Public Speaking – Preparation and Engagement

Public Speaking continues to rank as the greatest fear for many people. Standing up and talking in front of people may simply not be comfortable; however, as a film commissioner or film commission employee it is probably a fact of life. Taking the time to understand what makes a quality presenter and then setting aside time to practice your public speaking skills can be helpful. In this section we will cover some of the basics of public speaking; however, it will be up to you to find time to practice the skills and put the information to good use.

Types of Public Speaking

Let’s start by taking a look at the different types of public speaking that you may do as a film commissioner.
• Informational Presentations – examples: to your governing body to explain what your office does, how you measure success and/or how the film industry affects your jurisdiction; to students at a local college; to business leaders or organizations; to any of your stakeholders.
• Question and Answer Sessions – often will take place after you give a presentation or speech.
• Press conference – making an announcement, introducing speakers, answering questions
• Panel Discussion – you may need to participate in panel discussions with leaders from other businesses or with people representing different sectors of the film industry
While all of these different types of presentations may have different goals and formats, they all require similar skills.

Qualities of an excellent presenter
• Organized
• Appropriately dressed
• Prepared and practiced
• Knowledgeable
• Enthusiastic
• Confident
• Exemplary oral communicators
• Encourage participation by all
• Use humor effectively

These may or may not be ingrained qualities for you. Fear not though, with time and practice all of them are achievable. Let look at the process of putting together a quality presentation.


The first step is always planning. While some presentations may be done impromptu, most of the time you will have at least some time to plan. Good information. Slick materials and flashy PowerPoint presentations mean nothing without a clear plan. Do not rely on these things to “CARRY” your presentation. Take some time to really think through the following questions.

• Who is the audience and what do I know about them?
• What does the group need?
• What information will they expect me to provide?
• How much time will you be given?
• What is the experience of the audience/group?
• Will there be others presenting on the same topic or overlapping information?
• What arrangements need to be made? Time, room, handouts, AV equipment, microphone, podium?

Design Considerations

Once you have answered the questions, you can start to think about the design of your presentation.

* Design down—start with the key points you want your audience to leave with. Note that for most presentations, there should be no more than three key points. While that may seem small and too simple for the confines of the real world, it has been shown over and over again that you get better results from an audience if you keep it simple.
* Outline your presentation – There are a variety of ways to outline a presentation, but the old tried and true methods are frequently the best. Try using the following:
 Tell them what you’re going to tell them (Introduction, Overview)
 Tell them (Key points—Content of the Presentation
 Tell them what you told them (Summary)

This method assures that the audience has heard your key points at least three times and is left with a recap of what you want them to do. Even if you are asking for money, taking the time to recap your justifications allows for the audience to end with the information they need most.
* Break material into small logical pieces – depending on the material, there might be a variety of ways to do this. Here are a few ideas.
 Points
 Steps
 Rules
 Concepts and Ideas
* Put points in priority or chronological order
* Provide handouts for complex information, details that can be read later or additional information and supports your points. If there is a way to make your point visual – graphs, drawing, chart – some people may find the concept easier to comprehend.

Question and Answer Sessions

While question and answer sessions may not allow you to plan in exactly the same way as a more formal presentation, you can still spend some time going through many of the same steps. You will probably know generally what will be asked about. Even short answers can be framed in much the same way as a longer, more formal presentation.


Once you have planned out the presentation, it is time to think about the delivery itself. There are a variety of things to think about. Note that some of these suggestions will change based on the culture in which you are presenting. Take the time to know what the expectations are of your audience and what will help them see you as confident and an authority of your subject.


• Strive for variety in your voice
• Change volume from forceful to soft
• Change speed and tempo of speech
• Pause to breath—allows projection of voice
• Avoid filler words such as “um,” “ah,” “OK,”
• Put emphasis on the words you wish to stress
• Enunciate your words for clarity of pronunciation
• Use movement—don’t stand in one place. walk – do not pace
• Stand and move toward the audience, when appropriate
• Don’t use a podium or be riveted to the spot where your notes are located
• Move hands and arms when you speak
• Avoid distracting the audience—don’t jiggle change, click a pen
• Use gestures to hold attention—tap on the board or flip chart
• Sit on the edge of the chair or stool when appropriate—it helps you look more relaxed and relatable to the audience.
• Use personal mannerisms when speaking—be yourself
• Stand when you wish to command attention—sit when you want to leave the limelight
Eye Contact
• Use eye contact—look at the audience rather than at the screen or down at notes
• Scan the group and look at everyone—not just supportive faces
• As a prerequisite to good eye contact know material thoroughly
• When beginning to speak, use the following patterns
o Make eye contact with someone who looks friendly
o Lock in your eye contact for 3-4 seconds
o Smile or not
o Keep eye contact until you feel acknowledgment from that person
o Scan the entire group briefly
o Begin the pattern again for everyone
• Large group—look at one location as you would an individual
• Speak only when you can hold the eye contact of the audience completely. Do not be afraid of waiting however long it takes to get their full attention and for people to stop talking.
• Don’t speak while the audience is reading or looking at the screen
• When answering a question—look at the entire group and end the question at the questioner for a sign that the answer was sufficient
• Introduce yourself and your presentation topic or be sure you were introduced
• Begin with interesting statement, observation, quotation, or question
• Use interesting examples, personal anecdotes or statistics when appropriate. The most interesting presentations allow the audience to understand how the information is relevant to them. Using examples and anecdotes can make it more personal.
• Find ways to engage your audience. Not many people like being lectured at. Even short presentations can ask people to think or answer a question or two.
• Long presentations or complex information—use handouts, an outline, or slide overviews to provide more detail.
• Minimize your own talking time as much as possible—allow for adequate question time
• Don’t use lengthy notes—be spontaneous, free yourself from your notes

Nervousness and Anxiety

Reduce physical and mental stress
• Acknowledge nervousness. It is normal. Acknowledging it for yourself can be the first step in reducing it.
• Visualize success—recall successful presentations and replay them mentally, picture people responding positively
• Anticipate what could go wrong—solve those problems in your mind
• Breathe
• Keep water nearby—not coffee or soda
• Practice in front of a mirror or video recorder—note any distractions or mannerisms
• Don’t memorize your opening—rehearse first 5 minutes
• Join a speaking group
• Correct and improve by videotaping

Be as organized as possible

• Check the layout—set the room to your liking whenever possible
• Use name tags when possible
• Adjust the room temperature—cooler is better than warmer
• Be sure you can be heard and seen from all parts of the room
• Minimize interruptions—turn down/off cell phones, beepers …etc
• Set out all materials and equipment well before the presentation: check to make sure everything works
• Start on time and stay on time

Look your best

• Personal and Professional best
• Dress appropriately—one notch above what you expect the group to wear
• Wear clothes you feel great in
• Wear comfortable shoes—substance over style
• Avoid anything that distracts from the presentation—body art
• Hair and/or make-up that does not have to be constantly adjusted

Establish rapport

• Meet with people when they arrive—introduce yourself, chitchat and be friendly. Shake hands when appropriate
• Get the audience involved and active as early as possible—take attention off yourself
• Address the attendees by name whenever possible
• Remind yourself that you are the most “EXPERT” person in the room
• Act enthusiastic and confident


Whether during a larger forum or as part of a question and answer session, you will most definitely have to answer questions in public settings as a film commissioner. The ability to think on your feet is important in being able to answer questions effectively, but it can take time to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively answer questions on the fly.

Let’s look at some ways of answering questions even if you do not fully know the answer.
Three methods for responding to questions:

1. Answer directly – if you know the answer and are able to share the information, the best option is to answer the question directly. Remember that answering the question is simply making a short presentation, so be sure to make your points clearly and assure that you have a clear format.

2. Redirect the question back to the group – if you are unsure of an answer or want to use the question as a learning opportunity, it can be effective to direct the question back to the audience. This gives other audience members a chance to share information and feel like they are part of the discussion. Just be sure you are prepared or someone is prepared to regain control of the room.

3. Defer the question
o When the question is beyond the scope of the group
o When there is not enough time—make arrangements to answer the question either after the session or by giving or sending additional information
o Find the answer if you don’t know—ask another expert presenter or do research and get back to the questioner at a later time

Three tips for helping you deal with questions:

1. There are no stupid questions
2. Stay cool and listen actively
3. Never be flippant—treat all questions seriously and with respect


While presentations have a variety of purposes, the ultimate goal of most presentations is to help the audience learn something. Whether that something is why you need additional dollars for the upcoming year, how the production will impact the neighborhood or what the economic impacts are of the production industry, these are all learning experiences.

Based on research, we know that adult learners learn best when they are actively involved feel like they have a connection to the material. It is up to you to help them do that. Straight lecturing is frequently not effective. Finding ways to “involve” participants can be helpful. This does not mean you have a make them get up and do activities, but find ways to help them see themselves as part of information.

Ways to do this include asking questions, telling stories, asking for volunteers for short demonstrations, or holding discussion groups if appropriate. Example: “how many people here are from a rural community? A major city? ” But what if people are reluctant to participate?

Three methods for getting a group to respond or participate:

1. Be patient; allow silence
2. Gently urge or encourage
3. Survey the group for someone “on the edge of the seat” who looks like they know the answer
o Call on them for the answer using first name and then ask the question
o Praise or thank them for contributing


1. Summarize – This is the “tell them what you told them” step. You may have covered a great deal of material during the presentation. This allows you time to once again touch on the key points.
2. Thank participants. Thank the hosts of the event, the venue.
3. Provide any follow-up information