Prepare a speech
with the SEL method

Selling an innovation, highlighting a process, defending their budgets: scientists must communicate to convince others of the value of their work. Orally, they generally have little time: 10, 15, sometimes 20 minutes. The Agent Majeur SEL method has been designed for them. In 3 steps, it helps them prepare a synthetic and effective presentation.

What are the steps of the SEL method?

1/ Skeleton

First, you must ‘Build the skeleton’ of your speech. You start by defining your presentation’s message – this is what your audience will have to remember from your speech. Then you build the outline.

2/ Envelope

The 2nd step is called ‘Design the envelope’. It consists of ‘dressing’ the skeleton. You develop the content of your introduction, your conclusion and other parts of the plan. Then you prepare your presentation materials.

3/ Life

In the 3rd step, ‘Breathe life’, you give substance to your presentation. You work on the non-verbal aspect of your pitch: speech rate, elocution, eye contact, silence…

What is this method for?

To convince, you must speak to the audience about what interests them and be clear and exciting. You want to speak about your work, its technical interest, the stages gone through, the difficulties encountered… Your audience, on the other hand, wants to know their benefit in placing their trust in you. This method helps you focus on what interests your audience.

Technical subjects are complex by nature. Your role is to make your work easy to understand. Thanks to the SEL method, you popularise at the right level. For the layman, technical subjects are boring. Your audience’s attention is by no means a certainty. It must be earned! Using this method, you will make your statements exciting.

How should you implement it?

It is important not to hesitate to start writing your speech 2 or 3 weeks before the deadline. The best ideas – those who will leave a lasting imprint on the audience – don’t necessarily sprout at the beginning of your reflection.

A large part of the preparation work is done at a table with a pencil and paper. You think of your own objectives and your audience’s expectations. According to them, you define your message. Then you build a plan that supports this message.

Next, you develop the contents of your presentation. Pitch, examples, anecdotes: anything you use must head in the same direction as your message. When your content is clearly defined, you prepare your presentation materials. If you use PowerPoint slides or movies, it is at this very moment that you sit in front of your computer.

Finally, on D-Day, you concentrate on your oral and body preparation. They will bring you ease and fluidity.

What are the pitfalls to avoid during an oral presentation ?

1/ Changing the recipe

Making complex notions simple and exciting is a tough job, which requires a lot of thoroughness. You cannot succeed a mayonnaise dressing if you change the recipe. For example, if you start by pouring the oil into a bowl, it will not thicken up. Instead of a creamy dressing, you will obtain a kind of gross vinaigrette. Similarly you cannot prepare a convincing presentation if you start with the PowerPoint slides. There is a sequence to follow for the mayonnaise to set up.

2/ Making it too long

If you use less than your allotted time, it won’t be held against you, even if your presentation is excellent! Conversely, if you use more, you have a problem. Think about those who must take a plane, who have children to pick up at school or have an overwhelming desire to smoke a cigarette… And be respectful of that precious time they would like to use as they please.

3/ Being too technical

A bit of work on science popularisation is usually required to have your audience interested in your topic. Minimising the use of scientific jargon, creating connections between your subject and your audience, illustrating your words, handling analogies, humour, anecdotes… there are many ‘tricks’ that will help your audience better understand you.

Alexia Benichou’s viewpoint, as a science communication consultant

‘Scientists are permanently asked to convince, be it by their technical director, marketing teams, clients, public authorities… However they seldom have taken a science communication training course. They often ignore how to go about developing presentations that go straight to the point. From this observation we developed the SEL method. It is easy to memorise and to apply on a day-to-day basis.’

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> Public speaking

> Popularising science

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