Interpreting Martin Luther King


Let nothing happen by accident! Let everything happen by design!

The development of an ability to present not only information but an understanding of the image that is created by any presentation is essential in working with any audience. The presentation must use as many of the senses as possible to allow the audience to have a greater chance of first understanding and secondly retaining the information which you are going to present. Therefore there are two distinct areas to presenting to an audience.

The first is an understanding of the nature of creating an image and the second is being as sure as possible that the image that you are creating matches the aspirations and dreams of your clients. This means that everything that happens to your audience must be as far as possible designed by you and not left to accident. Indeed theatre is the most successful presenter of ideas and concepts. Theatre goes beyond giving information to people in purely written or verbal form but also employs a number of other devices to elicit a response from its audience. Here are some of the areas which should be considered in any presentation.

Analysis of the Audience

Before approaching the development of a presentation to an audience a speaker must analyse the audience to develop a profile of a typical member. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to one person or many, this allows the tuning of the whole piece to match the aspirations of the client. One way of analysing is to follow this SCHEPPT formula.

How is this audience structured socially?
Who are the power brokers?
What do they aspire to?
What is important to them?
Education Level?

What is the ethnicity of the group?
What are the customs for decision making?
What are the taboos?
What is culturally desirable?
Speech Pattern?

What is the average wealth and income?
What is the projected income?
Houses, cars, dress sense?

What are the local politics of the group?
Are they conservative, progressive, traditional?

What is the area they come from like?
Technical How do they cope with change?
How do they cope with technology?

The overall picture is important for your presentation to be accessible and enjoyable. It allows you to use humour which is acceptable and to tailor your language and conceptual base to suit your client. You can then go on to design how you are going to create the image which you desire for this audience.

The Performer

Every time you stand in front of a group of people you are creating an image and performing. An awareness of how you appear is essential to success. Initially the perception of you by the audience will be 55% on how you look, 38% on how you sound, and 8% on what you say. However as you begin to gain the audiences confidence, the look becomes less important and what you say becomes much greater.

Your voice then is extremely important. Here are six important parts of creating good speech:

  1. Tone: Use the sound of the word to help create its feeling (onomatopoeia) slash, thud, solemn, integrity.
  2. Tune: Normal Range is two and a half octaves. Use the essential tune of any phrase. Falling tune in ‘Ladies and Gentlemen …..’ gives authority. Use variety for each phrase or descriptive word to vary and contrast each thought. Let the tune help the image. “Up the hill”
  3. Pause: Use before something important to create attention. Like a billboard, gives punctuation. Lead up with a rising cautionary and then pause before a lower executive and then a pause before you go on. This gives the audience time to see the picture and for you to read the audience. eg: Churchill – trimmed, rhythm, use of pause and phrases “the Battle of Britain is about to begin.” “Hitler knows he will have to break us in this island”
  4. Pace: Gloss over unimportant things quicker Important things must be slower Variety is important. About 120 words per minute average.
  5. Volume: Variety: Invite people to listen by backing off volume Use of a microphone.
  6. Clarity: Lips, Tongue, Teeth, Breathing, Vocal Chords. Lazy Speech, (Somethink, Nothink, Haitch) Dipthongs (Wide, Side, etc.)

Movement should reflect the statement. Use triangles. Make movements encompass all the audience. Gestures should match phrases in size, direction, length and speed. Control your Body Language- fidgeting, walking, getting up from a chair, stance, nervous reactions. (O.K., Scratch etc.) When to look at audience. T-T-Timing!

Paint pictures for people that they understand. Use mime to create not only an image but also a feeling. Your face says as much as your words about attitude. Use a range of facial expressions. Push yourself past ‘normal’ gesture. Use your body to highlight ideas. Part of Total package

Be careful about putting yourself “on the line.” Create a character which you can control, hide behind and stay objective. Uncontrolled emotional reaction is dangerous. Smile. Maintain eye contact, look around your audience.

Personal Presentation

Costume should reflect what you’re talking about. Costume should initially help audience to create an image initially. Using costume to put together ideas. Your dress says a lot about your attitude to life. Costume can often help to add something different to your performance. Think about style, colour (conservative or other).

Style, Neatness, Length, Colour. Facial hair (shadow). Other eg. Nose and ear.


Importance of eyes and mouth. Distance is important (10 metres limit). Base to remove skin blemishes and shine. Be aware of lighting. Be careful of street makeup.


Audience view Left to Right, Front to Back, Down to Up.
Entrances and exits.
Levels of audience and speaker. Above, Below, Level.
Stage locations.

Colour, Intensity, Direction, Type.
Highlight therefore control view.
Change to help idea.
Atmosphere control by lighting.
Sun location.

Use of sound before to set mood before or after.
Microphone levels (bounce from walls).
Mics offer variety.
Low bass high treble.
Microphone legs.
Microphone technique (popping, Height, Type). Hand held elbow lock.

Setting of stage.
Using a lectern or behind table.
Use scenery to highlight ideas. eg. Photos, Posters but watch control.
Colour of scenery as per other decisions eg. Costume.
Interesting scenery, Paintings, Roadways, Aeroplanes.
Use of curtains.
Slides and overheads (KISS) and practise timing.
Paint their picture. (Eg Retirement home)

Hand props to tell the story.
Create the Character.
Symbolise your idea. (Puppetry).

Heating or cooling.
Entrances for you and for audience.
Time for entry for you and for audience.
Floor Type.
Staging available


Things that stop people performing well:

Lack of subject knowledge.
Self Consciousness
Fear of mistakes
Sound of their voice
Bad previous experience
Lack of knowledge of technical equipment
Size of the audience
Unfamiliar surroundings

Ways to Present Well: Well Before
Write the date down.
Arrive early or visit before planning (photo of venue).
Ask where to park.
Take an umbrella.
Check about technical equipment. (Mic, lights, lectern, etc.).
Write out your introduction in full, double spaced and large type.
Number your cards.
Write speech triple spaced in phrases in bold type.
Practise with your video.

Ways to Present Well: Just Before
Move your seat out.
Plan route to stage.
Don’t look until you’re ready.

Ways to Present Well: After
Finish and move.
Don’t peter to a finish, upward inflection.
Don’t spoil by long thank you.
Move off quickly and be invited back for questions.

Robert Motton

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