Whether your goal is to deliver an effective business presentation… or to become an in-demand professional speaker your presentations must contain great content. Public speaking classes are full of tips on what to do with your hands, how to stand, and how to make eye contact. As important as mastering all of these public speaking techniques is developing good original content.
As an executive speech coach I am frequently asked, “What on earth do I talk about? Where do I find examples to illustrate my key points?” My secret of developing good content is simply this – live an interesting life and talk to interesting people.
To help you get started… make a list of all the people who have influenced you in your life. Lists are a great way to gather useful content for your presentations. As you think about people who have influenced you, ask yourself what they taught you and how that has guided your life and career.
Make a list of every manager and boss you’ve worked for. Write down what you learned, even from a bad boss. A lousy boss can serve as a pitiful example and teach us what not to do!
My example of a great boss comes from when I was a 15-year-old shampoo girl at a beautiful salon at the Carlton Hotel in England. I saw my boss, Mr. Paul treat every woman who came into our salon like she was the only one in the world, and he treated the waitresses working at the Carlton Hotel as well as he treated the rich lady who resided in the hotel penthouse. When I was young I could see that this was good service and that it was nice to treat people well.
Reflecting back now, I realize the lessons I learned then that I was too inexperienced to understand at the time. Now, as an experienced business person I realize that a waitress in the Carlton Hotel, who talks to an affluent clientele of 150-200 people a day, has a lot greater sphere of influence than the rich lady who plays bridge every day with the same half dozen friends. This is a lesson I have used in a presentation on customer service.
Make a list of the different jobs you have had. List the schools or colleges you have attended. List the people you have met. List the times you have fallen in love with an idea, a profession, or a cause. List the best advice that you have been given and remember what happened as a result of taking it. Lists are a guaranteed path to discovering stories you can use to illustrate important points within your presentations.
Back when I was working for Mr. Paul we had many wealthy, glamorous women as customers. As soon as I got to know them, I used to ask, “What were you doing when you were my age? How did you make your money? Did you make it yourself or did you marry it? If you made it yourself, how did you do it? If you married it, where did you meet him?” Good market research.
My brother, guitarist Robert Fripp, is always saying, “Sister, you ask people such personal questions!” I have always asked questions – from behind the hairstyling chair and later as a professional keynote speaker at conferences – and nobody has ever said, “That’s none of your damn business!” because people love talking about themselves.
Ask questions. Interview people to gather relevant, real-life stories to illustrate important points within your presentations. There are often examples of creativity, innovation, and leadership within your company or immediate circle. There are everyday heroes who may teach you almost as much as famous business writers.
Develop This Daily Habit
Always carry a notepad – paper or electronic – and keep notes every single day. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “What happened to me today that could one day be used in a speech – or used as an example at a staff meeting?” For example, if you had a good or a bad customer service experience it can become a story to illustrate your point. Search your daily life for the stories that have a message. Even a simple example can be very profound.
Now you have some ideas to develop good, original content… Get started with your speech.
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“I use your Fripp outline prep format for every speech, sales presentation, internal training, even conference calls I deliver. It has really made my preparation faster and more effective! The ‘character and dialogue’ concept makes these presentations not only more fun for my listeners, but a heck of a lot more fun for me! Before your coaching I wasted hours of time trying to prepare.”
– Libby Easton, Director of Business Development, ADP
Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker, Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.