Start the new year strong

The holiday celebrations are over and the summer slowdown is a long way off. So, what better time to fine tune your approach to speeches and presentations than right now. Start 2013 strong by resolving to:

• Put real elbow grease into planning. Structure matters. Outline your ideas and test the logical flow before you start writing drafts or creating slides.

• Take advantage of the theatre of the mind. Stimulate the imagination of your listeners with concrete examples and analogies. They can't imagine abstractions.

• Write the way people talk. Language that looks great on the page may come across as stilted when spoken. Write your speeches to sound conversational.

• Expand your repertoire. Use rhetorical devices. They add variety to your writing and encourage listeners to think.

• Stop using slides as handouts. Minimize text on your slides and distribute separate summary handouts. Better yet, put your handouts online. If people value them, they'll download them. If not, you might save a tree or two.