By Sue Ann Kern

Presented to ELP Park City on 9/06/2011

As Entrepreneurs, we all have the opportunity  to make presentations before groups. They can be small groups, like this one, where you know a number of friends in your audience or large groups, like the one I recently presented to, where I knew no one. How do you connect with your audience? You need to get there early, not only to set up before anyone arrives, but to be ready to greet people in your audience as they arrive. Get to know them, ask questions, and listen, listen, listen. What you hear can be used to connect with the audience in a personal, meaningful way, during your presentation. You can also show a picture or paint a word picture to get them thinking about you and/or your topic prior to starting.  If I find I am presenting to an audience of 15 people, I consider modifying my talk to include audience participation. Wherever and whenever you present, you have to be persuasive, professional and powerful.


A powerful and persuasive talk, done professionally starts with good organization. You must have a beginning that literally takes off like an airplane, enticing people to travel with you on this exciting journey. You have to capture their attention with word pictures and a clear image of where they are traveling with you. Once in the air, you keep their attention, in the body of your talk, with details, facts and other data that is both enlightening and useful to them. As you are landing at your destination, it needs to be smooth and powerful. This is where you summarize your key points, and call for action. You give them a follow-through assignment so this becomes real in their lives.

Appropriate Theme/Subject

Setting your theme is your first action. It will determine the end result your audience takes away. It needs to be politically correct for your audience. As you craft your message, consider the expertise, experience, and interests of your audience. Ask yourself, “Is the topic relevant to their background and focus. Your theme should be useful to your audience. It should be a subject that not only fits the group, but answers questions for which they have been seeking answers. Know the needs of your audience, and then work to answer an identified need or related group of needs.

Choose Your Words

As you outline or write your presentation, choose words that pop and sizzle. Does anyone know what onomatopoeia means? (The answer:) “words that make (imitate) the sound.” That’s right. Does anyone know how to spell the word? (No takers.) Use such words in your text wherever appropriate. Another speech group you should use is metaphors. What are they? (Answer:) “When you compare two unlike items or situations as if they are the other item.” Right! Our speech should be using this effective imaging. Alliteration is when you use the same beginning letter sounds for two or more words in a row. These add spice and interest to your presentation. Similes compare one thing to another using the words “like” or “as.” These phrases effectively paint pictures in the listeners head.

Law of 3s

I confess to having a personal bias. I dislike long lists of examples or adjectives. Instead, I recommend that you stick with the “Law of 3s.” When you are sharing examples, make it no more than 3. When you are describing anything, 3 adverbs or adjectives attached to the item is more than enough.


The correct kind of humor makes a good impression and relaxes your audience as you open. Self-deprecating humor, in good taste, always works. Don’t make fun of anyone. Use humor to liven up the “driest” subjects such as technical directions or economics.

Visual Aids

Visual aids add thousands of words to your presentation, and can firm up a concept or reinforce a point. They can also be used for review later in your talk. Make your images or visuals as simple as possible. You don’t want your audience to be madly writing down what’s on your power-point slides while you’re sharing a crucial point. They will not hear your key comment. Keep the words on your slides to a bare minimum. Check and double check that you have all your visual aids before you leave the office or your home.

Body Language

Your body language (55%) and your tone of voice (37%) convey the majority of your communication to your audience. Your words are only 8% of your communication. Use your hands to convey, direct and illustrate. Be loose and relaxed. Be purposeful in your movements. Choose one side of the audience to say negative statements and the other side to say positive. Do NOT read your slides on the screen, nor fumble and drop things. These things, along with pacing and rocking, show nervousness. Find a trick to cover your nervousness. For instance, I hold my hands in front of me and tightly squeeze my hidden thumb.

Eye Contact

Every audience is intimidating until you focus on a friendly face. This strategy ties into meeting people before the meeting. Meeting more than one person allows you to switch your focus around the room and still have a friendly face. This focused eye-contact tells your audience you are trustworthy. Looking right at your audience also allows you to gain feedback from them. Find those friendly faces and pull positive vibes from them to bolster and buoy you up.


When you lose track of your strand, never apologize. Instead, just calmly pause…regroup… and then resume when the thread of thought comes calmly back to your mind. This pause does two things… It prevents you from stumbling with uhhhs and apologies and it refocuses your audience—causing them to look up from texting or taking notes to see what is going on. And about the time they all do this, you have regrouped and calmly resume, totally in control.


Work on your diction. Practice pronouncing words until they can be clearly distinguished. Find a practice audience friend from a different part of the country who will listen to you and let you know when your local dialect distorts the words so that they can’t clearly understand what you are saying. Work on your volume control, pauses, and breath control. You could speak loudly and swiftly, softly and slowly, or have an edge to your voice. You can stop at a crucial point in your narrative to focus your audience on your next words. . Practice breathing so that you know when you have to take a breath to still be heard. There is nothing worse than running out of breath in the middle of a phrase and destroying the meaning of the sentence.


Practice your speeches. I practice mine in the car with my girls. They are very patient. Memorize your speech, if you can. They are always much more effective memorized, because that allows you to focus on connecting with your audience.

Even though you memorize your talk, be flexible and make sure you are responsive to your audience. Never go over your allotted time. In fact, it’s often wise to leave time for questions from your audience. Sometimes questions allow you to add to or expand your topic scope.

Finally, remember… You are the expert! No one else in the audience knows as much as you do. One may know a piece, and another an additional piece, but no one knows the total scope of the subject you are covering. So stand with confidence and deliver your powerful, persuasive presentation as a polished, professional presenter.

Sue Ann Kern can be reached at