Friday, July 17, 2009

Public Speaking: The Power of Forecasting

You've probably heard this overused pearl of wisdom from every presentation coach you've ever spoken to: "Say what you're going to say, say it, then say what you said." It is a good piece of advice, but do you really know how to apply it? In this article, I'd like to focus specifically on the 'say what you're going to say' part, which is also known as a forecast.

What is a forecast?
Just as a weather man or woman tells us what we can expect from our weather, you as a speaker are expected to give us the forecast of your talk. A forecast is as simple as one line outlining the main points of your presentation.

Why is a forecast important?
Have you ever listened to a presenter and wondered where in the world he was going? You have no idea what topics he's planning on covering, how long he's planning on speaking or what his main point is. As a result, you usually end up being bored, confused and frustrated that your time is being wasted.

If you don't want to do the same thing to your listeners, be sure to use a forecast. It gives your audience a road map of where you're going and how you plan on getting there.

When should you use your forecast?
The forecast should be clearly stated directly after your introduction and directly before your first point.

What does a forecast sound like?
Let's use a presentation scenario to illustrate how a forecast is developed. Your presentation topic is "Getting Organized" and you main points of the talk are:
1) organizing your mindset
2) organizing your home
3) organizing your workspace

There are many ways you could choose to forecast this talk, and depending on your ability and confidence level you might use one of the following or a variation.


"There are 3 important areas to look at when we're talking about organization: organizing your mindset, your home and your workspace. Let's start by taking a look at your thoughts..."


"Organization starts with you. Once you understand how to better manage your own mindset, it will then be easier to organize your home and office. I'll show you how to conquer each of these areas this evening."

There is nothing wrong with the basic forecast. It is clear and concise. Most presenters (if they use a forecast) will use the basic one. The advanced forecast however, gives the same information in a more creative way that flows from your introduction to your first point.

Don't be afraid to start simple and use the basic forecast until you feel more comfortable. The most important thing is that your structure is clear and concise. When your audience doesn't know where you're going, they might assume that you also don't know, and that's when they'll stop listening.

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