How to write a speech or presentation

The past few months I’ve been asking for your communication and public speaking questions.

Thanks for all of your emails! Have a question? Here’s the link. And yes, it’s me who reads and answers them.

The Most Often Asked Question

As a presenter, how do you handle the fact when the audience doesn’t feel engaged? (e.g. they don’t ask questions, etc.)


You’ll find part one and two (yes, they’re on the long side … or should I say comprehensive) stitched together here.

If you’re serious about making your next presentation the best one yet and want to tackle it on your own, you’ll want to dive in and learn the mechanics as well as subtle nuances of catching your audience’s interest and then keeping it.

As Promised Here’s Part 3

In my last article, I promised I’d unpack Dr. Atul Gawande’s TED Talk to put a magnifying glass on the techniques I’ve been unraveling to help you see the connection between the presentation outline matrix, the three jewels of audience engagement, and how you need to use them in practice that I shared with you here. 

Dr. Atul Gawande – TED2017: Want to get great at something? Get a coach

The Nuances Of How to Write A Speech Or Presentation

Powerful Open
Right out of the gate Dr. Gawande hooks you with his first words. Why would a practicing surgeon tell you that he’s not an expert?  Intriguing! He had me hooked. Don’t you want to hear more?

Jumps Right Into The Problem
Quickly he moves into describing the problem: A one-in-twenty infant mortality rate with the mom’s death rate even ten times higher than many other places. Notice that Dr. Gawade didn’t give a lot of background. Instead, he quickly jumped into the problem. Why? As humans, we are natural problem solvers and want the answer. That’s how you’ll keep your audience engaged.

Dr. G has further hooked the thorn to have us wanting to learn more.

Then Dr. G tells us we know better but this is a complicated problem. For anyone with a beating heart, they want to learn more.

Sidebar: Notice how he uses deliberate pauses to give you time to connect the dots to what he is saying and tell you how serious this problem is – you want to keep listening. 

Carrying You Along Deeper Into The Problem
Around the 2:50m mark Dr. G gives us a glimmer of hope. From a presentation mechanics perspective, this is an uptick in the story arc. This is another device to keep us engaged.

Then he asks a question giving you two choices. He has you considering what the answer may be and is really hooking you in. Do you have the correct answer?

Dr. G then argues against common thought/practice. He’s making you feel uncomfortable and then makes you feel better. How? He tells us about his own discomfort and how he worked through it. This is a dip in the story arc and then the trajectory heads back up again.

Supporting The Solution
Around the 5:30m mark he begins to substantiate his arguments to prove his point.

And then digs even further with qualified research. He contacted Isaac Perlman the world famous violinist (impressive that Mr. Perlman picked up the call, which bolsters his credibility) to have him weigh in whether coaching was necessary or not. Perlman was an ideal candidate because he had experienced both methods that Dr. G had used to argue his premise.

At this point, Dr. G has done enough research to give coaching a try and back up the story arc we climb.

At approx. the 7:30m mark he substantiates his argument again by showing the worthiness of his decision to be coached. He thought he had done brilliantly. His coach had some critique for improvement. Yes, coaching can be uncomfortable…

At the 10:40m mark Dr. G goes on to again prove the answer to his problem. This is the third time. Often using the rule of three is the right number of times to prove your solution because it is about all that the human brain can handle.

Strong Finish 

This is key…now Dr. G tells us about an even bigger benefit from coaching. One that is having an even greater impact then his own private coaching had accomplished. Did he convince you to look at the problem he faced (his skills not progressing) differently?

This presentation was crafted in a problem, solution, and then benefit matrix that took you along on the ups and downs of a story arc. Dr. G brought you into the experience. Couldn’t you identify with the problems he was struggling with? This device is called being audience-centric.

Then he told stories that so perfectly took you along on the journey. Stories are key to how you influence and persuade.


If you have any questions drop me a line. I suspect you might think my unpacking Dr. G’s talk is pretty nerdy. What can I say? It’s the work I do to guide my clients.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this powerful TED Talk that has caused me to have a bit of eye leakage.

To your voice,



I help build confident voices so they’re heard.

Janice Tomich is the founder of Calculated Presentations, a company dedicated to bringing out speaker’s stories to influence change. Janice coaches professionals, entrepreneurs, TED and TEDx speakers. She is a champion for equal representation by a diverse pool of presenters for all speaking events. Follow Janice on Twitter @janicetomich, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and subscribe for newsletter updates.

Be bold. Get heard. Inspire action.