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4 Effective tools to help get your message across

BY: Brigitte Schwartz|27 June 2019
BLOG| Business leadership and strategy

Truly gripping presentations, meetings and workshops are rare treasures... We all know that feeling of sitting down expecting to be a little bored but what if, instead, the speaker or facilitator has you hanging on their every word?


Now ask yourself these questions. The next time you present, or run a workshop or chair an important meeting, do you want it to be gripping? Memorable? Even somewhat unforgettable? Yes? Here are a few tried-and-tested methods that will have your audience sitting up and taking note!


1. THE PECHA KUCHA (or 20 x 20)

Started in Tokyo, Japan, in 2003, Pecha Kucha is a simple presentation where the speaker presents their ideas using only 20 images for 20 seconds each. That means you only get six minutes and 40 seconds to get your point across.


To get the most from this type of presentation, Wabisabi Learning recommends:

  • Filling your screen with images that will instantly call to mind your topic.
  • Avoiding writing out a script you’ll need to memorise.
  • Practicing what you’ll say beforehand, trying to keep to the 20-second time limit for each slide.
  • Using the settings on Powerpoint or Keynote to automatically transition from one slide to the next – and provide you with cues as to when to move on.



TED – which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design – started as a small non-profit conference in Silicon Valley, California, to spread ideas in short talks. Since then, it has become a huge annual event that also curates smaller independent events across the globe under the banner of TEDx. These events can be organised by anyone who applies for a free licence from TED and speakers are not paid. Each talk is only around 18 minutes and as many former TEDx speakers will tell you, it’s not as easy as they make it seem and it often takes up to twice as long (if not more) to prepare for one.


To prepare for a TEDx-type talk, try these tips:

  • Print your slide deck as small as sticky notes so you can arrange and rearrange the flow of your speech.
  • Find a few people who are good at leading presentations or giving speeches then present your content to them for feedback.
  • Remember to ensure your presentation is about the “why” of the idea and not just the “how” – why should your audience care about your idea?
  • Practice your timing. First, set a timer to count up so you can see how much time you’ve gone over then cut out bits of your presentation and set the timer to count down until you hit the correct amount of time.
  • Video record your practices (on a video camera or even your smartphone camera) so you can see your facial expressions, gestures and stage presence. Then correct these and record it again until you’re satisfied with the end product.
  • Do a final rehearsal on the day of your talk, especially if it’s your first or you’re nervous.
  • Nancy Duarte of Duarte presentation consulting firm, suggests having two endings prepared. According to Duarte, you should “pick two natural places you could stop in your talk, then demarcate those as possible endings”. This not only helps you prepare if you’re running over your time or want to wrap up early for any other reason.



When a team is under pressure to come up with an idea or complete a complex report, affinity mapping is a great way to help organise lots of different types of data such as opinions, brainstorms, design, insights, user needs and other types of research.

  • According to Cult of Pedagogy, in a large group setting, one person should start the discussion by asking a broad question or focusing on the problem at hand.
  • Then the group should write their ideas and responses on sticky notes (one idea per note) and place them on a wall or large board.
  • Group the ideas according to themes or categories by moving them around on the board, says Interaction Design Foundation.
  • Once you have a few groups, name each cluster of ideas to create a structure then rank them from most important to less important.
  • The last step is to describe what everyone on the team understands or needs more clarity on before compiling the report.



No matter the form of communication, someone needs to take charge by leading or chairing the discussion or meeting. You can learn more about clearing the lines of communication within your organisation by reading our blog on Clear the Lines of Communication, however, use this advice when you next find yourself in the driver’s seat:

  • Inc suggests you start by setting an agenda with clear objectives and a time limit. They find it best to keep meetings between 15 and 45 minutes so no one gets bored and there is enough time to cover all topics. This also helps so no one rambles on about unrelated matters.
  • There’s no point in having a meeting if it ends with no one committed to an activity. Ensure your discussions on each topic also ends with actions and decisions that need to be made in order for a project to move forward.
  • Try getting everyone involved before the meeting even starts. This could be by reaching out via email to ask for suggestions of topics that need to be covered (and are relevant to the project at hand). Speaking to Forbes, Brett Baughman of The Brett Baughman Companies, Inc. says, “You will experience higher engagement and even head off potential issues before they arise”.


For more information on Stellenbosch Graduate Institute’s (SGI) courses on communication, visit sgi.co.za.


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