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Tips on Topics for Powerful Presentations
by Chris King

There are two important factors to consider before preparing a presentation. First, and foremost is what do we want to accomplish with this presentation? It should be much more than just imparting lots of information. What action or actions do we want our audience to take? And second, what topic developed in what manner will spur them to take that action or actions? In this article I will share tips on choosing, developing, and testing successful topics.

Be passionate about your topic! I know beginning speakers who are so eager to be hired to speak that they tell prospective clients that they can speak on everything — just give them a topic. Not so! Yes, most intelligent people can pull together an informative presentation by reading and researching, but if you are not truly excited and turned on about the topic you are going to present, you will not make a lasting impression on audience members or move them to take any action. If, however, you speak about a topic that excites you, a topic that you know and live, you will excite those hearing you.

Pick a topic that will make a difference. Even if you are passionate about your topic, you must make sure that those to whom you will be speaking will find it worthwhile and a topic of interest. For example, if you are excited by and extremely knowledgeable about the topic “Customer Service for Restaurants” you would not want to speak to upper level management in a technology corporation, but you would find lots of restaurants interested in your topic. In other words, find the right audience for your topic.

Develop your mission. Once you have picked the topic you plan to present, you will have a good deal of work to do to develop that topic into a powerful presentation. The first step is to develop your mission. Every topic is loaded with information, but if you don’t have a plan for the overall mission of your presentation, you will just add to the information overload most people are experiencing today. Ask yourself early in the planning process: What do I want them to remember and do three months from now? Take out a blank sheet of paper and write in one clear, concise sentence the mission (that is, purpose or objective) of your presentation.

Pick your theme. Now that you have decided what you are going to speak about (your topic) and how you want the audience to benefit from your presentation (your mission), you will work on your presentation’s theme, which can also be stated in one concise statement. A theme, often a statement of the three most important points to be covered, keeps the presentation “on track.” For example, when giving a presentation on the topic “Newsletters” my mission would be to lead audience members to “Create Dynamic Newsletters that People Love to Read” and my theme would be “ways to produce newsletters that are appealing visually, extremely readable, and loaded with the information needed and wanted by the target readers.” I did not include another whole area pertaining to marketing and distribution that could become another full presentation.

Develop the topic. The difficult, but most important, part of the development has been accomplished. By this time, I have my outline of the three points I want to make from my theme. There are many different ways to gather and organize the material, which I will address in an upcoming article. The main tip to keep in mind is that any material that doesn’t fit the mission and theme should be saved for a future presentation.

Test your topic. I always like to test my topic before presenting it to paying clients and companies. There are many organizations like Chambers of Commerce, Kiwanis clubs, non-profit associations, Toastmasters groups, and business schools that welcome speakers who will give a free speech. Try out your presentation on several of these occasions to find out how well received it is and if it makes a difference. I also teach Continuing Education classes, so will suggest my topic and title as a class selection. If many sign up and respond favorably, I know I have a “winner.”

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