Monday, 29 November 2010

Ally O'Brien at Our School

On Mo 29 Nov at 7.30 pm in room 6 Ally O'Brien gave a talk at our school about public speaking. It was 30 minutes of tips on presentation skills, plus a couple of very short speeches as a demonstration. The students were pleasantly surprised by her wealth of knowledge and presentation skills.

Here you will find the notes she sent us:



If I am a scientist and I am speaking to other scientists, I will talk about theory or latest research. If I am talking to senior citizens, they would be interested in ‘Do Bio Yoghurts Work? or The Latest Innovations in Wheelchair Design’. If I am talking to children, I will choose ‘Dinosaur Skeletons or Aliens from Space’.

PRECIS, PRECIS, PRECIS. Eliminate excess words. Eg. “I read a very interesting article in a Science magazine last week which I think you would like to hear about it. It is about the life of fruit flies.” NO. Better to say: “Did you know that fruit flies have mad, passionate sex every lunchtime? It’s in the latest science magazine!”


1. Speak slowly and clearly. Do not say ‘djwonna’. Say “Do you want to”. Say it like the line from Shakespeare - To Be or Not to Be. That is the question’.

2. Use punctuation marks for vocal variety and understanding…. Pause for commas and full stops. Raise your voice for a question mark, project your voice and make it louder for an exclamation mark.

3. Know what you are going to say….. no ‘aahs and uhhms’ while you think what to say next.


Use these appropriately if it is a humorous speech or a sad one. If it is a business talk, do not ‘drone’ in monotone. Ask rhetorical questions, tell a joke, show a cartoon etc.


Try to include the whole room while you talk.


It is easy to cut and paste from a website and project it on to a screen. However…..

  1. Try not to use writing. It is impossible for a person to read and listen at the same time. You ‘lose’ your audience when they start reading. (If you have a title written, pause to allow time to read before talking again). It is better to use coloured bar codes/columns, cartoons or a scene. These only take a few seconds to look at.
  2. Make your visual big enough to see from the back of the room.
  3. DO NOT SPEAK TO THE BOARD! The audience cannot hear you when you turn away. The screen does not have ears!!
  4. You know what is on the screen because you created it. Take one second to check it is the correct visual and then turn to face the audience again.


Do not take the whole written speech/presentation to the lectern. Make ‘memory jogging’ words – one word for a paragraph then, indented, one word for each point you want to make. Use large bold print. If you forget something, it is easy to glance down at the words and not ‘lose’ your audience. Practice your speech/presentation by talking to the wall beforehand so you know how it ‘flows’ and which point comes next. Do not try to remember it word for word or it comes out like a recitation! I

Try to grab your audience with the first sentence and keep them with you all the way. Make your last sentence memorable and don’t drop your voice level till the last word!

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