Tips of the Trade: Making an Impactful Speech

As IMA’s President and CEO, delivering speeches and presentations to the IMA community are part of my daily job description. One instance in particular is the speech I make at the Annual Meeting of Members during IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. Every year I try to make my speech more dynamic and impactful than the previous year. But you don’t need the experience of a CEO to make a powerful presentation. Here are a few things I keep in mind when preparing a speech or presentation.

bill presenting

Each year, the Chair, Chair-Elect, and I make a speech at the Annual Dinner during IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. This is Bill Knese, former IMA Chair (2014-2015), making his speech last year.

Know Your Audience – It’s All about Them, Not You
IMA members come to the Annual Meeting for a few reasons, one of them being to hear about how the organization has performed on their behalf and what the future holds. It’s much like a meeting of shareholders in that sense; increasing the value of your membership investment in IMA is top of mind. The information isn’t always stimulating, but members get necessary and valuable information out of this meeting. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Avoid Tangents
Become very familiar with your speech or presentation before you take the stage – know your topic like the back of your hand. This will help you learn the flow of topics so that you can at least have a mental outline of your speech and “flex” (or be adaptable) to the needs of your audience. Also, keep in mind your time limit. Your audience might lose interest if you go on a tangent. Depending on the audience size and formality of the speech or presentation, you may want to ask your audience to hold questions until the end of your presentation to avoid tangents.

Be Personable, Be Genuine
Adding anecdotes to your speech or presentation helps your audience relate to the topics you’re talking about and, therefore, better understand the points you’re trying to make. Authenticity is key for making a connection with your audience – they’ll get to know you better, and you’ll be reassured that they understand the points you’re conveying. We are all human, and demonstrating you can walk in the shoes of your audience makes you more relatable and therefore influential.

animated presenter

It’s important to accompany your presentation with visuals and to be passionate about the topic you’re speaking about. This presenter from last year’s Conference loves public speaking!

Engage Your Audience
The content of your speech isn’t the only thing that matters. Engaging your audience is important for making a lasting impression and reinforcing the points of your speech. You can do so in a few ways: ask questions to facilitate conversation, ask for their feedback or opinion on a topic, or encourage interactive exercises in small groups. You should also include visuals in your presentation to keep the audience stimulated.

All in All, Be Passionate
These tips are worthless unless you’re passionate about the topic you’re presenting. This will make the experience more memorable for your audience, and they will more easily connect with your message. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re presenting to an audience of 1,000 or a small room of coworkers.

What are your tips for delivering an impactful presentation? What was your most recent speech/presentation about?

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

RELATED ARTICLES:

Five Easy Tricks to Make Your Presentation Interactive – Forbes
Preparing a Speech – Toastmasters International

2 thoughts on “Tips of the Trade: Making an Impactful Speech

  1. Thanks Jeff, for the timely tips. I will be presenting some material at the Annual Conference on PowerPivot and Big Data (Management Acct Roundtable) and the reminders are very helpful. A buddy from Experis loaned me a book, “How to Make an Impact” about presentations and the # 1 pet peeve he recalled was an aversion to bullet points. I don’t know if that is the most important aspect, since I really like your emphasis on PASSION (I’ve got that!).
    I can attest to the value of really knowing your material, since it allows that valuable flexibility needed when the audience asks questions or the presentation contains any live demo section.
    Another good tip I saw for sessions with demos is to pre-record the material with a program like “Snag-It” and then you can play that recording back instead of relying on all factors to be controlled and constant when trying to do a live demo.
    I’m learning so much in the IMA that applies to other areas of life (and vice versa). I found that the fact that I play guitar and sing in church makes me have little fear of public speaking. Perhaps some people wish I would be quieter, but I have less fear anyway.
    I urge all of us in accounting, finance and business to heed Jeff’s advice and take more opportunities to present publicly to get better at communicating key insights.

  2. Thanks, alot Chris great input as always!! I may apply it in the next week at the IMA board meeting and conference events in LA! Jeff

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