Public Speaking & Comms.

General principles

The basic rule of effective communication with any audience is: Don’t talk down to people.

Regardless of whether you’re speaking, writing a letter, sending an email or making a phone call, good communications have a few things in common. They should be:

  • accurate
  • clear and easy to understand
  • well timed
  • to the right person
  • two way – enabling feedback.
  • If someone provides you with some information, they like to know what you did with it, otherwise they may think that it was ignored. It also encourages them to speak with you in future without thinking it was a waste of time.

    Communication techniques

    Do: face the person you are talking to, maintain eye contact, use silence (it can indicate patience and provide thinking time).

    Don’t: cross your arms and legs, stare, look away for long periods, fidget or doodle.

    Do: ask questions – it shows a genuine interest in what the other person is saying and shows you want to understand what they mean.

    Don’t: keep interrupting – try to let the other person come to a natural pause before responding.

    Do: be aware of the person’s demeanour. For example, if they are worried or concerned about something, they may be restless/shifting about, slouched, unable to maintain eye contact or looking downwards.

    Don’t: assume that a person feels down because of any of these factors – try to be open and helpful.

    Do: be self-aware, so that you are familiar with your own habits and mannerisms that may affect how well people listen to what you’ve got to say.

    Don’t: assume that because you are interested in what you have to say that the other person is.

    Being a good listener

    Our top ten tips to help develop your listening skills:

  • Stop talking – give the person space to speak.
  • Prepare yourself to listen.
  • Put the talker at ease – the talker’s needs and problems are important to him/her.
  • Remove distractions – focus your mind on what is being said.
  • Empathise – try to see, and meet half-way, the point of view being expressed.
  • Be patient – a pause, even a long pause, doesn’t always mean that the speaker has finished.
  • Avoid personal prejudice – don’t allow irritation at things said, or the person’s accent or manner, for example, to distract you.
  • Listen to the tone of voice – it can give important clues to what the person’s feeling.
  • Listen for ideas, not just words – you want to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.
  • Watch for non-verbal communication – gestures, facial expressions and eye movements can all be important if you are talking to someone face to face.
  • Speaking in public

    Let’s introduce PAM. PAM is a useful reminder about any form of communication. She stands for:

  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Message
  • Purpose

    Another way of saying this is your aim or objective. You should be clear before you begin what it is you want the audience to come away with at the end.


    Try to find answers to the following questions:

  • Roughly how many people will be there?
  • Will the audience be mainly from one particular age group, cultural background, other group, or a mixture?
  • What have they been told about the event? What are their expectations?
  • Do they have any specific or current concerns?
  • Do they have any previous knowledge or experience of Neighbourhood Watch?
  • Message

    The message is the crucial content of your presentation: what it is you’re actually going to say. Good messages have a few things in common:

  • clear and easy to understand
  • in plain English
  • accurate
  • concise.
  • How to make your message stick

    Can you give a real life example? Do you know how Neighbourhood Watch helped an elderly person, for example, or gave him or her a new lease of life? Real examples work much better than abstract things. People can relate your stories
    to their own lives.

    Preparing for your talk

    Write down in advance the key points that you want to make. If you can, it’s best to speak from notes rather than writing down an entire ‘speech’ as a script. A few notes will help you to plan and order your talk. Give each section a simple heading.

    Decide in advance how you would prefer to deal with questions. You might be happy to respond to them during the presentation, or be more comfortable leaving questions until the end. Just make sure you tell your audience at the beginning.

    Think about what questions you might be asked. If you’ve already thought through your purpose and audience, you’ll be better prepared.

    Sometimes you may be asked a completely unexpected question. If this happens and you don’t know, say so. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you’ll try to find out and will get back to them.


    It’s a good idea to rehearse what you want to say. Practising is one way of helping to calm your nerves, and running through your presentation in front of someone you trust is a good way of getting feedback. Also, watch yourself in the mirror to see if you have any distracting mannerisms or habits. Most of us do!

    Planning for the day

    This checklist should help you to feel organised and prepared before the big day:

  • Check the date, time and venue.
  • Ensure you have contact numbers for the venue in case of problems.
  • Double check that you and your hosts are clear about what your talk or presentation is about.
  • If there are to be other speakers, try to find out who they are, what they will be talking about and what order you’ll be speaking in.
  • Equipment – do you need any, and if so, will you bring it or will the venue provide it?
  • Try to confirm how many people will be present.
  • On the day

  • Give yourself plenty of time to arrive.
  • If you have any leaflets or anything else to hand out, make sure you bring enough.
  • Check the venue and ensure there are enough chairs etc. and that they are set out in a way you’re happy with.
  • If you need to set up any equipment, do it soon after you arrive – and check that it works.
  • As members of your audience arrive, mingle and talk to them, then you won’t be giving your talk to complete strangers.
  • Try to relax – a couple of deep breaths may help.
  • Structuring your presentation

    Here is an example of a good structure for a presentation:

  • Introduce yourself and what you’re going to say. Say how long you intend to talk for and how you’re going to handle questions.
  • Explain your overall message – your key point(s).
  • Present your key points in more detail – use your notes.
  • Anticipate any questions people may have before they ask them and answer them in the presentation – ‘Now, you might think that isn’t possible, but let me give you an example to show you that it is…’
  • Draw to a conclusion – not just a summary of what you’ve said, but an appeal or call to action works well. Let the audience know that you’ve reached the end.
  • It’s important to finish on time and reinforce what you hope to happen next – even if it’s just leaving your contact details so that people can get back to you.


  • Try to sound enthusiastic – if you’re not, why should the audience be bothered?
  • Give them something – maybe a leaflet or sticker that you can hand out.
  • Varying the speed of the presentation can help to ensure that it doesn’t become monotonous.
  • Use stories, anecdotes and concrete, real-life examples to keep it interesting.
  • Give a small number of very telling facts and figures, but don’t overwhelm people with statistics.
  • Try to maintain eye contact with people in the audience and keep your energy up right the way through.
  • Get to the point quickly.
  • One way of making your presentation interesting is by involving the audience; for example, by asking them a question or for a show of hands, or asking for personal anecdotes. But you need to be wary here. Some people may be willing to get involved, but you can bet that others won’t. You want your audience to be relaxed and receptive to your message – making them nervous won’t do you or them any good. Try to judge the mood.


    Try to make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard and clearly enough to be understood. If you feel awkward, rehearsing the presentation with someone beforehand should help. Deep breaths will help you to keep the volume up without shouting.

    Using technology

  • Focus on the audience, not the screen.
  • Don’t stand in front of the screen.
  • Ensure your slides are in the right order.
  • Don’t read out the content of the slides word for word, it’s very boring.
  • Try to use more visuals than words. People can’t read and listen at the same time, so slides full of text will distract from what you’re saying. You want what’s on screen to support what you’re saying, not repeat it.
  • If your presentation is quite long, you might want to consider breaking it up with a short video if you can find something suitable to illustrate your point. If you’re feeling creative you could even use your phone to make a ‘talking head’ video of a local ‘VIP’ supporting your cause or someone who can’t be at the meeting giving their views – it all helps to break up a long talk.
  • Give out any notes or copies of the presentation at the end.
  • Files Attached

    Click link to Download

  • Communication-Public-Speaking.pdf