Public Speaking & Presentations For Dummies®


by Malcolm Kushner and Rob Yeung




About the Authors

Malcolm Kushner, ‘America’s Favourite Humour Consultant’, is an internationally acclaimed expert on humour and communication and a professional speaker. Since 1982, he has trained thousands of managers, executives, and professionals how to gain a competitive edge with humour. His clients include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Chevron, Aetna, Motorola, and Bank of America.

A popular speaker, his Leading With Laughter presentation features rare video clips of US presidents using humour intentionally and successfully. He has performed the speech at many corporate and association meetings, as well as at the Smithsonian Institute.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Buffalo, Kushner holds a BA in Speech-Communication. His MA in Speech-Communication is from the University of Southern California, where he taught freshman speech. He also has a JD from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Prior to becoming a humour consultant, he practiced law with a major San Francisco law firm.

Kushner is the author of The Light Touch: How to Use Humor for Business Success and Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers. He is also a co-creator of the humour exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Frequently interviewed by the media, Kushner has been profiled in Time, USA Today, The New York Times, and numerous other publications. His television and radio appearances include CNN, National Public Radio, CNBC, Voice of America, and The Larry King Show. His annual ‘Cost of Laughing Index’ has been featured on The Tonight Show and the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

Need a great speaker for your next meeting or event? Contact Malcolm at P.O. Box 7509, Santa Cruz, CA 95061, call 001-831- 425-4839, or e-mail him at Visit his Web site at .

Dr Rob Yeung is a director at business psychology consultancy Talentspace. He is often asked to coach teams and individuals on presentation skills – in particular on developing their presence and charisma when presenting. He travels extensively around the world, running workshops, participating in panel discussions, and giving presentations to audiences of up to many hundreds of people at a time.

He has written for Guardian, Daily Telegraph, and Financial Times and contributed to publications ranging from Men’s Health and New Woman to Accountancy and Sunday Times. He has published twelve other books on career and management topics including, in 2006, The Rules of Office Politics and The Rules of EQ (Cyan/Marshall Cavendish) and Answering Tough Interview Questions For Dummies (Wiley).

He is often seen on television including CNN and Channel 4’s Big Brother’s Little Brother. He is also the presenter of the highly acclaimed BBC television series How to Get Your Dream Job. A chartered psychologist of the British Psychological Society with a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of London, he has also lectured at a number of business schools and universities.

Need one of the UK’s leading psychologists to work with you, your team or your organisation? Drop Dr Rob an email at or visit .


Malcolm’s Dedication

This book is dedicated to my parents – Pauline, Hank, and Helen. Thank you for all of your love and support.

Rob’s Dedication

To my parents for their support and unwavering confidence in me. Thanks also to the Talentspace team – especially Steve, Ian, and Penny for keeping the noise down when I was trying to concentrate!


Malcolm’s Acknowledgements

Let’s start with the people at Wiley. My thanks go to Marc Mikulich, Kathy Cox, and Jennifer Connolly.

Speaking of special thanks, I must shower praise upon my wife Christine Griger who looked at the pages as they came out of the printer. (Jennifer, if you think your job was tough enough, you should have seen what the stuff looked like before Chris’s corrections!) And I must thank my son Sam for his encouragement.

Special thanks go to the late San Francisco comedy coach John Cantu. He was a good friend and teacher. And he is greatly missed by everyone who knew him. Loyd Auerbach, Allatia Harris, and N.R. Mitgang also received repeated calls to tap their expertise – and came through every time.

I also want to thank all the other people who were interviewed for this book. They include John Austin, Neil Baron, Donna Bedford, J.E. Aeliot Boswell, Rachael Brune, Joe DiNucci, Steve Fraticelli, James Harris III, Barbara Howard, Joyce Lekas, Marcia Lemmons, Jim Luckaszewski, Chuck McCann, Jeff Raleigh, Steve Resnick, Jackie Roach, Zack Russ, David Schmidt, Ken Sereno, Allen Weiner, Bill Zachmeier, Patty White, Russell Feingold, David Bartlett, Scott Fivash, Kare Anderson, Shawn Whalen, Rich Johnson, and Martin Gonzales Bravo.

Thanks for support and encouragement go to Rich Herzfeld, Bob Reed, Jack Burkett, Stu Silverstein, Linda Mead, Debra DeCuir, Karen Kushner, Barbara Nash, Corwin and Tyler Sparks, and Arthur, Karen, Heather and Amy Tamarkin. Special thanks go to Tom Daly IV at Vital Speeches for granting permission to use so many of the quotes contained in this book.

Rob’s Acknowledgements

Thanks again to Jason Dunne at Wiley for offering me the opportunity to work on yet another Dummies book – this time with Malcolm Kushner. Thanks also to my long-suffering editor Daniel Mersey for his tireless enthusiasm and gentle guidance.

Thanks also to my many clients, who have given me the opportunity to practise and hone my presentation and public speaking skills. I remember being so frightened of speaking in front of my classmates at school that I felt physically sick. Nowadays I get pretty much the biggest buzz in my work from standing up in front of an audience and engaging, educating and entertaining them. So thanks to you all.


Publisher’s Acknowledgements

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at .

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Daniel Mersey

Content Editor: Steve Edwards

Executive Editor: Jason Dunne

Copy Editor: Kate O’Leary

Executive Project Editor: Martin Tribe

Cover Photos: © Jupiter Images

Cartoons: Ed McLachlan

Special Help: Jennifer Bingham

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Jennifer Theriot

Layout and Graphics: Claudia Bell, Carl Byers, Lavonne Cook, Denny Hager, Barry Offringa, Alicia South

Proofreader: Brian H. Walls

Indexer: Techbooks

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services



Welcome to Public Speaking & Presentations For Dummies, a book that we intend to help you have audiences eating out of the palms of your hands. We show you how to use basic speaking skills to influence your boss, colleagues, customers, relatives, loved ones, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, and anyone else who matters in your life.

This book provides all the tools you need to master giving presentations and speaking in public. And that doesn’t mean just formal presentations. Some of the most important presentations you ever give may not involve a microphone or a podium, like an impromptu talk about your strategy to some customers; an answer that defuses a hostile question at a business meeting; an impassioned plea to a parking attendant not to issue the ticket. Success or failure in all of these situations, as well as in formal speeches, depends on how you present yourself.

This book covers the full range of skills needed for presenting and public speaking. You can read everything from how to develop and deliver a good presentation to how to think on your feet. An old philosopher once said, ‘Every time you open your mouth, your mind is on parade.’ This book ensures that your parade looks sharp, sounds smart, and dazzles your audience.

Why You Need This Book

Whether you’re dealing with one person or one thousand, the ability to transmit ideas in a coherent and compelling fashion is one of the most important skills you can ever develop. Communicating ideas is a basic survival skill, and it always has been. From the earliest days when we learned to speak as a species and a caveman yelled ‘Fire!’, people have made speeches to motivate, persuade, and influence each other.

Want to get a good job? Want to get promoted? Want to command the respect of your peers? Want to get a date? The key to success is what you say. To get what you want in life, you have to present yourself forcefully, credibly, and convincingly. Yes, you can speak softly and carry a big stick, but the real winner is the person who talks you out of the stick.

In the information age, public speaking skills are more important than ever before. We live in a society of sound bites. Communication is the currency of the realm. In survey after survey, presentation skills are cited as a key factor in hiring and promotion decisions. The days when you could rise to the top just by being good at your job are over. Boards of directors, executive committees, and customers want more. You have to know how to get your message across.

Now let’s admit it. Many people get nervous about giving speeches, particularly in a formal setting. Our goal in writing this book is to rid you of those fears forever. If you simply apply the techniques described in Public Speaking & Presentations For Dummies, you’ll be able to give a talk more competently than many Oscar-winning performers. We’re not saying you’ll be the next Prime Minister, but you will see how to deliver a speech in an organised and engaging manner.

And don’t fall for the big myth that you have to be ‘a born speaker’. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the greatest orators in history were anything but ‘naturals’. Demosthenes – the famous speaker of ancient Greece – was a shy, stammering introvert when he decided to become a successful orator. He taught himself to speak by rehearsing with rocks in his mouth. If all you have in your mouth is your foot, then you’re way ahead of the game.

If you already have the gift of the gab, you can still pick up many tips and tricks from Public Speaking & Presentations For Dummies. For example, you wouldn’t believe how often experienced speakers completely undermine their entire speech with poorly designed slides and overheads. If you read nothing more than the chapter on how to correct this common mistake (Chapter 10, by the way), this book is well worth your investment.

Let’s talk straight. Lots of books exist about public speaking, and they’re written by people who have various credentials. But between the two of us authors, we’ve taught at universities across the UK and the University of Southern California, worked internationally, ghost-written speeches for leading business executives, travelled the lecture circuit as keynote speakers at major corporate and association meetings, appeared on television in the UK and the US.

We’ve done all that stuff and more, and that experience is what makes this book unique. It contains a treasure trove of nuts-and-bolts information based on real-life experience. You see what really works and what doesn’t. Because if there are mistakes to be made, we’ve already made them – and now you don’t have to repeat them.

About This Book

If you want to improve the full range of your public speaking skills, then read the entire book. You will become an expert communicator.

Too busy to read a whole book? Don’t worry. Public Speaking & Presentations For Dummies is designed with your time constraints in mind. The book is divided into easy-to-read segments that cover very specific topics. Choose an area of interest, such as dealing with hecklers, and turn directly to it.

Want to know about speaking in different cultures? Well, Chapter 17 is the one for you. If you want more than a dozen different ways to kick off your presentation, see Chapter 6.

Conventions Used in This Book

So you can navigate through this book better, we use the following conventions:

bullet Italic is used for emphasis and to highlight new words or terms that are defined.

bullet Boldfaced text is used to indicate keywords in bulleted lists.

bullet Monofont is used for Web addresses.

bullet Sidebars, which are shaded grey boxes with text enclosed in them, consist of information that is interesting to know but not necessarily critical to your understanding of the chapter or section’s topic.

Foolish Assumptions

While writing this book, we’ve made some assumptions about you and your knowledge of public speaking:

bullet You may be fretting about your next speaking engagement because you don’t understand how to engage the audience.

bullet You may know nothing about giving presentations or public speaking but would like to be prepared in case you’re ever asked to speak – impromptu or otherwise.

bullet You may know quite a bit about public speaking and have a lot of experience, but want to polish your speech development and delivery skills.

bullet You may know how to give a formal speech but would like to improve your speaking skills in special situations – question-and-answer sessions, panels, roundtables, or debates.

bullet You may know quite a lot about presenting and public speaking but you want to learn some advanced techniques like using humour successfully or adapting your style for different audiences.

bullet You may know that no reason exists to fear public speaking, but you fear it anyway and you want to know how to overcome your anxiety.

How This Book Is Organised

Public Speaking & Presentations For Dummies has six major parts, each of which is divided into chapters covering specific topics. The chapters are self-contained units of brilliant insight, so you don’t have to plough through them in sequence. You can read chapters separately or together in any order you wish. Don’t worry about missing any gems of wisdom. The book is thoroughly cross-referenced and guides you to related items of information.

Each part covers a major area of presenting and public speaking skills. The following is a brief tour of what you can find.

Part I: Getting Started

You’ve been asked to give a presentation, now what? How do you decide what to talk about? What if you’ve been given a topic you don’t like? Can you change it? How do you find out detailed information about your audience? Where can you get interesting material for your talk? These are some of the questions that we address in this section. Discover how to get your presentation research off to a fast, productive start.

Part II: Preparing Your Presentation or Speech

In today’s fast-paced, competitive environment, fortunes can rise or fall on the basis of a single presentation. So your talk had better be good – informative, to the point, attention grabbing, and memorable. And your speech doesn’t get that way by luck or accident. Careful preparation – from topic selection to outline structure to choice of material to writing the actual speech – is the key. In this section, we show you how to develop a speech that commands an audience’s attention, influences their thinking, and achieves your goals.

Part III: Making Your Presentation or Speech Sparkle

Powerful public speakers are not that different from run-of-the-mill speakers. Both use words. Both use visual aids. And both stand in front of an audience. But really good speakers use really good words. They polish their presentation until it’s a gem. They also make sure that their visual aids communicate rather than confound. And when they stand in front of an audience, they appear confident and in control. This part of the book tells you how to give your presentation or speech that ‘extra something’ that transforms it into an exciting event.

Part IV: Delivering Your Presentation or Speech

When giving a presentation or speech, you need to think about more than just your topic. You have to make decisions about whether you should use a podium; what you should wear; what gestures you should use; how fast you should speak; how you should handle the audience and their questions. And these are just a few of the issues involved in transforming your written message into a masterful oral performance. In this section, we show you how to deliver a presentation that wows your audience. Simple, proven techniques guarantee your success. If you’re nervous, shy, or disorganised, don’t worry. We also explain how to handle any fears you have about giving presentations or public speaking.

Part V: Common Speaking Situations

Even if you’re not a professional speaker, the odds are that you’ll have to give a presentation or speech every so often. You may have to address a group of businesspeople from another country. Or you may serve as a panelist at an event sponsored by your club, association, or religious organisation. And in this age of technology and globalism, this part is essential to discover how to speak internationally. In this section, we address these types of common speaking situations, and show you how to anticipate and prepare for them. You even discover how to give a speech ‘off the top of your head’.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

In this part, you can find simple types of humour that anyone can use to polish off a presentation or speech. We give you a list of things to check before you speak so you don’t leave out any of those important details that can stunt the effectiveness of your talk. And we finish with some top tips for dealing with any stress or anxiety you may feel at having to present to an audience.

Icons Used in This Book

We’ve included some navigational aids to highlight key points of text for you:


This icon signals important advice about how to maximise the effectiveness of your speech or presentation.


An elephant never forgets, but people do. This icon alerts you to information you’ll definitely want to remember.


This icon points to information that justifies your purchase of this book – brilliant advice that you can’t readily find anywhere else. Most of the information’s based on the personal experience, knowledge, and insights that we have collected over the years.


To indicate potential problems, we use this icon.

Where Do I Go from Here?

You hold in your hands a powerful tool – a guide to increasing your influence through the sheer force of your presentations. This tool can be used for good or evil. The choice is up to you. Consider yourself warned. You’re now ready to dive into this book. To begin your journey, turn to the Table of Contents or Index, pick a topic of interest, and turn to the page indicated. Good luck in your travels!

Part I

Getting Started

In this part . . .

T he toughest part of preparing a presentation or speech, or doing anything, is getting started. In these chapters, we show you how to take the first steps toward doing what has to be done. You can also find out what information you need to know about your audience to craft a successful presentation. We even cover how to get started researching what you’re going to say.