Presenting Your Stories
Speaking Publicly About Your Experience
There are many ways to structure and carry out a public presentation. The resources below are intended to provide tips for scheduling and designing productive presentations and events. IFPB's resources pages also provide links to fact-sheets, maps and flyers that can serve as research sources and supporting information for your presentations. Click here for links to flyers, fact-sheets and maps.
The Point of Your Presentation
Have an overarching goal for your presentation. Ask yourself: what is the purpose of my speech? What impression do I want to leave my audience with? What do I want to motivate my audience to do?
Don’t try to fit in everything you saw or learned. Aim small and focus. Pick a few points that illustrate your goal and a few stories that illustrate these points.
Many presentations about Israel/Palestine leave the listeners disheartened and without hope, not knowing what to do or how one person can make a difference. While you don’t want to sugar-coat the reality you witnessed, you also want to leave the audience poised for action to work on improving the situation, not convinced there’s nothing worth doing. You can accomplish this by bringing positive stories to light, illustrating the important work Israelis and Palestinians are doing for peace and giving your audience resources to more information and organizations they can join in the US.
Preparation is the Key to an Effective Presentation
- Start by picking 3-5 main points that you want to make. Most people won’t remember more than 5 things anyway, and you want to make sure that everything you say directly relates to your main points. Of course, there are many more than 3-5 things you learned on the delegation—but overwhelming your audience can cause them to shut down. Prioritize the things you want to say.
- Be yourself. An IFPB delegation does a lot of things, but it does not by itself make you an expert on Israel/Palestine. The best tactic for your presentations is to focus on what you experienced and what you saw with your own eyes. Political arguments and even historical issues can be discounted, but your own experience is always solid. And don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
- Know your audience. In picking the points and tenor of your presentation, knowing who will be listening is important. You may want to connect the issues you are discussing to similar struggles taking place in your own community. For instance, you could point out that the US funding which is used to build the Wall and Israeli settlements could be used for social programs or educational development in your own community; or you could use examples of racism and displacement in your hometown to give context to the stories you relate from Israel/Palestine.
- Technology is great—but don’t put all your trust in it. We’ve all seen presentations ruined by those last minute ‘How did this happen?’ technology problems. Powerpoints and slide shows for pictures, important quotes, and figures can be very effective, but as a general rule of thumb you should prepare to be able to give an effective presentation even without these visual aids. Don’t rely on them—but do use them as great addition when they’re working.
- Keep your slideshows short and focused. The best presentations use only a few photos to illustrate the points of the speaker. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 1 photo for every 2 minutes of your talk. Also, avoid too much text in your slideshow as it will pull the attention of the audience away from you. Be aware of the time that the preparation of slideshows and visual aides takes. While it’s tempting to spend hours looking for just the right picture and quote, be aware of how much time you’re spending editing pictures and how much time you’re using to write and rehearse the words of your talk.
- Ask how much time you have for your speech. Determine if that includes time for questions and answers as well. Plan to speak for only this long.
- Rehearse your presentation. Read aloud (not just silently to yourself), time yourself, and if possible, rehearse in front of friends and family. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become and the more your phrases, diction, and delivery will come together. Practice speaking slowly and clearly.
- If you’re speaking on a panel, learn about the others you’ll be speaking with. Find out if they’re generally supportive, or hostile to the points you’ll be making. If you can coordinate ahead of time with supportive speakers, you can ensure that you speak to different subjects while mutually reinforcing each other’s points.
- Anticipate reactions and questions that the audience may have to your speech. Spend some time thinking through concise and clear answers to potential questions.
Writing the Presentation
- Structure your presentation around your main points. The general rule, an oft-repeated adage by speech coaches everywhere, is: “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” So—make sure you have:
- An intro where you preview your 1-3 main points.
- A body where you give more detail on each point.
- A strong conclusion where you bring together your points
- Use notes or notecards to arrange your talk. People work differently in terms of speech notes, outlines, and full written text. As a general rule, go with what you’re most familiar with—but beware that fully written texts are often more distracting than useful, and sometimes make for rote and boring presentations. All types can be effective for different settings, occasions, and audiences—and an important ingredient is rehearsing your speech beforehand regardless of what system you use.
- Don’t get bogged down with lots of figures and numbers. Some figures and numbers are important and there are many to choose from. Choose selectively; use only essential figures that clearly support your points. While you can present figures and statistics effectively with a slideshow — you can still have too many facts and figures. Keep it to a minimum. It is also important to cite your sources and make sure you use credible sources for hard data.
- Be sure to remind the audience what they can do to involve themselves in the issue. Share again what you have been doing since the trip and emphasize common bonds with the audience. The more you are able to connect with the audience and make them identify with you personally, the more effective you will be.
Delivering your Presentation
- Arrive early. Get comfortable with the space and where you’ll be speaking. Walk around and figure out where you’ll be speaking from. If you’re using computers or other technology, try to make sure there will be a technician on hand to assist you with set-up.
- Relax. This is fun. You’re getting to tell others what you saw and experienced — and bring those stories of Israelis and Palestinians home. You’re qualified to speak about your experience and conclusions. If all else fails, use the ‘imagine your audience in their underwear’ trick for a quick dose of humor.
- Make sure your notes are organized, all there, and with type-face big enough to easily read.
- Vary your vocal delivery to emphasize key points (and to keep from sounding monotonous).
- Don’t read your speech — make sure to look up from your notes and engage the audience with eye contact most of the time.
- Have a strong and decisive closing. You should have your ending paragraph/sentence pretty much planned and rehearsed beforehand. Make it clear that you’re done, and end with a strong summary, a vivid image, or something else that clearly captures your point and leaves a lasting impression. Just trailing off, or running out of time are weak and distracting endings.
- Don’t be afraid of questions and answers. The majority of the time, questions will give you a good sense of what the audience knows—and what else they want to know. And since you cannot possibly fit all you’d like to say in your speech, answering questions gives you more opportunity to expand on the main points of your speech and address other (related!) Issues. Finally, you don’t know everything, and you may need to truthfully answer some questions with “i don’t know.” This is fine, and will give you a good idea for things to continue learning about in the future.
There are many guides and suggestions for public speaking online. A quick search of the internet will probably provide many more good suggestions and techniques to improve your presentations.
Where to Schedule Events
Odds are that there are many venues in your own community that are interested in hosting an event. Many delegates have found local religious communities to be willing hosts. Your local peace center or peace group may also be interested. Universities are another possible venue. Many delegates host smaller house parties or have friends or relatives host gatherings.
One of the best ways to reach people outside our normal circles is through local civic organizations in your community - Elks, Lions, Rotary Clubs, American Legion, Kiwanis, Optimists, League of Women Voters, Physicians for Social Responsibility — all of these and more are potential sources for speaking events. Ask to speak at one of their meetings.
Find contact information for your local clubs here:
- American Legion
- League of Women Voters
- Physicians for Social Responsibility
Stay in Touch With IFPB
Use IFPB as a resource for your presentations. Call or write us with your thoughts, ideas or concerns. We are here to work with you and have experience. We can help you refine your thoughts, draw out your main points or provide practical advice and feedback on powerpoint presentations, etc.Finally, let us know when an event is scheduled so we can help promote it and record it in our records.