your presentation.

Let me summarize by saying that choosing the right school can make all the difference in your life.

I just showed you why picking the right school is important and how to pick the best school for you. Pick schools that fit your dream. I also explained why achieving good grades is a “must” to getting into a top school. Finally, I described some techniques and practices for increasing your SAT scores.

I’d like to finish by recommending that you get my free e-book on the topic. Thank you very much for your attention.[/alert]

Useful language

Well, I think that’s all there is to say.
What I tried to show is . . .
Well, I’d say we have covered all the main points.
I think we’ll have to leave it here.

Having a Q & A Session

If time permits, it is very worthwhile having a Question and Answer period. This allows you to clarify or expand on important points or add something you may have missed in your presentation.

When someone asks a question, make sure you understand it. If not, ask the person to repeat the question.

In case you don’t get any questions, have some backup questions in mind. Some speakers arrange to have an “ally” or a friend in the room to ask a question or two if the audience is silent. Now that’s smart thinking!

If you can’t respond to a question, be honest and admit it. You can always get back to the person later in an email.


Whenever you are stuck, stressed, or worried about presenting in front of an audience, just realize that there are templates and strategies that are tried and tested. You do not have to reinvent the wheel every time you have to present in front of people. Just focus on getting the information into the minds of your audience in a way that is informative and interesting, and then reinforce those lessons with questions and comments.

How did you do on your last presentation? Do you have any specific questions about presentations? If so, ask us in the comments.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Craig September 10, 2012, 1:22 am

    Excellent article! This comment system works like a charm.

  • Flavie September 17, 2012, 4:22 pm

    Really interesting article. I’m sure it will help me if I need to do a informative talk one day.

    • Frank September 18, 2012, 6:33 pm

      Flavie,

      Thanks for your comment. You will undoubtedly need to give an informative talk one day either at university or your workplace. Be sure to check our other article on the topic: “Being Persuasive: How to Win Your Audience.” I’m sure you’ll find it just as interesting as this article.

  • Isabelle vouligny September 17, 2012, 4:23 pm

    This article is very useful, espescially for the structure part. I think it is important to know where we’re going when we make a speech regardless of the context.

    • Frank September 18, 2012, 6:40 pm

      Isabelle,

      Good point! If you want to learn more about structuring your message – whether it be either in writing or speaking – check the article “Effective Business Writing: Structure Your Document.” It gives many good ideas for outlining, writing a draft and developing your message.

  • Jean-Michel Michaud September 17, 2012, 4:26 pm

    This is a really good article that shows us the way an informative talk should be done. It is really well described and explained.

    But I have a question:
    Is this the easiest way to do it? Is it the most convenient way? What would be the best way to present an informative talk if it’s not this one?

    • Frank September 18, 2012, 6:57 pm

      Jean-Michel,

      This article refers to important talks that you may have to give to colleagues, clients, a public audience, or even your classmates. For short impromptu talks given without prior warning, you don’t have to be so formal. So obviously you can’t follow all five steps we discussed in the article. In these unplanned situations, you will need to think fast however.

      The more practice you have in giving a formal informative talk, the more effective you’ll be in giving a spontaneous talk. Look for a future article on BEHQ for giving an impromptu talk.

  • Elisabeth LeBourdais September 17, 2012, 4:26 pm

    I have a question about the text concerning the informative talk. If the subject of my presentation is a bit complicated for my audience, are there any tips that could make their understanding a little easier?

    • Frank September 21, 2012, 10:29 pm

      Hi Elisabeth,

      It may indeed happen that your audience is not familiar with the topic you are addressing. In that case, you may try some of these strategies:

      – use simple language and avoid using jargon or technical expressions,
      – show pictures, graphs, charts or even cartoons to illustrate important points,
      – restate main points in different words,
      – recapitualate or summarized key ideas,
      – keep in mind the question most people ask when attending a talk: “What’s in it for me?”

  • Eve Lalancette September 17, 2012, 4:28 pm

    Question: How to give an informative talk

    Does this article apply to academic presentations as well? If not, what would be the main differences from a business speech?

    Thank you!

    • Frank September 23, 2012, 10:48 pm

      Hi Eve,

      I would say that this article applies just as much to academic presentations as it does to business talks. The five basic steps I presented in this article are the same. An academic presentation would perhaps be more formal and deal with “academic topics” rather than business subjects.

  • Esperance September 17, 2012, 4:30 pm

    I liked this article. It was helpful to me. But I would like to know if we can ask a question to the audience when we are concluding our talk, a question that leads to another topic that is connected to what we were talking about.

    • Frank September 23, 2012, 10:56 pm

      Hi Esperance,

      Thanks for your comment. I think it is an excellent idea to ask a question to engage your audience at the end of your talk. It could be even be a rhetorical question to get your listeners thinking. It might lead to other questions that your audience may think of asking.

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