The Three Elements of a Successful Presentation

Rob Jolles

When I worked for Xerox, I spent five days teaching trainers and speakers how to present information in a powerful manner.  Those five days gave me time to work on many of the critical elements of speaking, including setting up your message, creating measurable objectives, sustaining interest, dealing with personalities, proper use of questioning tactics, tricks of the trade and so much more.

After I left Xerox, I continued to teach individuals how to speak in front of others, but I had to trim the program down from five days to three days.  That meant trimming down the material, and I came up with the most critical elements of professional speaking.

Before I knew it, some clients asked me to teach this material in two, or even just one day.  This didn’t mean I had to talk faster; it meant I had to continue to trim down the material to intelligently fit the designated timeframe.  It also meant trying to net out and articulate the most critical elements of my message.

I was even requested to give shorter presentations on the topic, including half-day programs, and finally, the dreaded keynote.  I don’t say “dreaded” because I feared the delivery.  I say it because it meant trimming my precious five-day program to the best hour or two I could muster. In the process of condensing that material more and more, I had to figure out every moment of that presentation. I had to make every word count.

This brings us back to a question I was recently asked: “Mr. Jolles, what do you think the three most important elements of not just speaking, but also performing, would be?  I’m just looking for three things.”

My first thought was, “Wow, I’ve spent 30 years learning how to condense a 5 day class into an hour. Now, this guy wants it condensed to three things!”  And yet, figuring out the answer to that simple question forced me to provide an equally simple response.  Here’s what I said:

“In real estate, they say the three most important things are location, location, location.  In any performance, the three most important things are timing, timing, and timing.” That was my answer, and I’m sticking with it!

  • Want to sustain interest throughout your message?  It often comes down to the timing between your segments.
  • Want to draw people to the core of your message?  It often comes down to the timing between your sentences.
  • Want to help people believe your message?  It often comes down to the timing between your words.
  • Want to bring humor into your message?  It often comes down to the timing between your stories.

There is a time to speak, and a time for silence.  When you can develop a rhythm between the two, you take a major leap into a whole different level of communication competency. Timing, timing, and timing!  It’s not the words you choose, but rather the space between the words that matters.

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