You've been making presentations inside and outside your company. People have started to say you're getting pretty good at this public speaking thing.

But no matter how good a public speaker you think you are, you can always get better. How do you take your presentations to the next level? What specific techniques can you use to enhance clarity and creativity?

The acronym SHAMPOO holds the key to unlocking some basic and practical techniques. Each letter in SHAMPOO stands for a tool you can use to add a little bounce and vitality to your presentations, making them more appealing to your audiences.

If you want to increase your presentation power, address these simple SHAMPOO points.

  • Stories. What personal stories can you tell that illustrate the points you are making? Audiences will remember the stories and then your points if you use colorful, descriptive, specific language. If the stories contain some humor, so much the better. Months, even years later, someone may say, "I remember you. You're the speaker who told that story about the 380-foot bungee jump, eating Cherry Garcia ice cream, and how to find the courage to take risks in life."
  • Handouts. What should you include in your handouts? Ideally, these so-called "leave-behind pieces" contain the important points of your presentation, a list of resources, and specific contact information so audience members can communicate with you and refer others to you. Instead of your handouts consisting only of "wall-to-wall words" (all text with narrow margins), try adding graphics, charts and symbols. Visuals will punch up your words and add excitement and creativity. Try leaving blank spaces next to visuals so audience members can jot down their ideas. This way, your handouts become more interactive. Be sure to include relevant book titles and authors, as well as names, addresses and telephone numbers of associations and organizations. This kind of information increases the value of your handouts, causing audience members to want to keep them.
  • Acronyms. These special words in which each letter stands for another word can help audiences remember the main points you are communicating. As you know, SHAMPOO is my acronym in this article. Each letter stands for another word. If listeners remember the acronym word, chances are greater they'll remember what each letter in that word represents.
  • Metaphors. To what thing, item, process or concept can you compare the main point or idea of your speech? It's easier for audience members to remember your points if you can help them visualize a clear image to which it is related. For example, suppose you wanted to emphasize the point that, as a speaker, you need to be flexible by preparing several versions of your presentation to fit into different time limitations. You could compare a planned hour-long speech to the space within the grand ballroom of a modern hotel, with all the moveable inner walls or partitions hidden away. With the total space representing 60 minutes, you can then partition the grand ballroom into smaller spaces by rearranging the movable walls. Thus, you are dividing your hour-long presentation into separate segments, like smaller rooms within the grand ballroom. By thinking of your overall speech as a series of smaller separate "rooms" (time periods), you can add and subtract time and be flexible in delivering a speech that is anywhere from five to 10 to 20 to 60 minutes in length. No longer will you feel as though you're locked in one large room (the hour-long presentation).
  • Props. What tangible items (specific props) can you use to emphasize your points? Props can be as varied as a newspaper article, photograph, magazine ad, hat, street sign, or travel poster. Many props are relatively small and easy to carry. Whatever prop you choose, make sure it's relevant to your remarks.
  • Organize. Is your presentation organized? Does it have a beginning, middle and end? No matter how long or how short a time you plan to speak, make sure you have constructed your presentation with an opening, body and conclusion. Just as an architect draws plans when building a house, you want to design your presentation so that it is structurally sound. Audiences appreciate organization. And don't forget your call to action. What action do you want your audience to take after you have finished speaking?
  • Overview. Have you designed your presentation so your audience can grasp the big picture? Do audience members have a clear idea of what your presentation is about? In a nutshell, what is your main message? If you think of your presentation as an adventure on which you are the guide, you'll better understand that audience members want to know early on where you are taking them. Once they are informed of the direction in which they are headed, they can relax, settle in, and enjoy the trip. Your call to action? Design before you deliver.

Len Lipton is a presentation-skills advisor who also teaches at UCLA Extension. He can be reached at

Entrepreneur's Notebook is a regular column contributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact James Klein at (213) 743-1759 with feedback and topic suggestions.

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