Tips on giving talks


Whatever you plan to say, it always takes longer than you expect.

You speak no more than 130 words a minute when you are speaking to an audience.

Practice. Practice. And practice again.

How to get your message over

  • Tell stories about people
  • To start, build a connection with your audience: a story about someone you have worked with that makes a link. For example, if you are speaking to schools or to students, tell them about a refugee of their age; if to a church, about someone who was a committed Christian; etc.
  • Then have three main points to get across and tell people in advance what they are. For example, “I will talk about why people come to the UK, what happens to them when they do, and how you can help”. Cluster ideas so that they feel like three points even if they are really four!
  • To end, prepare a good closing paragraph that sums up your message. For example, ”People who come here need our help but they also have a lot to offer. I hope now that you can stand up for refugees whenever they are criticised”. Then pause, say “thank you” and sit down. Ending like this triggers applause.
  • Modulate your voice, intonation etc. to make it more interesting. Don’t be afraid of pauses.
  • Don’t read your speech – work out what you want to say, then put it in your own words.
  • Enthuse, engage and be passionate.

Should you use slides?

People come to listen to you, not to read slides.

PowerPoint is not obligatory. Flipchart paper and a pen can be more effective. So can nothing at all.

If you can’t stop yourself from turning to the screen as you speak, don’t use PowerPoint.

If you do use slides…

Use the SWVG template. A mix of fonts, sizes and design, it looks unprofessional and confusing.

Do not use PowerPoint to display what you say. Never make a list of bullet points and read them aloud.

Use as few words as possible, and high-quality pictures. Low quality pictures look even worse when blown up on a screen.

If you must display words (e.g. to quote someone’s actual words, or give contact details) 28 pt. font is the smallest that can be read.

Look at the computer not at the screen. If you look at the screen, you turn your back to the audience. They won’t hear you properly and it doesn’t engage them.