Category: Other Public Speaking Situations
We’ll make a few special notes about presentations for social settings because there are a few aspects unique to them. By social settings, we mean things like PTA meetings, town meetings, school meetings, and the like.
This information is designed to be used in conjunction with the content found in the Path and the Research Area.
Like most presentations, saying “thank you” and acknowledging people is important. Since meetings of this nature are often for a purpose, like getting the school to add a program or getting the town to put in a new traffic light, it’s wise to acknowledge the people who make these decisions. Thank them for the time they are giving you and let them know you appreciate that they are in a position to make the decision.
Know who is who
Know who is who before the meeting starts. If you want your local PTA to fund a class trip, you’d be wise to know the names of the members so you don’t accidentally embarrass yourself or insult them by addressing the wrong person or calling someone the wrong name. Although we want to deliver compelling presentations passionately and effectively, and we want the audience to formulate their own opinions, we don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes that will cause the audience to stop listening entirely.
You should be ready for all presentations, but being prepared for this kind in particular may require the additional preparation of knowing which side the listeners are on. Sometimes you’ll be talking to people who have preconceived ideas and who are unwilling to change their minds, no matter how compelling your speech is. Most presentations of this type involve some form of convincing others to take action so you’ll need to know your stuff inside and out!
If you want change, make the strongest case for it that you can. Research your subject. Think of every angle. Write your presentation as well as you can. Use a style of writing that leads to the inevitable conclusion that you are right for wanting what you want. If you’re passionate about the subject, your arguments are sound and you present the information in a way that enables the audience to understand why it’s important to make a certain decision, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding.
Speaking of minds that don’t want to be changed, be extra prepared for people to give you blank stares even if you just gave them the most compelling evidence for implementing change. There’s something about school or government committees that makes them highly resistant to change. Don’t let this throw you off if it happens. Stay the course. Present your material in the most confident, appropriate manner possible!
Use of materials
Try not to use handouts if you can help it for any presentation. They create confusion and distraction. It’s always better to use some kind of visual reference like a projection screen that you can point to and control how long people look at it.
If you must use handouts, try to give out your materials before you begin. Doing so in the middle of the presentation can kill your momentum. It also often results in the audience forgetting about you for a minute or longer while they look at the new item they’ve been handed.
If you must hand something out during the meeting, ask someone ahead of time to do it for you. Many presentations lose momentum when the speaker starts fumbling with materials and takes time out to walk around the room with handouts. Even worse is when the speaker keeps trying to speak while they are handing things out and loses his place.
Ensure the handouts are short and easy to read and reference. Giving people a book can result in them reading for a while instead of listening to you. It’s also a challenge to get people to review exactly the same item on a complex document so keep it simple. Many presentations get stalled while the speaker tries to get everyone to see the same graph on page 12 - between the other two graphs.
Conclude by trying to create a reciprocal agreement
You are likely speaking for a reason. You probably want some kind of response.
When you wrap up, keep the goal in mind by trying to create a next step. You can do this by suggesting a next step, or by asking for something specific in response. Don’t let your great presentation trail off, or end with the sense that it’s over for the audience. End it like it’s just beginning if there’s more work to be done!