Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Standing in front of people and saying "look at me!" is not something that comes naturally to me. Yet, since the release of LEAVING GEE'S BEND in 2010, it's been my honor and privilege to give nearly 200 presentations!

I have had to really work to overcome my fears, and you know, I'm kind of proud of how far I've come.

Here's just a few tips that seem really simple but have been a big help to me:

1. Scope out the room early to reduce the "surprise" element. ALWAYS get there early. And the more people you can talk to one-on-one beforehand, the more comfortable you'll be.

2. Involve the audience. Even if it is something as simple as asking a question, and raising your hand to indicate they are welcome to raise their hands too. Call on people. People like to be PART of something.

3. Keep a notebook of quotes, stories, statistics, visuals, etc. to enhance your presentations. (This is especially good for funny bits. Note to self: need more funny bits.)

4. Be sure to tell the audience "why" your message is important. This focuses not only you, but the audience.

5. Start with a bang and get right to the meat of your message because first impressions are everything.

6. Use "breathing spaces" to allow your audience an oportunity to reflect on what you've just said. This can be taking a sip of water, whipping out a great prop, asking for audience participation.

7. Make people feel smart, not stupid. In other words, don't ask them questions hoping they won't know the answer. Frame your information in a way that reduces that discomfort. Whenever possible, set up your audience to win.

8. Use an evaluation tool to not only help you improve your presentation in the future, but also to provide a takeaway. You can use the feedback you get to populate a "testimonials" page on your website! Here's what mine looks like: (feel free to copy and use!)

Irene Latham

What did you enjoy most about today’s presentation?

Did the presenter effectively connect with the audience, preparing the audience for the remainder of the presentation?

How informative was the presentation?

Was the information provided meaningful and understandable?

Were the supporting materials helpful in understanding the presentation?

How effectively did the presenter use the supporting materials?

Did the presenter effectively communicate with the audience, using delivery techniques including eye contact, volume and pace?

What suggestions do you have for improvement?

Would you like to see future presentations by this speaker?

Would you recommend this speaker to other groups?

Additional comments:

I'm adding some new elements to my school visits presentations, thanks to a workshop I attended over the summer with the lovely and talented Kristin Tubb (whose newest middle grade novel THE 13TH SIGN is coming in January)! Also, for great tips on how to deal with problems at school visits, check out this post by Cynthia Letiech Smith.


  1. Your ideas are terrific, Irene & will help anyone who is feeling a bit anxious about their presentations and/or visits. I think some of this would apply anywhere of course, and especially like "Make people feel smart, not stupid." That's good advice anywhere. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. Irene, these are really, really great. I'm working on getting good at public speaking myself . . .BUT you left out one crucial thing: Always have a pair of killer boots!!!



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