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Talking Plain and Simple
by Barbara Rocha

Call it anything you want. It's still talking: A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

What's the difference between a formal speech, a sales presentation, and a technical presentation?

The simple answer: the audience. If you're comfortable with any one of the formats, you can do the other two with very little in the way of new knowledge about speaking.

Let's look at what they have in common. The mental preparation is the same: you're there for a purpose. So first, focus on that.

The organization is essentially the same: the opening should get them to listen. You need to know where you're going and get there. There needs to be a logical flow from point to point. The close should leave them feeling complete-you've given them a reason for listening and a connection to their work or lives.

As always, it should be credible, conversational, convincing. And you need to be sincere. If you use visual aids, they need to be relevant and meaningful to your audience.

So any differences are audience-driven. Who are they? Why are they there? How much do they know? What's the reason for their being together? What are they expecting from you? What kind of people are they?

Whatever the answers are, your approach should be conversational because you're more believable and credible. Your version of conversational may vary with the audience, but that doesn't mean giving up being yourself. If you start using words and word patterns that aren't natural for you, you'll succeed in making yourself stiff, unnatural, and paranoid.

Your own natural speech patterns vary depending on whether you're talking to a 5 year-old, your brother, your grandmother, a coworker or your boss. They're all you; you just adjust your style, your words, and your examples based on the audience.

Keep that in mind when you're organizing any kind of talk. Get off yourself. Focus on the audience and how you can help them. You'll find there's not that much difference in the rest of the process.