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Presentation Skills: 15 tips for effective presentations


A successful presentation requires good presentation skills and effective presentation techniques. Here we provide you with 15 presentation tips for effective presentations. Whether you are an experienced presenter, or just starting out, there should be ideas here to help you improve your presentation skills.

Presenting successfully: 15 tips to improve your presentation skills and give a killer presentation 

How do you give a good presentation this is how to succeed.

In order to be able to present successfully, not only the layout and the content of the presentation must be convincing. The decisive step is to convey the content of the presentation to the audience in the best possible way by presenting it correctly. The tips listed below should help you do this by improving your presentation skills. The most important thing to keep in mind is a healthy combination of the tips listed below. (The order of the tips does not give any information about their importance).

Not every tip will lead to a successful presentation. What is important in a presentation?

As mentioned earlier, you should try to implement a combination of the tips to give a successful presentation. It should be noted that not every one of these tips needs to fit in your own presentation. In addition, too many of these tips can make the presentation look overloaded and too "rehearsed". Therefore, think carefully in advance about what you want to pay particular attention to.

Here are 15 tips for killer presentations:

Tip 1: maintain eye contact while presenting and smile.

In order to give each of your listeners the feeling of being important and to make them feel personally addressed, it is particularly important to maintain eye contact with the audience during the presentation. Not only does this exude confidence, but it also helps your audience to connect with you and your subject. It also helps you feel less nervous.  Easier said than done right? Here's what can help:

Find someone in the audience who seems to be genuinely interested in the topic and is listening attentively (for example, your lecturer). Make eye contact with this person at the beginning of the presentation. Once you start feeling more calm and confident let your gaze drift over the audience to address the other listeners as well. Keep returning your gaze to the initial person to stay calm throughout the whole presentation.

Another alternative is to find a fixed point in the room (preferably on the wall behind the audience) which you fix at the beginning of the presentation. Similar to the first example, after you have achieved confidence, you can let your gaze wander over the audience and return to the previously selected fixed point again and again.

Don't look at the screen! Don't look at the floor! Don't just look at your index cards! Don't just look at the laptop!

Tip 2: Use of gestures and facial expressions

To emphasize the content of your presentation, it is advisable to use appropriate gestures and body language to get your message across. Avoid crossed arms, hands behind your back, or in your pockets during a presentation.  Always stand up straight, and try not to appear tense or stressed. You can do that by using your hands and arms to emphasize what you are saying and get your message across.  Your facial expressions should always be friendly and open. Smile and show that you enjoy the topic and you are confident in the information you are presenting.

Tip 3: Avoid distractions

Often you will not be able to avoid the use of aids. For example, you may need to use a laser pointer to show something on the screen, or you may need to use a pen to write something down on a flipchart. To avoid distractions for you and the audience, get into the habit of putting down tools you don't need! That way you will not be tempted to deal with them in the first place. You will also have your hands free for gestures.

Tip 4: Be prepared: Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect, right? If you prepare well before the presentation, you will feel more relaxed and confident while presenting and it will also improve your body language. 

Here are some ways to help you prepare for a presentation:

Rehearse in front of a crowd

Time yourself

Record yourself

Tip 5: Be confident

By appearing self-confident, you convey to the listener that you are confident in your topic and have prepared yourself sufficiently. Try to relax and not appear too stressed or nervous. Another tip for advanced speakers: Step out in front of the podium and walk around the room and get closer to the audience. This also exudes self-confidence and helps in attracting your audience's attention.

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Tip 6: Effective beginning/end

Good presentation skills can help you in captivating your audience straight away. In order to do that, you should start your presentation with a bang. Many studies show that if you can capture someone’s interest straight away, there’s a good chance they’ll listen to the rest of the presentation. Shock the audience, ask them to imagine something or think of a what-if situation, share a personal story, share a joke, u se a quote, or a video. You should also give an overview of the time and structure of your presentation. This outline should run through your presentation so that you can always assign the individual contents to an outline point. It is also helpful for your audience to have the outline displayed in a slimmed-down form during the whole presentation.

How you end the presentation is as important as how you start it. A weak ending will leave the audience uninspired. But a good ending will motivate them and help them walk away on a positive note. For example, include a call to action, end the presentation with a memorable quote, or a personal story, and don't forget to thank and acknowledge the audience. 

Tip 7: Speak freely

The headline speaks for itself. To make the presentation as lively and enjoyable as possible, you should avoid reading it off. Speak freely, slowly, and clearly. If you are not yet confident in what you are presenting, try using note cards. But keep in mind: No continuous text, but only short, concise bullet points! If you use note cards to support you, it is especially advisable at this point to memorize at least the beginning and end of your presentation, as eye contact is crucial at these points.

Tip 8: Avoid filler words

In order to make your presentation flow as smoothly and confidently as possible, you should avoid using filler words such as "um," "so," and so on. For your listeners, these words convey insecurity and inadequate preparation.

Tip 9: Bring along something to share

In addition to a handout, other small takeaways can also significantly improve your presentation. For example, if you are giving a presentation on gummy bears, why not offer some to your audience? If you are giving a presentation about your fishing hobby, why not show the audience your fishing equipment?

Tip 10: Use different types of media

A presentation can quickly become boring and monotonous. To avoid this, it is advisable to use different types of media. For example, combine videos and flipcharts, use the whiteboard, or show something practical on a model. This will increase the attention of your audience enormously and will help in keeping them engaged until the end.

Tip 11: Use effective pauses

When giving a presentation, you should keep in mind that you have already heard the content several times - your audience probably hasn't! Therefore, give your audience enough time to read and understand the content of your slides.

Effective use of speech pauses is a master technique. It is one of the most versatile tools in a presenter's toolbox. Yet very few people perform it well. A pause, if used correctly, can add a great deal to your presentation or speech. Pause before, during, or after saying something that you would like to emphasize. Pausing between two different parts of your presentation can indicate to the audience that something new is coming. A quick pause could also help you in remembering your next point, without the audience noticing that you forgot what to say.

Tip 12: Speak the language of the audience

When creating your presentation, you should already think about your target audience. This will help you present successfully later on. It is especially important that you speak the language of the audience. Use appropriate and relevant examples. Use "strong" and meaningful words in short sentences to avoid losing the audience. Make sure to use appropriate analogies and anecdotes and avoid foreign words, empty phrases, and clichés. If you have to use foreign words, explain them in a handout or footnote within the presentation.

Tip 13: Engage with the audience

Always try to keep the attention of your audience and keep them engaged during a presentation. To do this, it is advisable to regularly involve the audience. One way to do this is to ask questions. Deliberately ask "easy" questions so that can easily be answered by your audience. Another way to involve the audience in your presentation is by interacting with them. To make a point clearer, you can use an example to explain it in more detail, using a person (whose name you should know). You can address participants directly and refer to their work.

Tip 14: Don't fight the stage fright & take deep breaths

Stage fright is one of the biggest enemies of a presentation, yet you shouldn't let yourself be a victim of your feat. Do not fight it, rather address your fear and try and accept it, and transform it into positive enthusiasm. Don't let your stage fright get you all worked up and nervous. Take a couple of deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain and relax your body.

Tip 15: Choose the right angle on standing during a presentation

One of the most frequent questions that speakers ask themselves during a presentation is, how do I best position myself, and where do I stand in front of the audience?

You have a free stage without a podium

In many cases, you will be facing your audience in a "free space", without a podium. This gives you a lot of room to move, but at the same time, it creates uncertainty because you don't know how to position yourself properly or how to move. Avoid standing frontally in front of the audience! This frontal facing is unconsciously perceived negatively by the audience. It is perceived by the audience as a kind of frontal attack and causes stress in your audience. Make sure to stand slightly to the side of the audience. If you notice during the presentation that you are again standing frontally in front of your audience, simply move your right or left foot 20 cm forward.

You have a podium at your disposal

A podium makes it easier to decide how to position yourself and where to stand in front of the audience. In order not to make your presentation too monotonous, it is advisable to leave the "safe position" behind the lectern from time to time, e.g. to walk to the other side of the screen or to show something on the flipchart. This brings movement into your presentation and helps keep the connection with your audience. 

Björn Rolleter

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Presenting is a craft that requires a thoughtful approach. There’s a lot of stuff to include in the good presentation. From quality visuals to a compelling speech, everything matters. Doing a presentation on your own may be quite a challenge especially if it’s your first time experience with the presentations. What can really help though, are the effective presentation techniques. In essence, they are the blueprint for your presentation, that helps you to hit all the right spots. Let’s look into some of those techniques.

Presentation Methods

Before you start thinking of a technique, let’s first understand the presentation methods and how they relate to the audience and the content of your presentation. Among the different presentation methods, the main ones are formal and formal. Their difference is mainly in the style of your delivery and the data presentation methods. The formal presentation is best suited for the business meetings or college level, scientific presentations. The informal methods of presentation can best be used during the smaller meetings with your team to discuss business subjects or, for example, at a Ted-like speech event.

Method 1: Keeping Everything Simple

This is a rather basic technique. Just strip your presentation of all the unnecessary information, leaving only the core statements that you want to address. Simplicity not only helps your audience to understand your points better but even more, this data presentation method lowers the risk of making a mistake, forgetting — and saves you and your audience quite a lot of time! There are different definitions of simplicity — sometimes just a few words are enough, while in other cases several bullet points on the slide may be sufficient. Choose what suits your topic best.

Method 2: Good Start 

This method of presentation is all about attention-grabbing. Starting your presentation with a powerful statement, unusual fact or an interesting question will make the audience engage in your presentation instantly. Another great way to start is a joke, though humor can be quite a landmine, especially when you’re presenting in front of strangers, and you are not sure whether your joke would be fun or actually offensive.  So, try to think of something neutral, yet funny.

Method 3: Use  Visuals in your Presentation

Visuals are a must for any presentation and are able not only to support your speech but also to tell and contribute to the stuff you’re telling about. The pictures, graphs, infographics, and even short videos especially when done by presentation design services are what truly make the presentation, and help you to connect with your audience. A carefully selected visual connects both with your speech and the slide content, making your presentation methods work in complete harmony. What is more, visuals can serve as a great way to help you recall your speech in case you suddenly forgot some of it during the presentation.

Method 4:   Rehearse

Don’t rush to tell your presentation just once you’ve made it. Instead, try to first rehearse your presentation in front of a mirror. This presentation technique allows you to spot the mistakes and downfalls in your speech and visual part and improve powerpoint presentation . What is more, it can also make you more confident, as with each time you rehearse you’ll memorize your stuff better and better. Bonus points for starting rehearsing from the random spots in your presentation — using this presentation technique will allow you to become completely familiar with your information.

Method 5:   10/20/30 Presentation Rule

While it may not be applied to all of the presentations, the ones that you are usually dealing with can really benefit from it. 10 20 30 rule is about the time and size of your presentation: 

  • Your presentation should have no more than 10 slides
  • The time needed for the presentation should be no more than 20 minutes
  • The font you are using for presentation text (if there is any on slides) is no less than 30 point

Method 6:  Storytelling

Telling a story is a powerful presentation technique for keeping the audience interested. In general, people get bored from being fed just straight-up facts and numbers for a long time. However, an interesting story, connected to the subject of your presentation gives that personal touch to it, engaging the audience into what you are talking about. What is more, a good story in the context of the presentation will actually resonate with the audience, causing more approval to you as an expert.

  • Tell a personal  story .
  • Create suspense.
  • Bring characters to life.
  • Build up to S.T.A.R moment.

Method 7:   Presentate with your Voice

Speech is the most common method of presentation . When you are presenting, it’s important not only WHAT you say, but also HOW do you say it. Creating a proper voice for presentations is actually one of the things you need rehearsal for. Your goal is to sound confident and interested in the subject you are telling about. What is more, it is important to not make unnecessary pauses and avoid the “ummm”, “oh” and other similar stuff that slows down your presentation and may put off the audience.

Method 8:   Know your Audience

Make sure that the data presentation methods you are using make your data  relevant to your audience. The research of your audience is needed to craft a relatable story, as well as to understand what approach in presenting you may want to take. After you’ve done the research, you can just tell the audience what it wants and expects to hear. Such an approach would result in the satisfied and interested audience enjoying your presentation. And in this case your presentation would surely and up being a huge success!

Method 9:   Back up plan

Even though you may plan everything in advance, something can always go wrong. The strange ability of the hardware to malfunction right in the middle of your presentation is probably one of the most known presentation-related memes. So, plan at least some of the bad scenarios. For example, have a printed set of slides with you during your presentation. Check everything right before you’ll start presenting. A good idea also is to have your script written out so that in case you have completely forgotten some of its parts, you can easily and quickly look into it and goon with the presentation.

Method 10:   Relax

This one is not only a presentation technique , but a great life technique as well. Actually, the most common reason for the mistakes during presentations are the nerves and fear a lot of people feel while presenting. It’s absolutely normal to be a little worried about the presentation, but you have to instill confidence in your knowledge and expertise with the subject among the audience, and it’s hard to do if you feel fear. Try to reason with yourself — you have rehearsed, prepared great visuals, learned about the audience and even have a plan B in case the situation gets worse. There’s nothing to worry about — you have all the right presentation techniques !

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  • 50 tips on how to improve PowerPoint presentations in 2022-2023 [Updated]
  • Keynote VS PowerPoint
  • Types of presentations
  • Present financial information visually in PowerPoint to drive results

Private: How to become a public speaker

  • Business Slides

Private: How to become a public speaker

How to make presentations interactive

How to make presentations interactive

8 rules of effective presentation

8 rules of effective presentation

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9 Effective Presentation Techniques You Can Use to Master Public Speaking 6 min read

effective presentation by a woman

Sweat drips down the side of your face as you wait quietly backstage, fidgeting.

Your hands are cold and clammy as you fumble through cue cards one last time, trying to recall key points on each card.

Your name gets called and you face the inevitable walk up the stage to deliver what you imagine can be the worst public humiliation of your life.

We have all been there, the uneasy, nauseating feeling of public speaking.

The one thing we fear more than death, so they say.

Unless you make a living from  working remotely , speaking in public is a useful, if not an essential tool for educational and professional success .

Why are effective presentation techniques important?

Effective presentation techniques are important because they help you deliver ideas in clear, concise and interesting ways.

Being a good public speaker allows you to demonstrate your knowledge with authority and help you stand out in the workplace.

Therefore, we need to find effective presentation techniques that work for us to put our best selves forward whenever we speak in public.

With numerous resources on improving public speaking written everywhere, here are the best presentation techniques that you can master.

1. Limit your presentation to one core idea

You have so much knowledge you want to share, educate and persuade.

Why limit your speech to just one idea?

Because ideas are complicated.

It takes a pitch to build interests into a desire, a narrative to create empathy, supporting evidence to be persuasive, and a call to action to lead movements.

Instead of squeezing every ounce of your knowledge into the limited time allocated to your speech, you will be most effective by concentrating on just one core idea that your audience can resonate with.

This way, you can be sure your audience can walk away with a clear message after the presentation.

2. Remember that the audience is on your side

Whether you are delivering a business plan in a boardroom or speaking as a keynote speaker at a conference.

Whether you are speaking to a handful of colleagues, or a lecture theatre packed with college seniors.

The audience is there for one reason.

applauding audience to an effective presentation

You may imagine the audience is there to watch you make a fool of yourself, but more often than not, they want to be there, be enlightened by your presence, and be inspired by your talk.

3. Gently introduce people to your accents

With all the ethnic diversity in the world, we can all learn from our differences and work towards a greater good.

Despite speaking the same languages, our diverse backgrounds would lead to little nuances in the way we enunciate words and the way we speak phrases.

Intentionally speaking slowly , in the beginning, is not only good practice but a good technique to allow your audience to get used to your accents.

After all, you need your listeners to understand your words before they can understand your ideas.

4. Use language your audience can understand to deliver your idea

Now that your audience can understand the words coming out of your mouth, we can think about how to deliver your idea.

Unless you are speaking to a family member, your audience likely has a different background to yours.

Both geographically and professionally.

This means, the technical jargon and inside jokes that you throw around among your friends and colleagues may not work in a packed conference room.

It’s best to practice explaining your ideas to friends from different backgrounds to get a feel of how effective your presentation is to the public.

5. Spark curiosity in your audience

Listening is hard.

It’s difficult to concentrate on listening to a new idea, even more so if the idea is boring.

Therefore it is your job, as a speaker, to spark curiosity in your audience to make sure both you and your audience enjoy the presentation.

cat with a big heart

A few common ways to spark interests include humor, storytelling, anecdotes, or even funny cat videos.

6. Present data visually

Not all people perceive numbers and data in the same way.

A simple statistic can mean different ideas to different people.

The best way to control the narrative in numbers and data is to create visual images that tell specific stories.

presentation techniques

An effective image can help your audience understand both the meaning and origin of the data to keep people engaged.

7. Your slides are not the centerpiece, you are

It is tempting to use your slide deck as a crutch, and follow it slide by slide, dividing your attention between the presentation slides and your audience.

You will look like a tennis umpire looking back and forth, back and forth.

tennis singles competition

The audience is here to see you, to listen to what you have to say.

Try to bring your best presence to deliver your speech and only use the slides for images and videos to drive your point home, not to divert attention away from you.

8. Use technology only if necessary

Following the last point, your presentation slides are only used to support your talk, not to take over it.

Use presentation technology with caution, and only in situations where necessary.

iphone screen mirroring presentation

To run your presentation from an iPhone like a pro, there’s always EZCast Pro to help you make wireless presentations in huddle rooms and meeting rooms at work .

9. Practice your presentation over and over again

Now you know all the most effective presentation techniques available, all that’s left for you is to master them through deliberate practice .

Whether you repeat your speech during your daily commute or annunciate key points with purpose in the shower.

Try to memorize your presentation down to every single deliberate pause to make sure you have every detail down pat.

Then you can find a friend or family member to listen to you speak and provide constructive feedback.

Once you iron out the kinks, you will become more effective in presentation and ready for the big time.

3 thoughts on “ 9 Effective Presentation Techniques You Can Use to Master Public Speaking 6 min read ”

Point 3. I think the write meant to write “enunciate” NOT “annunciate”. These 2 words are very different. The 1st one mean to speak clearly and the 2nd one means to announce.

Thank you for the correction Maurice. Just changed it to the correct usage.

Really nice topic. It will helps during presentation.

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How to Give a Killer Presentation

  • Chris Anderson

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For more than 30 years, the TED conference series has presented enlightening talks that people enjoy watching. In this article, Anderson, TED’s curator, shares five keys to great presentations:

  • Frame your story (figure out where to start and where to end).
  • Plan your delivery (decide whether to memorize your speech word for word or develop bullet points and then rehearse it—over and over).
  • Work on stage presence (but remember that your story matters more than how you stand or whether you’re visibly nervous).
  • Plan the multimedia (whatever you do, don’t read from PowerPoint slides).
  • Put it together (play to your strengths and be authentic).

According to Anderson, presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance—not style. In fact, it’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. So if your thinking is not there yet, he advises, decline that invitation to speak. Instead, keep working until you have an idea that’s worth sharing.

Lessons from TED

A little more than a year ago, on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, some colleagues and I met a 12-year-old Masai boy named Richard Turere, who told us a fascinating story. His family raises livestock on the edge of a vast national park, and one of the biggest challenges is protecting the animals from lions—especially at night. Richard had noticed that placing lamps in a field didn’t deter lion attacks, but when he walked the field with a torch, the lions stayed away. From a young age, he’d been interested in electronics, teaching himself by, for example, taking apart his parents’ radio. He used that experience to devise a system of lights that would turn on and off in sequence—using solar panels, a car battery, and a motorcycle indicator box—and thereby create a sense of movement that he hoped would scare off the lions. He installed the lights, and the lions stopped attacking. Soon villages elsewhere in Kenya began installing Richard’s “lion lights.”

  • CA Chris Anderson is the curator of TED.

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What Are Effective Presentation Skills (and How to Improve Them)

Presentation skills are essential for your personal and professional life. Learn about effective presentations and how to boost your presenting techniques.

[Featured Image]: The marketing manager, wearing a yellow top, is making a PowerPoint presentation.

At least seven out of 10 Americans agree that presentation skills are essential for a successful career [ 1 ]. Although it might be tempting to think that these are skills reserved for people interested in public speaking roles, they're critical in a diverse range of jobs. For example, you might need to brief your supervisor on research results.

Presentation skills are also essential in other scenarios, including working with a team and explaining your thought process, walking clients through project ideas and timelines, and highlighting your strengths and achievements to your manager during performance reviews.

Whatever the scenario, you have very little time to capture your audience’s attention and get your point across when presenting information—about three seconds, according to research [ 2 ]. Effective presentation skills help you get your point across and connect with the people you’re communicating with, which is why nearly every employer requires them.

Understanding what presentation skills are is only half the battle. Honing your presenting techniques is essential for mastering presentations of all kinds and in all settings.

What are presentation skills?

Presentation skills are the abilities and qualities necessary for creating and delivering a compelling presentation that effectively communicates information and ideas. They encompass what you say, how you structure it, and the materials you include to support what you say, such as slides, videos, or images.

You'll make presentations at various times in your life. Examples include:

Making speeches at a wedding, conference, or another event

Making a toast at a dinner or event

Explaining projects to a team 

Delivering results and findings to management teams

Teaching people specific methods or information

Proposing a vote at community group meetings

Pitching a new idea or business to potential partners or investors

Why are presentation skills important? 

Delivering effective presentations is critical in your professional and personal life. You’ll need to hone your presentation skills in various areas, such as when giving a speech, convincing your partner to make a substantial purchase, and talking to friends and family about an important situation.

No matter if you’re using them in a personal or professional setting, these are the skills that make it easier and more effective to convey your ideas, convince or persuade others, and experience success. A few of the benefits that often accompany improving your presentation skills include:

Enriched written and verbal communication skills

Enhanced confidence and self-image

Boosted critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities

Better motivational techniques

Increased leadership skills

Expanded time management, negotiation, and creativity

The better your presenting techniques, the more engaging your presentations will be. You could also have greater opportunities to make positive impacts in business and other areas of your life.

Effective presentation skills

Imagine yourself in the audience at a TED Talk or sitting with your coworkers at a big meeting held by your employer. What would you be looking for in how they deliver their message? What would make you feel engaged?

These are a few questions to ask yourself as you review this list of some of the most effective presentation skills.

Verbal communication

How you use language and deliver messages play essential roles in how your audience will receive your presentation. Speak clearly and confidently, projecting your voice enough to ensure everyone can hear. Think before you speak, pausing when necessary and tailoring the way you talk to resonate with your particular audience.

Body language

Body language combines various critical elements, including posture, gestures, eye contact, expressions, and position in front of the audience. Body language is one of the elements that can instantly transform a presentation that would otherwise be dull into one that's dynamic and interesting.

Voice projection

The ability to project your voice improves your presentation by allowing your audience to hear what you're saying. It also increases your confidence to help settle any lingering nerves while also making your message more engaging. To project your voice, stand comfortably with your shoulders back. Take deep breaths to power your speaking voice and ensure you enunciate every syllable you speak.

How you present yourself plays a role in your body language and ability to project your voice. It also sets the tone for the presentation. Avoid slouching or looking overly tense. Instead, remain open, upright, and adaptable while taking the formality of the occasion into account.


Incorporating storytelling into a presentation is an effective strategy used by many powerful public speakers. It has the power to bring your subject to life and pique the audience’s curiosity. Don’t be afraid to tell a personal story, slowly building up suspense or adding a dramatic moment. And, of course, be sure to end with a positive takeaway to drive your point home.

Active listening

Active listening is a valuable skill all on its own. When you understand and thoughtfully respond to what you hear—whether it's in a conversation or during a presentation—you’ll likely deepen your personal relationships and actively engage audiences during a presentation. As part of your presentation skill set, it helps catch and maintain the audience’s attention, helping them remain focused while minimizing passive response, ensuring the message is delivered correctly, and encouraging a call to action.

Stage presence

During a presentation, projecting confidence can help keep your audience engaged. Stage presence can help you connect with your audience and encourage them to want to watch you. To improve your presence, try amping up your normal demeanor by infusing it with a bit of enthusiasm. Project confidence and keep your information interesting.

Watch your audience as you’re presenting. If you’re holding their attention, it likely means you’re connecting well with them.


Monitoring your own emotions and reactions will allow you to react well in various situations. It helps you remain personable throughout your presentation and handle feedback well. Self-awareness can help soothe nervousness during presentations, allowing you to perform more effectively.

Writing skills

Writing is a form of presentation. Sharp writing skills can help you master your presentation’s outline to ensure you stay on message and remain clear about your objectives from the beginning until the end. It’s also helpful to have strong writing abilities for creating compelling slides and other visual aids.

Understanding an audience

When you understand your audience's needs and interests, you can design your presentation around them. In turn, you'll deliver maximum value to them and enhance your ability to make your message easy to understand.

Learn more about presentation skills from industry experts at SAP:

How to improve presentation skills

There’s an art to public speaking. Just like any other type of art, this is one that requires practice. Improving your presentation skills will help reduce miscommunications, enhance your time management capabilities, and boost your leadership skills. Here are some ways you can improve these skills:

Work on self-confidence.

When you’re confident, you naturally speak more clearly and with more authority. Taking the time to prepare your presentation with a strong opening and compelling visual aids can help you feel more confident. Other ways to improve your self-confidence include practicing positive self-talk, surrounding yourself with positive people, and avoiding comparing yourself (or your presentation) to others.

Develop strategies for overcoming fear.

Many people are nervous or fearful before giving a presentation. A bad memory of a past performance or insufficient self-confidence can contribute to fear and anxiety. Having a few go-to strategies like deep breathing, practicing your presentation, and grounding can help you transform that fear into extra energy to put into your stage presence.

Learn grounding techniques.

Grounding is any type of technique that helps you steer your focus away from distressing thoughts and keeps you connected with your present self. To ground yourself, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and imagine you’re a large, mature tree with roots extending deep into the earth—like the tree, you can become unshakable.

Learn how to use presentation tools.

Visual aids and other technical support can transform an otherwise good presentation into a wow-worthy one. A few popular presentation tools include:

Canva: Provides easy-to-design templates you can customize

Powtoon: Animation software that makes video creation fast and easy

PowerPoint: Microsoft's iconic program popular for dynamic marketing and sales presentations

Practice breathing techniques.

Breathing techniques can help quell anxiety, making it easier to shake off pre-presentation jitters and nerves. It also helps relax your muscles and get more oxygen to your brain.  For some pre-presentation calmness, you can take deep breaths, slowly inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

While presenting, breathe in through your mouth with the back of your tongue relaxed so your audience doesn't hear a gasping sound. Speak on your exhalation, maintaining a smooth voice.

Gain experience.

The more you practice, the better you’ll become. The more you doanything, the more comfortable you’ll feel engaging in that activity. Presentations are no different. Repeatedly practicing your own presentation also offers the opportunity to get feedback from other people and tweak your style and content as needed.

Tips to help you ace your presentation

Your presentation isn’t about you; it’s about the material you’re presenting. Sometimes, reminding yourself of this ahead of taking center stage can help take you out of your head, allowing you to connect effectively with your audience. The following are some of the many actions you can take on the day of your presentation.

Arrive early.

Since you may have a bit of presentation-related anxiety, it’s important to avoid adding travel stress. Give yourself an abundance of time to arrive at your destination, and take into account heavy traffic and other unforeseen events. By arriving early, you also give yourself time to meet with any on-site technicians, test your equipment, and connect with people ahead of the presentation.

Become familiar with the layout of the room.

Arriving early also gives you time to assess the room and figure out where you want to stand. Experiment with the acoustics to determine how loudly you need to project your voice, and test your equipment to make sure everything connects and appears properly with the available setup. This is an excellent opportunity to work out any last-minute concerns and move around to familiarize yourself with the setting for improved stage presence.

Listen to presenters ahead of you.

When you watch others present, you'll get a feel for the room's acoustics and lighting. You can also listen for any data that’s relevant to your presentation and revisit it during your presentation—this can make the presentation more interactive and engaging.

Use note cards.

Writing yourself a script could provide you with more comfort. To prevent sounding too robotic or disengaged, only include talking points in your note cards in case you get off track. Using note cards can help keep your presentation organized while sounding more authentic to your audience.

Learn to deliver clear and confident presentations with Dynamic Public Speaking from the University of Washington. Build confidence, develop new delivery techniques, and practice strategies for crafting compelling presentations for different purposes, occasions, and audiences.

Article sources

Forbes. “ New Survey: 70% Say Presentation Skills are Critical for Career Success , https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/09/25/new-survey-70-percent-say-presentation-skills-critical-for-career-success/?sh=619f3ff78890.” Accessed December 7, 2022.

Beautiful.ai. “ 15 Presentation and Public Speaking Stats You Need to Know , https://www.beautiful.ai/blog/15-presentation-and-public-speaking-stats-you-need-to-know. Accessed December 7, 2022.

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Tips & Techniques to Improve Your Presentation Skills

Business presentation

Posted in Blog , Entrepreneurship , Facilitation , Intrapreneurship , Self confidence , Virtual Facilitation by Jo North

Are you ready to captivate your audience and leave a lasting impression? Whether you’re a seasoned presenter or just starting out, improving your presentation skills is essential for success. In today’s world, being able to communicate effectively and confidently is a valuable asset. Fortunately, there are proven techniques that can help you unleash your inner speaker and take your presentations to the next level. From mastering body language to crafting compelling narratives, this article will guide you through practical tips and techniques that will elevate your presentation skills. Get ready to engage your audience, inspire action, and make a lasting impact. Let’s dive in and discover how you can become a more confident and influential speaker.

The Importance of Effective Presentation Skills

Effective presentation skills are crucial in various aspects of life, whether you’re delivering a business proposal, pitching an idea, or speaking at a conference. When you have the ability to communicate your message clearly, concisely, and with confidence, you instantly become more influential and persuasive. Strong presentation skills not only help you convey information effectively but also ensure that your audience remains engaged and receptive to your ideas.

To become an effective presenter, it’s important to understand the key elements that contribute to a successful presentation. These include body language, voice modulation, storytelling, visual aids, and audience engagement. By mastering these techniques, you can captivate your audience, convey your message with impact, and leave a lasting impression.

Dr. Jo North speaking at the Future of Innovation event in the Guildhall, York, UK

Overcoming Fear and Nervousness

One of the biggest challenges in public speaking is overcoming fear and nervousness. It’s natural to feel anxious before a presentation, but with the right techniques, you can manage your nerves and deliver a confident performance.

Firstly, preparation is key. The more you practice and familiarize yourself with your content, the more confident you’ll feel. Rehearse your presentation multiple times, focusing on your delivery, body language, and timing. This will help you become comfortable with the material and reduce anxiety.

Secondly, positive self-talk and visualization can work wonders. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, focus on positive affirmations and visualize yourself delivering a successful presentation. This will help build your confidence and reduce anxiety.

I used to be a nervous wreck before presentations. I was so bad that a senior colleague pulled me to one side and needed to sort it out! And that’s what I did. I studied presentation skills, and took every opportunity I could to give a presentation. Making sure that I was presenting often, so that the exposure simply got me used to doing it, helped immensely. I rehearsed, videoed myself and got a great presentation coach. That was a good number of years ago now. Today I look forward to presenting. I still get a few butterflies before a big, important event, but I now know how to manage them and use them to elevate my performance.

I’m also focused on interesting content and audience engagement over perfection. Remember that mistakes are a part of the learning process. Even the most experienced speakers make mistakes, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow from any mishaps and remember that your audience is often more forgiving than you think.

Understanding Your Audience

To deliver a compelling presentation, it’s essential to understand your audience and tailor your message accordingly. Start by conducting research to gain insights into their demographics, interests, and expectations. This will help you align your content and delivery with their needs and preferences.

Consider the level of knowledge your audience has on the topic and adjust your content accordingly. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may confuse them. Instead, use language that is clear, concise, and easy to understand. By speaking their language, you’ll be able to establish a stronger connection and ensure that your message resonates with them.

Additionally, be mindful of cultural differences and sensitivities. What may be acceptable or relevant in one culture may not be in another. Adapt your presentation style to suit the cultural context, ensuring that you respect and engage with your audience on a deeper level.

Women in presentation audience

Crafting a Compelling Narrative

Humans are wired to respond to stories. Crafting a compelling narrative is a powerful way to engage your audience and make your message memorable. Start by outlining the structure of your presentation, ensuring that it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

In the beginning, introduce your topic and establish its relevance. Grab your audience’s attention with a compelling opening that sparks curiosity or emotion. This will set the stage for the rest of your presentation.

In the middle, develop your main points and arguments, using examples, anecdotes, and data to support your claims. Weave these elements into a cohesive narrative that builds momentum and keeps your audience engaged.

In the end, summarize your key points and provide a strong conclusion that leaves a lasting impression. Consider using a call to action to inspire your audience to take the next step or make a change based on your presentation.

Remember to structure your narrative in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Use transitions and signposts to guide your audience through the different sections of your presentation, ensuring that they can follow your line of thought effortlessly.

Dr. Jo North preparing presentations

Using Visual Aids Effectively

Visual aids are powerful tools that can enhance your presentation and help convey complex information in a digestible format. When used effectively, they can reinforce your message, make it more memorable, and increase audience engagement.

Choose visual aids that are relevant, visually appealing, and easy to understand. This can include slides, videos, infographics, or props. Make sure your visual aids complement your spoken words and do not distract from your message.

Keep your visual aids simple and uncluttered, using clear fonts, colors, and visuals. Use bullet points or key phrases rather than lengthy paragraphs of text. This will ensure that your audience can easily read and comprehend the information without being overwhelmed.

Remember that visual aids should support your presentation, not replace it. Use them as a tool to emphasize key points, provide visual examples, or illustrate data. Avoid reading directly from your slides or relying solely on visual aids to convey your message. Your words and delivery should always take center stage.

Practicing and Rehearsing Your Presentation

Practice makes for great performance, and the same holds true for presentations. To deliver a confident and polished performance, it’s crucial to practice and rehearse your presentation multiple times.

Start by creating a dedicated practice space where you can focus and eliminate distractions. Set up your visual aids, if any, and simulate the actual presentation environment as closely as possible. This will help you become familiar with your surroundings and reduce any surprises on the day of your presentation.

Rehearse your presentation out loud, paying attention to your delivery, timing, and body language. Practice transitions between slides or sections to ensure a smooth flow. If possible, record yourself or ask a trusted friend or colleague to provide feedback on your performance.

As you practice, be mindful of your body language and nonverbal cues. Stand tall, maintain eye contact, and use gestures that reinforce your message. Practice breathing exercises to help manage nerves and project your voice with clarity and confidence.

The more you rehearse, the more comfortable you’ll become with your material. This will allow you to focus on engaging with your audience and delivering a compelling presentation.

Nailing Virtual Presentations: Tips for Online Meetings and Video Calls

In today’s digital age, business professionals frequently find themselves presenting to groups of people over video calls, conference calls, or in a virtual presentation setting . The good news is that this online format offers easier access and more flexibility. However, it also demands a unique set of presentation skills. The most important thing to remember is that the right presentation skills, whether in-person or online, can leave positive impacts, advancing your career or achieving positive change .

Know Your Tech

The first step in preparing for an online presentation, such as a job interview or a project update to senior leaders, is to become comfortable with the technology. Familiarize yourself with the platform you’ll be using, understand its features, and know different ways to present information. Whether you’re using Microsoft PowerPoint or another tool, make sure you know how to navigate your slide deck, share your screen, and troubleshoot common technical issues. With practice, this will become second nature.

Craft Your Presentation

Next, craft your own presentation. The use of visual aids such as graphs, infographics, word clouds, or even simple bullet points in serif fonts can dramatically enhance the retention of key takeaways. A great idea is to divide your presentation into small, digestible sections. This makes it easier for your audience, be it team members or senior leaders, to follow along and comprehend the material. It’s also a good idea to include a written report or summary for reference, as this provides an opportunity for those who had a hard time following the discussion to review the points made.

Virtual presenter on screen in an online meeting

Be Clear, Concise and Engaging

An important skill in online presentations is managing the flow of information. In virtual settings, it’s common for the presenter to lose the audience’s attention due to screen fatigue or distractions. Therefore, keep your slide deck clear, concise, and engaging. Informative presentations need to balance being detailed enough to cover the subject matter, yet simple enough to keep your audience engaged.

Verbal communication skills are vital, but nonverbal communication can be even more crucial in a virtual presentation. Simple actions such as looking into the camera can simulate eye contact, giving your audience the feeling of a more personal connection. Moreover, your expressions, posture, and gestures can also add depth to your message, making your presentation more dynamic.

One of the top tips for good delivery in a virtual environment is to engage your audience. Unlike in-person presentations, where you can see immediate reactions and adjust your approach accordingly, online presentations can often feel like you’re speaking into a void. Therefore, periodically asking for feedback, conducting polls, or simply opening the floor for questions can be highly effective. This strategy not only encourages participation but also ensures your important points are well-understood.

Get Off to a Good Start

The start of the presentation is a vital part of the process. Use this time to present the agenda, define the presentation format, and set expectations. Let your audience know how and when they can ask questions. This can range from leaving questions to the end of the presentation to asking questions as they come up.

Practice Makes for Great Performance

Lastly, practice makes for great performance. One common way to improve your presentation skills is to practice in front of a mirror, record yourself, or present to small groups before the main event. This will help you to spot areas of improvement and become more comfortable and confident with your presentation material.

With the right presentation tips and practices, you can master the art of virtual presentations and make every online meeting count. This not only helps in your professional growth but also contributes to better and more efficient remote working cultures.

Stage Presence in front of a Large Audience

It’s interesting that some people prefer presenting to small audiences who they know at work, whereas others feel more comfortable in the comparative anonymity of a large audience from a big stage.

The subject matter of a presentation may be of paramount importance, but what captures the hearts of audience members often is the presenter’s stage presence. Just think of the best presenters you’ve seen, perhaps during a TED Talk, where the speaker’s charisma, energy, and connection to the audience made the information resonate on a whole new level.

Large audience at Maritime Innovation Week Port of Tyne 2050 Maritime Innovation Hub

How to Elevate Your Stage Presence

One of the soft skills that play a crucial role in shaping great presentations is the speaker’s stage presence. Being in front of an audience can be daunting, and it’s not uncommon to experience stage fright. However, the great way to confront and overcome this is by being thoroughly prepared and practicing the presentation until you become a more confident individual. Your future career may well depend on these moments of public speaking, as it’s often a means to demonstrate your knowledge, ability, and leadership skills.

The most important thing to remember while delivering a presentation on a big stage is that your audience is your target. You still need to tailor your presentation format and content to their interests and level of understanding. But even with the perfect slide deck, a good delivery requires more than just stating facts and figures.

Verbal communication skills are, of course, essential, but your hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language also contribute to how your message is perceived. Research suggests that the majority of our communication is non-verbal, so hand gestures can help emphasize important points or express passion about your topic.

Additionally, your stage presence can be significantly improved with emotional intelligence. Knowing when to raise or lower the volume of your voice to highlight key points, or sensing when your audience needs a moment to absorb the information, demonstrates a deep understanding of group dynamics.

A personal story or anecdote related to your topic can also be a great way to connect with your audience. Stories not only make your presentation more relatable but also make the data and information you present more memorable.

Dealing with Stage Fright

Dealing with stage fright is a common concern for many. One effective strategy to combat this is taking a few deep breaths before stepping onto the stage and throughout the presentation. Deep breathing can help to calm your nerves and maintain your composure, allowing you to deliver your presentation with confidence and poise.

Remember, mastering the art of stage presence for persuasive presentations is a journey. With each presentation you deliver, you learn something new and get a step closer to becoming one of the best presenters. Take every opportunity you get to present in front of an audience as a chance to improve and perfect your skills. With determination and practice, your stage presence can significantly impact your future career and personal growth.

Engaging with Your Audience During the Presentation

Engaging with your audience is a crucial aspect of effective presentations. It helps build rapport, captures attention, and keeps your audience invested in your message. Here are some techniques to engage with your audience during your presentation:

1. Start with a compelling opening: Grab your audience’s attention from the start by sharing a relevant story, asking a thought-provoking question, or using a surprising statistic. This will set the tone for an engaging presentation.

2. Use interactive elements: Incorporate interactive elements into your presentation to keep your audience actively involved. This can include asking questions, conducting polls, or encouraging small group discussions. This not only keeps your audience engaged but also provides valuable insights and perspectives.

3. Encourage audience participation: Invite your audience to share their thoughts, ask questions, or provide feedback. This creates a two-way dialogue and fosters a sense of collaboration. Be open to different viewpoints and actively listen to your audience’s input.

4. Tell relatable stories: Share personal anecdotes or real-life examples that your audience can relate to. This helps humanize your presentation and makes it more relatable. When your audience sees themselves in your stories, they become more engaged and invested in your message.

5. Use humor strategically: Appropriate humor can break the ice, lighten the mood, and create a memorable experience. Incorporate relevant jokes or lighthearted anecdotes to keep your audience entertained. However, be mindful of cultural sensitivities and avoid offensive or inappropriate humor.

Remember that engaging with your audience is an ongoing process. Continuously assess their reactions and adjust your delivery accordingly. Pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, and verbal cues to gauge their level of engagement. Adapt your presentation style in real-time to ensure that you maintain their interest and attention.

Mastering the Q&A Session: Tips for Handling Difficult Questions and People

  • Anticipate and Prepare: One of the best strategies for dealing with a Q&A session after a presentation is to anticipate potential questions. During your preparation, try to identify any areas in your presentation that might provoke questions or seem unclear. Prepare comprehensive answers for these possible questions to feel more confident during the Q&A. Adopt a growth mindset to help you listen and avoid becoming defensive.
  • Create a Safe Space: Encourage your audience to ask questions by creating an open and accepting environment. Make it clear that all questions are welcome, even challenging ones. This creates a two-way dialogue and ensures everyone feels comfortable contributing to the discussion.
  • Listen Carefully: When a question is asked, listen attentively. Understand the core of what’s being asked before you start to respond. If the question is complex, it’s perfectly fine to paraphrase it back to the person to ensure you’ve understood correctly.
  • Stay Calm and Composed: Dealing with ‘difficult’ people or questions can be challenging. Maintain your composure and treat every question with respect, regardless of how it’s delivered. The way you respond to a challenging situation can set the tone for the rest of the Q&A session.
  • Don’t Rush Your Answers: Take a moment to think before answering a difficult question. It’s better to pause and formulate a thoughtful response than to rush and potentially provide an inaccurate or incomplete answer.
  • It’s Okay Not to Know: If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s fine to admit it. Honesty is appreciated, and it’s better to say you don’t know but will find out, rather than trying to bluff your way through.
  • Control the Narrative: If you get a confrontational or off-topic question, don’t get derailed. Politely bring the discussion back on track. You might say, “That’s an interesting point, but let’s focus on the subject at hand. We can discuss that further after the presentation.”
  • Use “We” Instead of “I”: When dealing with difficult questions, try to use “we” instead of “I”. This can help diffuse a tense situation and foster a sense of collaboration and shared understanding.
  • Follow Up: If a question requires a detailed answer or if you need to check some facts before you can respond fully, take the person’s contact details and promise to follow up. This shows your commitment to providing accurate information and leaves a positive impression.
  • Conclude Graciously: Finally, conclude your Q&A session on a positive note, thanking your audience for their active participation and thought-provoking questions.

The Q&A session is a valuable opportunity to further engage your audience and deepen their understanding of your topic. By managing this session effectively, even when faced with ‘difficult’ people or challenging questions, you can reinforce your message and leave a lasting, positive impact.

Additional Resources for Improving Presentation Skills

To further enhance your presentation skills, here are some additional resources that you can explore:

– **Public speaking courses**: Enroll in public speaking courses or workshops that offer structured training and practice opportunities. These courses often provide valuable feedback and guidance from experienced instructors.

– **Books on public speaking**: There are numerous books available that provide insights and tips on improving public speaking skills. Some popular titles include “Talk Like TED” by Carmine Gallo and “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds.

– **Online tutorials and videos**: Explore online platforms such as YouTube or TED Talks for tutorials and videos on public speaking. These resources can offer valuable tips, techniques, and inspiration from renowned speakers.

– **Join public speaking clubs**: Consider joining organizations like Toastmasters International, where you can practice and improve your public speaking skills in a supportive and constructive environment. These clubs often provide opportunities for networking and feedback.

– **Seek feedback from peers or mentors**: Share your presentations with trusted peers or mentors and ask for their feedback. Their insights can help you identify areas for improvement and refine your delivery.

Remember, improving your presentation skills is an ongoing journey. Continuously seek opportunities to practice, learn, and grow. With time and dedication, you can unleash your inner speaker and become a confident and influential presenter.

In today’s fast-paced world, effective presentation skills are a valuable asset that can open doors, inspire action, and make a lasting impact. By mastering techniques such as overcoming fear and nervousness, understanding your audience, crafting compelling narratives, using visual aids effectively, practicing and rehearsing, and engaging with your audience, you can take your presentations to the next level.

Remember, becoming a confident and influential speaker is a gradual process that requires practice, dedication, and a willingness to learn. Embrace the journey and take advantage of the resources available to you. Unleash your inner speaker, captivate your audience, and leave a lasting impression.

If you’re ready to elevate your presentation skills to new heights, remember – transformation is only a conversation away. My team at The Big Bang Partnership Ltd and I have a wealth of expertise, tailored approaches, and innovative strategies waiting for you.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to presentation skills, and we are here to provide you with the specific tools and techniques that best suit your style and needs. From conquering stage presence to mastering virtual presentations, we’re committed to helping you present your best self, every time.

Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards becoming an exceptional presenter. Your audience is waiting to be captivated by your presentation prowess, and we’re here to guide you on your journey. Reach out to us at The Big Bang Partnership Ltd today , and let’s unlock your full potential together. The next chapter of your professional growth starts here!

About the Author

Founder and CEO of The Big Bang Partnership Ltd & Idea Time. Innovator. Author. Business Coach. International Keynote Speaker & Facilitator. Director Technology & Transformation at Port of Tyne. Leader of the UK’s Maritime 2050 Innovation Hub. Non-Executive Director.  Associate in Business Innovation and Creativity at University of York and Lancaster University.

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presentation techniques

Once you have rehearsed the presentation well, here are some simple suggestions to consider in delivering the presentation effectively:

Dress appropriately

Dress appropriately for the presentation, based on the context, disciplinary protocols, formality of the occasion and the type of audience (faculty, students, clients, etc.). Do not wear inappropriate clothing, jewelry, hats or footwear that distract.

Arrive early

Arrive early for the presentation, and do not arrive just in time or late.

Meet the moderator

If there is a presentation moderator who will introduce you, meet that person well in advance of the presentation so he or she knows you are in the room on time and that you will be ready.

Decide how to handle audience questions

Decide how you will handle questions during the presentation, and either request the audience to wait until you are finished with your presentation or make sure you will have time to answer the question in the middle of your presentation.

Have a plan if the technology fails

Similarly, decide how you will continue your presentation if the presentation technology fails or freezes in the middle of your presentation.

Smoothly Handling Difficulty with Technology

This video clip is an example of a presenter encountering difficulty with technology but handling it smoothly with a backup plan.

Poorly Handling Difficulty with Technology

This video clip is an example of a presenter encountering difficulty with technology but handling it poorly without a backup plan.

Greet the audience

If you have some free time before the presentation starts, walk up to some members of the audience, introduce yourself, and thank them for being there. This may put you at ease during the presentation.

Load your visuals before your allotted presentation time

If you plan to use presentation tools, load your presentation or connect your presentation device to the projector before you are asked to present so you do not use up your presentation time to load your files and make the audience wait.

Be pleasant and smile when you stand in front of an audience so it makes the audience feel comfortable listening to you.

Don't eat or chew gum

Do not chew gum or eat during your presentation. You may drink water or other allowed beverages during the presentation.

Take a deep breath

Before you begin to speak, take a few deep breaths and calm yourself.

Speak clearly

Speak slowly and clearly, and do not rush through sentences, as some do when they get nervous.

Speak at an even pace

Pay attention to the pace in which you speak, to avoid your pace of delivery being either too fast or too slow for the audience to follow.

Pace Too Slow

This video clip is an example of a presentation pace that is too slow.

Pace Too Fast

This video clip is an example of a presentation pace that is too fast.

Appropriate Pace

This video clip is an example of the presenter's pace of delivery being appropriate for the audience to follow.

Change the inflection of your voice to gain audience attention or to emphasize content

If you are trying to make a point about a particular idea, enunciate or pronounce the words clearly and distinctly. At this point, you can slow down and raise the volume of your voice to clearly express what you have to say. Speak with authority, confidence and enthusiasm.

Effective Voice Quality & Emphasis

This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating effective voice quality and emphasis on significant words.

Ineffective Voice Quality & Emphasis

This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating ineffective voice quality and emphasis on significant words.

Use appropriate gestures

Use appropriate gestures to emphasize appropriate points, and do not make wild gestures or pace back and forth in front of the screen in a distracting manner.

Effective Gestures

This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating effective hand gestures and body language.

Ineffective Gestures

This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating ineffective hand gestures and body language.

Make proper eye contact

Make proper eye contact: that is, look at the audience from one side of the room to the other side, and from the front row to the last row. Do not look down the whole time, and do not focus on just one side of the room or just the front row of the audience.

Effective Eye Contact

This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating effective eye contact.

Ineffective Eye Contact

This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating ineffective eye contact.

Stand beside the screen

If you plan to use projected visuals on a screen, stand to one side of the screen. Ideally, you should be facing your audience at all times and just glance at the screen to look at cues from the slides.

Effective Position Near Screen

This video clip is an example of a presenter standing by the side of the screen during a PowerPoint presentation so the audience view of the screen is unobstructed, and glances at the screen only occasionally.

Ineffective Position Near Screen

This video clip is an example of a presenter standing in front of the screen during PowerPoint presentation, obstructing the audience view of the screen.

Do not talk to the screen or board

Do not talk to the screen or the presentation device; look at the audience and talk. It is alright to look at the screen occasionally and point to something important on the screen as you present.

Looking at Screen

This video clip is an example of a presenter looking mostly at the screen (instead of the audience).

Writing on the Board

This video clip is an example of a presenter writing on the board while talking and the writing is difficult to read.

Do not read line-by-line

Do not read presentation materials line-by-line unless there is someone in the audience who is visually-impaired and cannot see the slide, or if it is a quote that you have to read verbatim to emphasize.

Reading Each Word

This video clip is an example of a presenter reading word by word from an overly dense slide that is difficult to read.

Talking from a Slide

This video clip is an example of a presenter talking from a slide with easily readable bullet points, using them as cues.

If you get stuck, look at your notes

If you get stuck on a point and do not know what to say, feel free to look at your notes to continue.

Use the microphone effectively

If you are presenting in a large room where a handheld microphone is needed, hold the microphone near your mouth and speak directly into it.

Using Microphone Effectively

This video clip is an example of a presenter using the microphone effectively.

Using Microphone Ineffectively

This video clip is an example of a presenter using the microphone ineffectively.

Do not curse or use inappropriate language

Do not curse or use inappropriate language if you forget a point during the presentation or if the presentation technology fails.

Be considerate of your team

If you are part of a team and giving a group presentation, be considerate to other team members by not using up their time or dominating the presentation. Smoothly transition from one presenter to another.

Smooth Transitions

This video clip is an example of transitioning from one presenter to another in a polished manner.

Awkward Transitions

This video clip is an example of awkward or unpolished transitions from one presenter to another.

Do not conclude abruptly

Do not conclude the presentation abruptly by saying "This is it" or "I'm done." Conclude properly by summarizing the topic and thanking the audience for listening.

Effective Conclusion

This video clip is an example of the presenter concluding a presentation properly by summarizing the important points and thanking the audience.

Abrupt Conclusion

This video clip is an example of the presenter abruptly concluding a presentation.

Be considerate of the next presenter

After your presentation and the question and answer part are over, remove your presentation materials from the desk or the podium, and close any open presentation software so the next presenter can get ready quickly.

Thank your moderator

Remember to thank your moderator (if there is one) and the audience, and if you were part of a panel presentation, make sure to thank the panel members.

Participate in the audience

If there are other presentations scheduled after yours, do not leave the room, but stay and listen to their presentations.



  • Preparing for the Presentation
  • Organizing the Presentation
  • Designing Effective Presentation Materials
  • Rehearsing the Presentation
  • Handling Questions and Answers
  • Presentation Skills Quiz
  • Presentation Preparation Checklist
  • Common Reasons for Ineffective Presentations

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Presentation Skills and Techniques

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Presentations skills and public speaking skills are very useful in many aspects of work and life. Effective presentations and public speaking skills are important in business, sales and selling, training, teaching, lecturing, and generally feeling comfortable speaking to a group of people.

Developing the confidence and capability to give good presentations, and to stand up in front of an audience and speak well, are also extremely helpful competencies for self-development and social situations.

Presentation skills and public speaking abilities are not limited to certain special people - anyone can give a good presentation, or perform public speaking to a professional and impressive standard. Like most specialisms, this requires  preparation  and  practice .

The formats and purposes of presentations can be very different, for example: oral (spoken), multimedia (using various media - visuals, audio, etc), PowerPoint presentations, short impromptu presentations, long-planned presentations, educational or training sessions, lectures, and simply giving a talk on a subject to a group on a voluntary basis for pleasure. Even speeches at weddings and eulogies at funerals are types of presentations.

Yet every successful presentation uses broadly the essential techniques and structures explained here.

This article provides:

  • A guide to the process of creating effective presentations ,
  • Tips and techniques for successfully delivering presentations
  • Explanations and methods for reducing presentation fears and stresses  - notably through the use of  preparation  and  control , to build  confidence

Fear of Public Speaking and Presentations

You are not alone if the thought of speaking in public scares you. On the contrary.

Everyone feels fearful of presenting and public speaking to one degree or another.

Giving a presentation is very worrying for many people. Presenting or speaking to an audience regularly tops the list in surveys of people's top fears - more than heights, flying or dying.

Here is a popular saying (which features in many presentations) about giving presentations and public speaking:

" Most people would prefer to be lying in the casket rather than giving the eulogy. "

I first heard a speaker called Michelle Ray use this quote in the early 1990s. The quote is often credited to Jerry Seinfeld, although the basic message is much older. For example (thanks Dr N Ashraf) the ancient Tamil work Thirukkural (also called Tirrukural) includes the following words in its aptly titled chapter,  Fearlessness in an Assembly :

" Many are ready to even die in battle, but few can face an assembly without nerves. " 

Couplet 723, from Thirukkural/Tirrukural, also called the Kural - a seminal guide to life and ethics attributed to the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, said to have lived between about 200-10BC.

I am grateful also to R Ersapah for an alternative translation of couplet 723, and below, a more modern literal interpretation:

" Many encountering death in face of foe will hold their ground; who speak undaunted in the council hall are rarely found. "

In more modern language this means:

" Many indeed may (fearlessly) die in the presence of (their) foes; (but) few are those who are fearless in the assembly (of the learned). "

In a French translation, this is:

" Nombreux sont ceux qui peuvent affronter la mort face à leurs ennemis; rares sont ceux qui peuvent sans crainte se tenir devant une assemblée. "

The title of Tirrukural's chapter 73 is: Not to dread the Council (French: Ne pas craindre les assemblees).

Couplet 727 says, amusingly and incisively:

" The learning of him who is diffident before an assembly is like the shining sword of an hermaphrodite in the presence of his foes... " (French: " Les connaissances de celui qui a peur des auditoires sont comme l'epee tranchante que tient l'eunuque en presence de son ennemi... " )

I am informed (thanks again R Ersapah) that all of chapter 73 fits the theme of  public speech  being  one of the greatest challenges many people face in their lives .

This is further evidence that speaking in public is not just a modern fear - this fear has been in humankind for at least 2,000 years.

Incidentally the English translation of Tirrukural comprises various chapters such as: Domestic Virtues, Ascetic Virtue, Royalty, Ministers of State, The Essentials of a State. The English Translations are by Rev Dr G U Pope and Rev W H Drew. The French translation is by a Mauritian author M Sangeelee.

I'm always keen to receive and share old examples of public-speaking-and-fear analogies - if you know any  please send them .

Understanding and Overcoming Fear

The key to managing and controlling anything is first to understand it, especially its causes.

The cause of fear is (a feeling of) insecurity and/or an unfamiliar or uncontrollable threat.

In the context of presentations and public speaking, this is usually due to:

  • Lack of  confidence , and/or
  • Lack of  control  (or a feeling of not having control) - over the situation, other people (the audience) and our own reactions and feelings
  • And (in some cases) possibly a bad memory or experience from our past

The effects of these are heightened according to the  size of the audience , and potentially also the  nature of the audience/situation  - which combine to represent a perceived uncontrollable threat to us at a very basic and instinctive level (which we imagine in the form or critical judgement, embarrassment, humiliation, etc).

This 'audience' aspect is illustrated by the following:

" Most of us would not feel very fearful if required to give a presentation to a class of 30 five-year-old children, but we would feel somewhat more fearful if required to give a presentation to an interview panel of three high court judges. So audience size is not everything - it's the nature of the situation and audience too. "

As such audience size and situation are circumstantial factors which can influence the degree of anxiety, but they are not causal factors in themselves. The causes exist because of the pressure to command, control, impress, etc.

Confidence and Control

The two big causal factors (low  confidence  and  control ) stem typically from:

  • Inadequate  preparation/rehearsal , and/or
  • Low  experience .

If we have a bad memory which is triggering a fear response, then it is likely that the original situation we recall, which prompts our feelings of anxiety, resulted from one or both of the above factors.

Preparation and rehearsal  are usually very manageable elements. It's a matter of making the effort to prepare and rehearse before the task is upon us. Presentations which do not work well usually do so because they have not been properly prepared and rehearsed.

Experience  can be gained simply by seeking opportunities for public speaking and presenting to people and groups, wherever you feel most comfortable (and then try speaking to groups where you feel less comfortable). Given that humankind and society everywhere are arranged in all sorts of groups - schools and colleges, evening classes, voluntary groups, open-mic nights, debating societies, public meetings, conferences, the local pub, sports and hobby clubs, hospitals, old people's homes, etc, etc - there are countless groups everywhere of people and potential audiences by which you can gain speaking and presenting experience - this is not so difficult to achieve.

So  experience , is actually just another manageable element before the task, although more time and imagination are required than in preparing and rehearsing a particular presentation.

Besides these preparatory points, it's useful to consider that  fear  relates to  stress .

Stress can be managed in various ways.  Understanding stress and stress management methods  can be very helpful in reducing the anxiety we feel before and while giving presentations and public speaking.

Physiology, Chemistry, Stress

Fear of public speaking is strongly related to stress - see the  causes of stress and stress management .

A common physical reaction in people when having to speak in public is a release of adrenaline and cortisol into our systems, which is sometimes likened to drinking several cups of coffee. Even experienced speakers feel their hearts thumping very excitedly indeed.

This sensational reaction to speaking in public is certainly not only felt by novices, and even some of the great professional actors and entertainers suffer from real physical sickness before taking the stage or podium.

So you are not alone. Speaking in public is genuinely scary for most people, including many who outwardly seem very calm.

Our primitive brain shuts down normal functions as the 'fight or flight' impulse takes over - see FEAR under the  acronyms  section (note: there is some adult content among these acronyms for training and presentations).

But don't worry - every person in your audience wants you to succeed. The audience is on your side (if only because they are very pleased that it's you up there in the spotlight speaking and not them).

All you need to do is follow the guidelines contained on this page, and everything will be fine. As the saying goes, don't try to get rid of the butterflies - just get them flying in formation.

Incidentally, the origins of this famous public-speaking/performing butterflies metaphor are typically given as "There is nothing wrong with stomach butterflies! You just have to get them to fly in formation!" - see the attribution information for the  butterflies metaphor  on the inspirational quotes page.

So, how do you calm the butterflies and get them flying in formation?

The answer (where  butterflies  equate to  fear ) is clear and simple in the following maxim:

To  calm the butterflies  you must  be relaxed . To  be relaxed  you must  be confident . To  be confident  you must  be prepared and rehearsed .

Good preparation  is the key to  confidence , which is the key to  being relaxed , and this calms the butterflies,(i.e., overcomes the fear).

Put another way, according to logical ' cause and effect':

Good preparation and rehearsal will reduce your nerves by 75%, and increase the likelihood of avoiding errors to 95%. (Source: Fred Pryor Organisation, a significant provider of seminars and open presentation events.)

And so this is the most important rule for effective presentations and public speaking:

Prepare , which means  plan it , and  practise/rehearse it .

Then you'll be in control, and confident.

Your audience will see this and respond accordingly, which in turn will help build your confidence, and you even start to enjoy yourself too.

And remember that there is a cumulative effect:

Every successful presentation that you create and deliver generates more experience and confidence for you, which makes every future presentation easier and more successful for you, and so it goes, until every last butterfly is calmed.

Tips for Effective Presentations

  • Preparation and knowledge (of subject and the presentation itself) are the pre-requisites for a successful presentation, which importantly produce confidence and control, which in turn is important for relaxing the presenter, and the audience.
  • As a presenter, remember and apply Eleanor Roosevelt's maxim that " no one can intimidate me without my permission ". When you are a presenter you are in charge. The audience generally accepts this, and you are within your rights to control anyone who does not.
  • Remember also that " depth of conviction counts more than the height of logic, and enthusiasm is worth more than knowledge ", (which is apparently attributed to David Peebles, about whom I have no further details - please let me know if you do).  Passion  is therefore a very powerful component in any successful presentation.
  • Good presenting is about  entertaining  as well as conveying information. As well, people retain more if they are enjoying themselves and feeling relaxed. So whatever your subject and audience, try to find ways to make the content and delivery enjoyable - even the most serious of occasions, and the driest of subjects, can be lifted to an enjoyable or even an amusing level one way or another with a little research, imagination, and humour.
  • Enjoyment and humour are mostly in the preparation. These effects are not easily produced spontaneously. You don't need to be a natural stand-up comedian to inject enjoyment and humour into a presentation or talk. It's the content that enables it, which is very definitely within your control.
  • Research and studies generally indicate that in presentations you have between 4 - 7 seconds in which to make a positive impact and good opening impression, so make sure you have a good, strong, solid introduction, and rehearse it until it is 'second nature' to you and an action of  'unconscious competence' .
  • Try to build your own credibility in your introduction, and create a safe comfortable environment for your audience,  which you will do quite naturally if you appear to be comfortable yourself .
  • Smiling helps a lot. It will relax you and the audience. In addition to giving you a relaxed calm appearance, smiling actually releases helpful 'happy' chemicals into your nervous system, and makes you feel good.
  • So does taking a few deep slow breaths to make you feel relaxed - low down from the pit of your stomach - before you take to the stage.
  • Avoid starting with a joke unless you are supremely confident - jokes are high-risk things at the best of times, let alone at the start of a presentation. I was sent this excellent and simple idea for a presentation - actually used in a job interview - which will perhaps prompt similar ideas and adaptations for your own situations. At the start of the presentation the letters T, E, A, and M - fridge magnets - were given to members of the audience. At the end of the presentation, the speaker made the point that individually the letters meant little, but together they made a team This powerful use of simple props created a wonderful connection between start and finish, and supported a concept in a memorable and impactful way. (Thanks P Hodgson) N.B. There is a big difference between telling a joke and injecting enjoyment and humour (US spelling, humor) into your talk. Jokes are risky. Enjoyment and humour are safe. A joke requires quite a special skill in its delivery. Joke-telling is something of an art form. Only a few people can do it well without specific training. A joke creates pressure on the audience to laugh at a critical moment. A joke creates tension - that's why it's funny (when it works). This tension equates to an expectation in the listener, which produces a small degree of pleasure when the joke works well, but a very unhelpful awkwardness if the joke is not well-delivered or well-received. A joke also has the potential to offend, and jokes are culturally very sensitive - different people like different jokes. Even experienced comedians can 'die' on stage if their jokes and delivery are at odds with the audience type or mood. On the other hand, enjoyment and humour are much more general, they not dependent on creating tension or the expectation of a punchline. Enjoyment and humour can be injected in very many different ways - for example, a few funny quotes or examples; a bit of audience participation; an amusing prop; an amusing picture or cartoon; or an amusing story (not a joke). Another way to realise the difference between jokes and enjoyment is to consider that you are merely seeking to make people smile and be mildly amused - not to have them belly-laughing in the aisles.
  • " Observant delegates among you perhaps will have noticed (refer to the error)... "
  • " Welcome everyone. Who among you has noticed my deliberate mistake?... "
  • " Welcome everyone. You might have noticed the experimental 'deliberate mistake' icebreaker this morning (refer to the mistake). Could you split into groups of three; analyse the situation, and prepare a two-minute presentation as to how the 'corrective-action loop' might be applied to minimise the chances of this happening again...... No, seriously... "
  • Try to start on time even if some of the audience is late. Waiting too long undermines your confidence and the audience's respect for you.
  • The average attention span of an average listener is apparently (according to various sources I've seen over the years) between five and ten minutes for any single unbroken subject. Younger 'Playstation' and 'texter' generations will have even less tolerance than this, so structure your content accordingly.
  • Any audience will begin to wriggle and feel less comfortable in their seats after about 40 minutes of sitting listening/watching. So presentations which are longer than this time should include a reason for the audience to move a little, or ideally stand up and move about, after about 40 minutes.
  • Break up the content so that no single item takes longer than a few minutes, and between each item try to inject something amusing, amazing, remarkable or spicy - a picture, a quote, a bit of audience interaction - anything to break it up and keep people attentive.
  • Staying too long (ten minutes or more) on the same subject in the same mode of delivery will send people into a trance-like state, when they are not properly listening, watching or concentrating on the presentation - often called the MEGO state (My Eyes Glaze Over). So break it up, and inject diversions and variety - in terms of content and media (the different ways you can communicate to people or engage their interest). Using a variety of media and movements will maintain maximum interest. Think of it like this - the audience can be stimulated via several senses - not just audio and visual (listening and watching) - consider including content and activity which addresses the other senses too - touch certainly - taste maybe, smell maybe - anything's possible if you use your imagination. The more senses you can stimulate the more your audience will remain attentive and engaged.
  • You can stimulate other things in your audience besides the usual 'senses'. You can use content and activities to stimulate feelings, emotions, memories, and even physical movement. Simply asking the audience to stand up, snap their fingers, or blink their eyes (assuming you give them a good reason for doing so) immediately stimulates physical awareness and involvement. Passing several props or samples around is also a great way to stimulate physical activity and involvement.
  • Quotes are a wonderful and easy way to stimulate emotions and feelings, and of course, quotes can be used to illustrate and emphasise just about any point or concept you can imagine. Research and collect good quotations and include them in your notes. Memorise one or two if you can because this makes the delivery seem more powerful. See the  funny quotations  and  inspirational quotes  webpages for ideas and examples. Always credit the source of quotes you use. Interestingly, Bobby Kennedy once famously failed to credit George Bernard Shaw when he said that " Some men see things as they are and ask 'why?'; I dare to dream of things that never were and ask 'why not?'. ".
  • Failing to attribute a quote undermines a speaker's integrity and professionalism. Conversely, giving credit to someone else is rightly seen as a positive and dignified behaviour. Having quotes and other devices is important to give your presentation depth and texture, as well as keep your audience interested... " If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer you'll treat everything as a nail. " (Abraham Maslow)
  • So don't just speak at people. Give them a variety of content, and different methods of delivery - and activities too if possible.
  • Be daring and bold and have fun. Use props and pass them around if you can. The more senses you can stimulate the more fun your audience will have and the more they'll remember.
  • Some trainers of public speaking warn that passing props around can cause a loss of control or chaos. This is true, and I argue that it's good. It's far better to keep people active and engaged, even if it all needs a little additional control. Better to have an audience slightly chaotic than bored to death.
  • Planned chaos is actually a wonderful way to keep people involved and enjoying themselves. Clap your hands a couple of times and say calmly "Okay now - let's crack on," or something similarly confident and unphased, and you will be back in control, with the audience refreshed for another 5-10 minutes.
  • Create analogies and themes, and use props to illustrate and reinforce them. For example, a bag of fresh lemons works well: they look great, they smell great, they feel great, and they're cheap, so you can give out loads and not ask for them back - all you have to do is think of an excuse to use them!
  • Questions and 'hands-up' feedback
  • Pictures, cartoons and video-clips
  • Video-clips  and sound-clips
  • Surveys and statistics
  • Straw polls (a series of hands-up votes/reactions which you record and then announce results)
  • Inviting a volunteer to take the stage with you (for a carefully planned reason)
  • Audience participation exercises
  • Asking the audience to do something physical (clapping, deep breathing, blinking, finger-snapping, shouting, and other more inventive ideas)
  • Asking the audience to engage with each other (for example introductions to person in next chair)
  • Funny quotations  (be careful not to offend anyone)
  • Inspirational quotations
  • Props, samples, physical objects (see the  visual aids ideas page )
  • Examples and case-study references
  • Fables  and analogies
  • Prizes, awards and recognising people/achievements
  • Book recommendations
  • Fascinating facts (research is easy these days about virtually any subject)
  • Statistics (which dramatically improve audience 'buy-in' if you're trying to persuade)
  • Games and exercises and icebreakers
  • Body language , and the changing tone and pitch of your voice.
  • For long presentations of more than an hour or two, such as training sessions, aim to have a 'rest' break every 45-60 minutes for people to get up and stretch their legs, otherwise, you'll be losing their attention regardless of the amount of variety and diversion 'spice' you include.
  • Take the pressure off yourself by not speaking all the time. Get the audience doing things, and make use of all the communications senses available.
  • Interestingly the use of visual aids generally heightens retention of the spoken word - by 70% or more. The figure is demonstrably and substantially more than 70% for certain things, for example: try memorising a person's face from purely a verbal description, compared with actually seeing the face. A verbal or written description is only fractionally as memorable as actually seeing anything which has more than a basic level of complexity.

Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience

  • Heard and Seen 50%
  • Said and Done 90%
  • So use visual aids a lot in your presentations.  Your voice is not the only or main tool at your disposal. Get visuals working fully for you, and your presentations will be more engaging, and a lot easier for you to deliver and enjoy.

Tips for Using Visual Aids

  • For printed visual aids with several paragraphs of text, use serif fonts (a font is a typeface) for quicker readability.
  • For computer and LCD projectors use sans serif fonts, especially if the point size (letter size) is quite small.
  • Arial is a sans serif font. Times is a serif font. (A serif font has the extra little cross-lines at the ends of the strokes of the letters. Interestingly, serif fonts originated in the days of engraving, before printing, when the engraver needed a neat exit from each letter.)
  • Extensive sections of text can be read more quickly in a serif font because the words have a horizontal flow, but serif fonts have a more old-fashioned traditional appearance than sans serif, and so stylistically can seem old-fashioned, which does not fit certain presentations.
  • If you need to comply with a company/corporate typeface (font/letter design) you'll maybe have no choice of lettering style. If you are creating and delivering the presentation for a company or organization of any sort then ask if there is a recommended/compulsory 'house' typeface, and if so, then use it, along with corporate colour/colour schemes and branding. Marketing departments usually keep this information.
  • Generally, try to use no more than two different typefaces (fonts) and no more than two size/bold/italic variants, or the text presentation becomes confused and very distracting to read quickly and easily.
  • Whatever - try to select fonts and point sizes that are the best fit for your medium and purpose.
  • If in doubt simply pick a well-readable serif font and use it big and bold about 20-30pt for headings, and 14 - 16 point size for the body text.
  • See the  marketing and advertising  section for lots of tips and secrets about presenting written/typed/electronic/printed words.
  • See also the writing tips on this website for good general guidance and tips about writing effectively, so that your audience can read, understand, and absorb what you want to communicate to them.
  •  Your own written cue/prompt cards and notes  - Create your own prompts and notes to suit your purpose and situation. Cue cards are usually very effective aids, but make sure to  number them  and  tie them together, in order . In the pressure of a presentation, it is very easy to accidentally shuffle or drop your cue cards, which is then a serious nuisance and distraction for any presenter. A single  ' at-a-glance timetable sheet  is a useful aid for any presenter, especially for presentations longer than half an hour, where keeping track is more challenging. A timetable on one sheet is also useful to monitor your timing and pace.

Preparation and Creating Your Presentation

This is a sequential step-by-step process - a list of the main action points - for creating and preparing a successful and effective presentation - large or small. The process includes preparing, creating, checking, rehearsing, refining and finalising the presentation.

  • Think about your audience, your aims, their expectations, the surroundings, the facilities available, and what type of presentation you are going to give (lecture style, informative, participative, etc).
  • What are your aims? To inform, inspire and entertain, maybe to demonstrate and prove, and maybe to persuade.
  • How do you want the audience to react?
  • Thinking about these things will help you ensure that your presentation is going to achieve its purpose.
  • Clearly identify your subject and your purpose to yourself, and then let the creative process take over for a while to gather all the possible ideas for the subject matter and how you could present it.
  • Think about interesting ways to convey and illustrate and bring your points to life, so that your presentation is full of interesting things (think of these as 'spices') to stimulate as many senses as possible. A presentation is not restricted to spoken and visual words - you can use physical samples and props, sound and video, body movement, audience participation, games and questions, statistics, amazing facts, quotes, and lots more ideas to support your points and keep the audience engaged.
  • Use  brainstorming  and 'mind-mapping' methods (mind-mapping is sketching out ideas in extensions, like the branches of a tree, from a central idea or aim). Both processes involve freely putting random ideas and connections on a piece of paper - the bigger the sheet the better - using different coloured pens will help too.
  • Don't try to write the presentation in detail until you have decided on the content you need and created a rough structure from your random collected ideas and material. See the  brainstorming  process - it's very helpful and relevant for creating and writing presentations.
  • When you have all your ideas on paper, organise them into subject categories. Three categories often work best. Does it flow? Is there a logical sequence that people will follow, and which makes you feel comfortable?
  • Use the  'rule of three'  to structure the presentation where possible, because sets of three have a natural balance and flow. A simple approach is to have three main sections. Each section has three sub-sections. Each of these can have three sub-sections, and so on. A 30-minute presentation is unlikely to need more than three sections, with three sub-sections each. A three-day training course presentation need to have no more than four levels of three, giving 81 sub-sections in all. Simple!
  • Presentations almost always take longer to deliver than you imagine.
  • When you have a rough draft of your presentation you should practise it, as if you were actually in front of an audience, and check the timings.  If your timings are not right - (usually you will have too much material) - then you can now adjust the amount of content, and avoid unnecessarily refining sections that need to be cut out. Or if you are short of content, you can expand the presentation material accordingly, or take longer to explain the content you already have.
  • You must create a  strong introduction  and a  strong close .
  • You must  tell people what you're going to speak about  and the  purpose or aim of your presentation .
  • And if you finish with a stirring quotation or a stunning statistic, you must, before this,  summarise what you have spoken about  and if appropriate,  demand action from your audience , even if it is to go away and think about what you have said.
  • Essentially the structure of all good presentations is to:  " Tell'em what you're gonna tell'em. Tell'em. Then tell'em what you told'em. "  (Thanks N Toptani for suggesting that this famous quote about public speaking originated by George Bernard Shaw)
  • When you have structured your presentation, it will have an opening, a middle with headed sections of subject matter, and a close, with an opportunity for questions, if relevant. This is still a somewhat flat 'single-dimensional' script.  Practice it in its rough form , which is effectively a 'read-through' rather than a fully formed presentation with all aids and equipment.
  • Next, you bring it to life as a fully formed presentation - give it space and life and physicality and character - by blending in your presentation methods, aids, props, and devices, as appropriate. This entails the equipment and materials you use, case studies, examples, quotations, analogies, questions and answers, individual and syndicate exercises, interesting statistics, samples, visual and physical aids, and any other presentation aid you think will work.  This stage often requires more time than you imagine if you have to source props and materials.
  • Practice your presentation in rough  full form  with all your aids and devices. Review and record the timings. They will be different compared to earlier simple read-throughs. Amend and refine the presentation accordingly. Practising at this stage is essential to build your competence and confidence - especially in handling and managing the aids and devices you plan to use - and also to rehearse the pace and timings. You'll probably be amazed at this stage to realise how much longer the presentation takes to deliver than you imagined when you were simply reading on your cards or notes.
  • If your presentation entails audio-visual (AV) support and equipment provision by specialist providers then ensure you control the environment and these services. If there are audio-visual aspects happening that you don't understand then seek clarification. You must understand, manage and control these services - do not assume that providers know what you need - tell the providers what you want, and ask what you need to know.
  • Ask an honest and tactful friend to listen and watch you practice. Ask for his/her comments about how you can improve, especially your body language and movement, your pace and voice, and whether everything you present and say can be easily understood. If your test-listener can't make at least half a dozen constructive suggestions then ask someone else to watch and listen and give you feedback.
  • Refine your presentation, taking account of the feedback you receive, and your own judgement. Test the presentation again if there are major changes, and repeat this cycle of refinement and testing until you are satisfied.
  • Produce the presentation materials and organise the equipment, and ensure you are comfortable with your method of reading from notes, cards etc.
  • Practice your presentation in its refined full form. Amend and refine as necessary, and if possible have a final rehearsal in the real setting, especially if the venue/situation is strange to you.
  • Take nothing for granted. Don't guess or make assumptions about anything that could influence your success. Check and double-check, and plan contingencies for anything that might go wrong.
  • Plan and control the layout of the room as much as you are able. If you are a speaker at someone else's event you'll not have complete control over this, but if it's your event then take care to position yourself, your equipment and your audience and the seating plan so that it suits you and the situation. For instance, don't lay out a room theatre-style if you want people to participate in teams; use a cabaret layout instead. Use a boardroom layout (everyone around a big long table) if you want a cooperative debating approach for a group of up to 10-12 people. Consider splitting people into sub-groups if the total group size is more than 10-12 people. (See guidance on managing group sizes in the team building section.)
  • Make sure, when the room/venue is prepared, that (before delegates arrive) everyone will be able to see you, and all of the visual displays (screen, whiteboard, etc).
  • Make sure you understand, and if appropriate control and convey, the domestic arrangements (fire drill, catering, smoking, messages, coffee and lunch breaks etc). If you are running/starting the event, then this is your responsibility. It is also good to remind people of these arrangements when restarting after a lunch break. To build these aspects into your presentation and timings if they are required.

Delivering Presentations Successfully

  • The day before your presentation  see again the notes about calming your butterflies - i.e., be prepared and rehearsed, be  confident , calm your butterflies, and overcome any fears you have.
  • In the half-hour before your presentation: Relax.  If you are not relaxed then try to find a way to become so. Think about breathing slowly and deeply. Think about calming relaxing things. Smile. If despite all your preparations you remain scared, a good way to overcome your fear is just to do it. Paraphrasing the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.. " What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. " Remember you are not alone among presenters in having these feelings, and the audience is on your side. Remember also, the initial impact is made and audience's mood towards you is established in the first 4-7 seconds. So go for it.
  • Start with your solid practised opening, and  smile .  Enjoy it.  Or look like you are enjoying it.
  • Be firm, be confident and be in control; the stage is yours, and the audience is on your side.
  • Introduce yourself and tell them what you're going to tell them. Tell them why you are telling them it; why it's important, and why it's you that's telling them.
  • Tell the audience how long your presentation will last, and explain when in the presentation the audience is able to ask questions.
  • It is generally easier to deliver and manage a presentation if you tell the audience to ask their questions at the end. For a more participative and involving presentation you can allow questions at any time, but ensure you keep firm control of your timings, and the audience.
  • If your audience is more than about 30-40 people then it can become difficult to take questions during the presentation, so for large groups, and certainly, groups exceeding 100 people it's generally best to take questions at the end of the presentation.
  • By the time you've done this introduction, you've established your authority, created respect and credibility, and overcome the worst of your nerves. You are probably enjoying it. If you're just giving a short presentation then by the time you've done all this you've completed a quarter of it!
  • Be aware of your own  body language  and remember what advice you got from your friend on your practice run. You are the most powerful visual aid of all, so use your body movement and position well. Don't stand in front of the screen when the projector is on.
  • If people talk amongst themselves just stop and look at them. Say nothing, just look. You will be amazed at the effect, and how quickly your authority increases. This silent tactic usually works with a chaotic audience too.
  • If you really need to change things during the presentation then change them, and explain to the audience why you are doing it if that helps you and them.
  • If you want a respite or some thinking time, asking the audience a question or involving them in an exercise takes the pressure off you, and gives you a bit of breathing space.
  • Pausing is fine. A pause tends to seem like an age when you're up there presenting, but actually, the audience won't notice a pause, and will not think a pause is a mistake unless you draw attention to it. An occasional pause is perfectly fine, and very reasonably helps you to concentrate on what you're going to say next.
  • Keep control. No one will question your authority when you have control, so don't give it up.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question then say so and deal with it later. You have the right to defer questions until the end (on the grounds that you may well be covering it in the presentation later anyway, or just simply because you say so).
  • Close positively and firmly, thank the audience, and accept plaudits graciously.

Creating presentations: Step-by-Step

This is the basic sequence of actions for creating and preparing a presentation up to the point of actually delivering the presentation to an audience:

  • Define purpose
  • Gather content and presentation ideas
  • Structure the subject matter (sections, headings, order)
  • Develop how to present it (style, elements, props, equipment)
  • Prepare presentation (wording, design, materials, equipment)
  • Practise and rehearsals (get feedback, refinement)
  • Plan venue, control the environment
  • 'Dress rehearsal' if warranted
  • Relax and prepare yourself - confidence and control

And in a little more detail..

Prepare the Presentation

  • What's the purpose?
  • What outcomes and reactions are you seeking?

Consider the more detailed nature of:

  • Subject and content, audience needs, type of presentation, equipment and venue.
  • Create and gather ideas - brainstorm, mind-map, initially random, be innovative and daring.
  • Materials, media, exercises, case studies, statistics, props, quotations, analogies, and participation.
  • Anticipate questions, know your subject and reference points
  • Decide your notes system - cue cards, sheet notes.

Create and Design the Presentation

  • Plan the structure - sections, order, headings, intro/middle/close.
  • Tell'em what you're gonna tell'em, tell'em, tell'em what you told'em.
  • Use the ' rule of three'
  • Points of interest ('spice') and activities - early impact - create a credible impression.
  • Consider audience attention span and audience profile to get the language and tone right
  • Build the presentation, prepare equipment, prepare materials and props, and create your prompts or notes.
  • Dry-run practise timings, fall-backs/contingencies.
  • Practise full presentation ('dress rehearsal'), get feedback, refine, practise and practise. Practice gives you control. Control gives you confidence. Confidence and control overcome fear.

Deliver your Presentation

  • If necessary revisit your notes about how to relax. Stress can be managed, and to a small degree, it is part of the presentation experience. Butterflies are exciting and beautiful, even if they are not in perfect formation.
  • You have prepared and practised, so your presentation will succeed and be enjoyable.
  • The audience is on your side.
  • Use a solid well-rehearsed opening, to make an immediate friendly impact.
  • " Tell'em what you're gonna tell'em, tell'em, then tell'em what you told'em. "
  • Use confident body language, control, firmness, and confidence, speak your audience's language, and accentuate the positive (be positive and upbeat).
  • Pause when you need to and don't apologise for it - pausing is perfectly okay.
  • Use audience participation where possible, be clear, calm, close powerfully and simply and gratefully, and have fun!

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