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Tips and Tricks about Presentations

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This post was written by
Scott Schwertly

Scott is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3.

The day was June 26, 1963, and the location was notable. Nearly two years after the Berlin Wall was erected by the Soviet Union to eliminate movement between East and West Germany, U.S. President John F. Kennedy traveled to West Berlin to show his support of the democratic state. The resulting speech is remembered as one of JFK’s best, and should rightfully serve as a standard of excellence in public speaking.

Always, Know Your Audience

We can’t stress it enough: the most important thing about a presentation or speech is the audience. JFK’s speech wouldn’t have made the lasting impression it did if he hadn’t been wholly aware of whom he was speaking to, and been keenly in touch with what rhetoric they would respond to. He begins by making his audience feel important, by declaring, “I am proud…” to visit this country, to be here, to be in the company of General Clay (who was beloved by West Berliners).

Perhaps most ingeniously, JFK spoke the language of his German audience. Rather than declare, “I am a Berliner,” in English, he spoke the phrase twice in German, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” He speaks another memorable phrase in German, “Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen,” or “Let them come to Berlin.” Again, the phrase is significantly more powerful spoken in German, as it shows JFK’s unwavering support, and respect, for the people of West Berlin.

Repetition: Easy to Implement with Lasting Result

We’ve discussed using literary techniques in presentations, and there’s no denying that the most powerful of those techniques is repetition. There’s just something utterly compelling and memorable about repetition. Notice how JFK employs the technique: “There are some who say,” (3x) and most powerfully, “Let them come to Berlin,” which he says four times, and once in German. Repetition is a simple technique to implement in a presentation or speech– one that leaves a significant impression on the audience.

Keep it Brief

JFK was particularly great at keeping his speeches short and sweet. He certainly recognized the power of brevity, and used it to its full advantage. The pace of this speech is excellent. Only after getting the crowd excited and enthused about his message does he go into specific detail regarding his motivations for being in West Berlin. He uses emotion masterfully, and does well to end the speech strongly, by again declaring the most important point of the speech: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” 


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  • http://Lawrencego.com Lawgo

    I love blowing up the screen with a large compelling image to reinforce a wordy slide. Working in the field of medical devices sometimes I'm lucky and get to pull up a gory image or two haha

  • slidehunter

    These are good objective points about the disadvantages of using PowerPoint templates. But I'd like to mention that sometimes the use of PowerPoint templates can ruin a presentation or affect the most important thing of a presentation that is to get the message. See, even with Prezi the result can be really awesome in terms of effects (zoom in, zoom out) and can delight an audience, but remember the goal is to convey a message to that audience. Using too much images, fancy animations and other decorations in a PowerPoint presentation can really make loss the point.

    I agree that for SlideShare and SlideOnline.com for example, showing a catchy image can highlight the presentation across the entire site, while the white slide background may be too boring, but it is important to focus that the template, images, graphics, etc. are just visual aids.