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How to Give a Killer Presentation

  • Chris Anderson

ways to give a presentation

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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How to give a good presentation: 8 tips

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What are the main difficulties when giving presentations?

How to prepare an effective presentation, after that, how do i give a memorable presentation, how to connect with the audience when presenting.

Public speaking and presenting isn’t everyone’s forte, but it’s a valuable skill, regardless of your job. If you want your voice to be heard, you’ll need to master communicating your thoughts and opinions simply and politely. 

It’s okay if you’re nervous ; that’s completely normal. Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects anywhere from 15–30% of the general population . Social anxiety is also becoming more prevalent, seen in 12% more adults in the last 20 years , and it’s a key cause of glossophobia.

But presentation jitters aren’t necessarily bad. Nerves and excitement feel the same in the body, so reframing nervousness as excitement means you’ll feel more positively about your feelings — and the upcoming presentation. 

Giving a speech may seem daunting, but many industries demand learning how to be a good presenter. Luckily, you can always implement new strategies to face challenges and deliver an engaging presentation.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or first-timer, there’s always room to improve your presentation skills. One key to preparing a presentation is to define what you’re most worried about and address these fears.

The most common of worries in school or company presentations include:

  • Fear of public speaking . Having a great idea doesn’t mean we’re comfortable telling people about it. Not everyone shines in front of an audience. Some people rationally feel fine about presenting but experience physical symptoms such as nausea and dizziness as the brain releases adrenaline to cope with the potentially stressful situation . The more public speaking you do, the less you’ll experience these symptoms and the more comfortable you’ll be pushing ahead despite any physical discomfort. 
  • Not keeping the audience's attention . We all want to be liked, and this need for affirmation makes us worried people won’t care about what we have to say. But if you care about the topic, chances are high that others do too.
  • Not knowing what content, and how much, to place on slides . Overloading PowerPoint presentations is a surefire way to lose the audience’s attention, while brevity may not communicate important information. Watch presentations and note the ones you find most effective to figure out a good balance between what to write on slides and what to say. 
  • Discomfort incorporating nonverbal communication . Standing still won’t engage your audience, and moving around constantly will distract them. Delivering an effective presentation means figuring out how much nonverbal communication to use.

Presenting and watching more presentations will help you know how to handle these issues.

improve influence - half size

Below are our top five tips to aid you with your next business presentation and limit associated stress.

1. Keep it simple

You want your presentation’s ideas to be accessible and easy to follow. As you prepare, ask yourself: what are the key points you want people to take away? Nothing is worse than watching a presentation that goes on and on that you hardly understand. Audiences want to understand and implement what they’ve learned.

Simplicity is vital if you’re looking to reach a broad and diverse audience. Try placing important points in bullet points. That way, your audience can identify the main takeaways instead of searching for them in a block of text. To ensure they understood, offer a Q&A at the end of the presentation. This gives audience members the opportunity to learn more by asking questions and gaining clarification on points they didn’t understand. 

2. Create a compelling structure

Pretend you’re an audience member and ask yourself what the best order is for your presentation. Make sure things are cohesive and logical . To keep the presentation interesting, you may need to add more slides, cut a section, or rearrange the presentation’s structure.

Give a narrative to your business presentation. Make sure you’re telling a compelling story . Set up a problem at the beginning and lead the audience through how you discovered the solution you’re presenting (the “Aha! moment”).

3. Use visual aids

Aim to incorporate photos or videos in your slides. Props can also help reinforce your words. Incorporating props doesn’t lessen your credibility or professionalism but helps illustrate your point when added correctly.


4. Be aware of design techniques and trends

You can use an array of platforms to create a great presentation. Images, graphs, and video clips liven things up, especially if the information is dry. Here are a few standard pointers: 

  • Don’t put blocks of text on a single slide
  • Use a minimalistic background instead of a busy one
  • Don’t read everything off the slide
  • Maintain a consistent font style and size

Place only your main points on the screen. Then, explain them in detail. Keep the presentation stimulating and appealing without overwhelming your audience with bright colors or too much font. 

5. Follow the 10-20-30 rule

Guy Kawasaki, a prominent venture capitalist and one of the original marketing specialists for Apple, said that the best slideshow presentations are less than 10 slides , last no longer than 20 minutes, and use a font size of 30. This strategy helps condense your information and maintain the audience’s focus.

Here are some tips to keep your audience actively engaged as you’re presenting. With these strategies, the audience will leave the room thinking positively about your work.

Tip #1: Tell stories

Sharing an event from your life or another anecdote increases your relatability. It also makes the audience feel more comfortable and connected to you. This, in turn, will make you more comfortable presenting.

Gill Hicks did this well when she shared a powerful and terrifying story in “ I survived a terrorist attack. Here’s what I learned ” In her harrowing tale of explosions, disfigurement, and recovery, Hicks highlights the importance of compassion, unconditional love, and helping those in need.

Tip #2: Smile and make eye contact with the audience

Maintaining eye contact creates a connection between you and the audience and helps the space feel more intimate. It’ll help them pay attention to you and what you’re saying.

Tip #3: Work on your stage presence

Using words is only half the battle regarding good communication; body language is also critical. Avoid crossing your arms or pacing since these gestures suggest unapproachability or boredom. How you present yourself is just as crucial as how your presentation slides appear.

Amy Cuddy’s talk “ Your body language may shape who you are ” highlights the importance of paying attention to stage presence. She offers the “Wonder Woman” pose as a way to reduce public speaking stress.


Tip #4: Start strong

Like reading a book, watching a movie, or writing an essay, the beginning draws your target audience in. Kick off your presentation on a solid note. Leveraging the benefits of humor increases the chance your presentation will be well-received. Here are some ways to start strong:

  • Use a quotation from an influential person. This provides subject context, situating the topic culturally.
  • Ask a rhetorical question. This encourages listeners to actively participate in your presentation as they think of the answer. 
  • Start with an anecdote. Brief stories add context to your presentation and help the audience know more about you, in turn making them more interested in what you have to say.
  • Invite your audience in. Begin your presentation by suggesting they join you on a puzzle-solving or discovery journey. If they feel involved in the talk, they’re more likely to pay attention and retain information. 

Tip #5: Show your passion

Let your passion for a topic shine. The best presentations have a speaker who’s genuinely excited about the subject.

In “ Grit: The power of passion and perseverance ,” Angela Lee Duckworth discusses the importance of passion in research and delivery. She enthusiastically delivers her presentation to show — not just tell — the audience how this helps pique interest. 

Tip #6: Plan your delivery

This step encompasses how you convey the information. What’s appropriate for the setting — preparing a PowerPoint presentation, using a teleprompter, delivering the presentation via Zoom? Should you memorize your notes or plan an activity to complement them? 


The best TED talks are usually committed to memory, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing note cards with you as a safety net. And if your tech completely fails, you’ll have to rely on your natural charm and wit to keep your audience’s attention. Prepare backup material for worst-case scenarios.

Tim Urban, a self-proclaimed procrastinator , discusses how preparation helps us feel more capable of tackling daunting tasks in “ Inside the mind of a master procrastinator .” We often avoid preparing for scarier obligations, like a presentation, because of nerves and anxiety. Preparing removes many of the unknowns overwhelming us.

Tip #7: Practice

As the phrase goes, practice makes perfect! Practice giving your speech in front of the bathroom mirror, your spouse, or a friend. Take any feedback they give you and don’t feel discouraged if it’s critical or different than you expected. Feedback helps us continually improve. But remember, you can’t please everyone, and that’s fine.

Tip #8: Breathe

Take deep breaths. It’s better to go slow and take time to convey everything you need to instead of rushing and leaving your audience more confused.

The best leaders are often some of the best presenters, as they excel at communication and bringing together ideas and people. Every audience is different . But as a general rule, you’ll be able to connect with them if you research your topic so you’re knowledgeable and comfortable. 

Practicing your presentation skills and remembering that every opportunity is a chance to grow will help you keep a positive mindset. 

Don’t forget to ask for help. Chances are a coworker or family member has extensive experience delivering professional presentations and can give you pointers or look over your slides. Knowing how to give a good presentation feels overwhelming — but practice really does improve your skills.

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The self presentation theory and how to present your best self

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How to Give a Presentation

Last Updated: May 31, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Patrick Muñoz . Patrick is an internationally recognized Voice & Speech Coach, focusing on public speaking, vocal power, accent and dialects, accent reduction, voiceover, acting and speech therapy. He has worked with clients such as Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria, and Roselyn Sanchez. He was voted LA's Favorite Voice and Dialect Coach by BACKSTAGE, is the voice and speech coach for Disney and Turner Classic Movies, and is a member of Voice and Speech Trainers Association. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 27 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 518,133 times.

Giving a presentation terrifies most of us, especially when talking before a crowd of people about an unfamiliar topic. Never fear! There are ways to make a good presentation. The more presentations you do, the easier they will become!

Preparing For the Presentation

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 1

  • It's best to have 1 main thesis statement or overarching theme and 3 main points that back-up or flesh-out your main theme. Any more than that and your audience is going to start losing interest. This means that any facts and information that are a part of your presentation should back up these 3 main points and overarching theme.
  • For example: If you're giving a presentation about 17th century alchemy, bringing up the history of alchemy is fine (and probably necessary), but don't mire your audience in its history instead of focusing alchemy in the 17th century. Your 3 points could be something like "alchemy in public opinion," "famous 17th century alchemists," and "the legacy of 17th century alchemy."

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 2

  • Pick your very best supporting facts, information, or quotes for your presentation. Don't bury your audience in information.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 3

  • Make sure you're using media to enhance your presentation and not to drown it out. The presentation is key. Anything else is just accessorizing.
  • For example: to get back to 17th century alchemy, to back up your information about alchemy in the public opinion, you might want to show images from public pamphlets about the dangers of alchemy and see what people of the time period had to say about it and see what the more famous alchemists had to say about it.
  • Also, you want to make sure that you pick a medium that you are comfortable in and thorough in knowledge. If you don't know a thing about PowerPoint, maybe consider writing your main points on a white board, or passing out handouts with your main points and evidence on them. [3] X Research source

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 4

  • A good tip is to film yourself or audiotape of yourself giving your practice presentation so you can see what distracting verbal and physical tics you have, so that you can work on eliminating them before the presentation itself. (Verbs tics would be things like "um..." and "uh..." and using "like" inappropriately; physical tics are things like shifting your weight from foot to foot or messing with your hair.) To stop yourself from saying "um" or other unwanted tics, be aware you're doing it first, then speak more slowly and deliberately. Breathe deeply and feel free to pause and appreciate the silence. These will all help you to have mastery over your tics.
  • Just remember that rehearsals usually run about 20% shorter than your actual presentation, so take that into account if you're running on a time limit.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 5

  • For example, if you aren't comfortable wearing heels, don't wear them just for the presentation. You'll be distracted by your discomfort and that will come across in the presentation. There are plenty of good shoe choices that have no or a low heel.
  • Clean, nice slacks or a skirt and nice, button-down shirt in neutral colors are always good choices for presentation wear. You also don't particularly want your clothing choice to distract from the presentation, so perhaps avoid that brilliant hot pink shirt.

Giving the Presentation

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 7

  • Before the presentation, clench and unclench your hands several times to deal with the adrenaline and then take 3 deep, slow breaths.
  • Call up a smile, even if you feel like hurling. You can trick your brain into thinking that you're less anxious than you actually are and you'll also be able to hide your nervousness from your audience.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 8

  • Make eye contact with your audience. Don't stare at one particular person, but section up the room and make eye contact with someone in each section on a rotational basis.
  • Have a big, welcoming smile on your face, with lots of energy, so you start out from a strong and engaging place.
  • Ask questions of your audience and take questions during your presentation. This will make it more of a conversation and therefore more interesting.
  • Tell an amusing anecdote to illustrate your point. From the above examples about 17th century alchemy, you could find an amusing alchemical anecdote from the time period, or you could talk about your own forays into alchemy.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 9

  • Move around, but make your movements deliberate. Don't nervously shift your feet (in fact, it's a good idea to imagine that your feet are nailed to the floor except for those times you deliberately choose to move).
  • Use your vocal inflections to create a more dynamic presentation. Vary your voice as you're talking. Nobody ( ever ) wants to sit there and listen to someone drone on and on in dull monotone, no matter how interesting the material (think Professor Binns from Harry Potter; that's what you don't want).
  • Try to create a balance between rehearsed and spontaneous. Spontaneous, on the spot, movement and asides can be great as long as you are really comfortable, otherwise they can sidetrack your presentation and make it rambling. Mess around with spontaneous and rehearsed when you're practicing and you'll get a feel for it.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 10

  • Quickly introduce your topic and don't assume that your audience is familiar with all the terms, especially if your topic is one that isn't widely known.
  • Figuring out why you want (or have to) give this presentation will help you work with an overarching story/theme. Maybe you want to pass the class. Maybe you're convincing people to give you money or join you in a philanthropic endeavor or act for a social or political reason. Channel that desire into your presentation. You're answering the question of why they would want to pass you or why they would want to fund you. That's the story you're telling.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 11

  • Make use of pauses, and learn to be comfortable with silences. Silence can be a powerful presentation tool and gives you a chance to take a moment to recompose. By taking pauses, you can slow down your breathing and be more deliberate in your speech, avoiding speaking too quickly.
  • Have water with you and take a sip when you feel you're going too fast.
  • If you have a friend in the class or meeting, arrange with them beforehand that they will let you know with a signal whether you're talking too quickly. Look over their way occasionally and check your progress.
  • If you find that you're running out of time and you haven't finished, simply drop or summarize your leftover material. Acknowledge the leftover material as something that can be discussed later or in the Q&A.

Image titled Give a Presentation Step 12

  • Make it clear what the listeners now know and why it is important that they have this new information.
  • Conclude with examples or stories about your main point and take home message. You might want a slide which summarizes your presentation. For example, you might conclude with a story about the nature of alchemy in the modern era (perhaps in a film) to show its malleable nature.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • Have a short Q&A session at the end of each subtopic. Q&A sessions will improve audience engagement. It also acts as a welcome break for audience in case of long presentation. For this though, you will need to know the subject you choose well. Make sure you understand and have more than just the basic knowledge about the topic you choose. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Use pictures or visuals. Pictures and visuals show that you know what you're talking about, and it gives the audience a picture of what you're talking about. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Try to have a "leave behind" message, something that your audience can take away that reminds them about your presentation, like a flyer or a book, for example. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

ways to give a presentation

  • Don't make your speech too long, unless it is really good, and you have to have done speeches for a long time to have them be that good and long. Stick to short and sweet. Thanks Helpful 49 Not Helpful 11
  • Don't put off work to the last minute. Then your work will be most likely sloppy. If you do well under pressure, do your project a bit at a time and maybe it will get done. Or, try doing it all at the beginning, so then you have the whole rest of the time to play or check your assignment. Thanks Helpful 35 Not Helpful 16
  • Jokes are usually not okay, especially in a professional setting. A light hearted comment is fine, but don't make it seem like a comedy show. Thanks Helpful 11 Not Helpful 3
  • If you speak in a too fast/slow or monotone voice, people will not want to hear you! Aim for a conversation voice (but slightly louder) with natural pauses (commas and periods). Develop a tone depending on what you're talking about. It's more interesting and engaging to hear someone speak in a serious tone rather than a monotone when speaking about world hunger. Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 2
  • If you suffer from twitchy fingers, be mindful to move your hands during your presentation only when necessary, or the audience may notice and feel you are unprepared. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 3

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About This Article

Patrick Muñoz

Before you give a presentation, spend some time crafting what you will say. Most presentations should center on a thesis, or main idea, and contain about 3 supporting points. Cutting unnecessary content will ensure your presentation is impactful. Once your presentation is done, practice delivering it in front of a mirror or while recording yourself so you can identify and correct any issues. To calm your nerves before you present, try clenching your fists a few times and taking several deep breaths. For more advice about giving presentations, like whether to use visual aides, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How can you make a good presentation even more effective?

This page draws on published advice from expert presenters around the world, which will help to take your presentations from merely ‘good’ to ‘great’.

By bringing together advice from a wide range of people, the aim is to cover a whole range of areas.

Whether you are an experienced presenter, or just starting out, there should be ideas here to help you to improve.

1. Show your Passion and Connect with your Audience

It’s hard to be relaxed and be yourself when you’re nervous.

But time and again, the great presenters say that the most important thing is to connect with your audience, and the best way to do that is to let your passion for the subject shine through.

Be honest with the audience about what is important to you and why it matters.

Be enthusiastic and honest, and the audience will respond.

2. Focus on your Audience’s Needs

Your presentation needs to be built around what your audience is going to get out of the presentation.

As you prepare the presentation, you always need to bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them.

While you’re giving the presentation, you also need to remain focused on your audience’s response, and react to that.

You need to make it easy for your audience to understand and respond.

3. Keep it Simple: Concentrate on your Core Message

When planning your presentation, you should always keep in mind the question:

What is the key message (or three key points) for my audience to take away?

You should be able to communicate that key message very briefly.

Some experts recommend a 30-second ‘elevator summary’, others that you can write it on the back of a business card, or say it in no more than 15 words.

Whichever rule you choose, the important thing is to keep your core message focused and brief.

And if what you are planning to say doesn’t contribute to that core message, don’t say it.

4. Smile and Make Eye Contact with your Audience

This sounds very easy, but a surprisingly large number of presenters fail to do it.

If you smile and make eye contact, you are building rapport , which helps the audience to connect with you and your subject. It also helps you to feel less nervous, because you are talking to individuals, not to a great mass of unknown people.

To help you with this, make sure that you don’t turn down all the lights so that only the slide screen is visible. Your audience needs to see you as well as your slides.

5. Start Strongly

The beginning of your presentation is crucial. You need to grab your audience’s attention and hold it.

They will give you a few minutes’ grace in which to entertain them, before they start to switch off if you’re dull. So don’t waste that on explaining who you are. Start by entertaining them.

Try a story (see tip 7 below), or an attention-grabbing (but useful) image on a slide.

6. Remember the 10-20-30 Rule for Slideshows

This is a tip from Guy Kawasaki of Apple. He suggests that slideshows should:

  • Contain no more than 10 slides;
  • Last no more than 20 minutes; and
  • Use a font size of no less than 30 point.

This last is particularly important as it stops you trying to put too much information on any one slide. This whole approach avoids the dreaded ‘Death by PowerPoint’.

As a general rule, slides should be the sideshow to you, the presenter. A good set of slides should be no use without the presenter, and they should definitely contain less, rather than more, information, expressed simply.

If you need to provide more information, create a bespoke handout and give it out after your presentation.

7. Tell Stories

Human beings are programmed to respond to stories.

Stories help us to pay attention, and also to remember things. If you can use stories in your presentation, your audience is more likely to engage and to remember your points afterwards. It is a good idea to start with a story, but there is a wider point too: you need your presentation to act like a story.

Think about what story you are trying to tell your audience, and create your presentation to tell it.

Finding The Story Behind Your Presentation

To effectively tell a story, focus on using at least one of the two most basic storytelling mechanics in your presentation:

Focusing On Characters – People have stories; things, data, and objects do not. So ask yourself “who” is directly involved in your topic that you can use as the focal point of your story.

For example, instead of talking about cars (your company’s products), you could focus on specific characters like:

  • The drivers the car is intended for – people looking for speed and adventure
  • The engineers who went out of their way to design the most cost-effective car imaginable

A Changing Dynamic – A story needs something to change along the way. So ask yourself “What is not as it should be?” and answer with what you are going to do about it (or what you did about it).

For example…

  • Did hazardous road conditions inspire you to build a rugged, all-terrain jeep that any family could afford?
  • Did a complicated and confusing food labelling system lead you to establish a colour-coded nutritional index so that anybody could easily understand it?

To see 15 more actionable storytelling tips, see Nuts & Bolts Speed Training’s post on Storytelling Tips .

8. Use your Voice Effectively

The spoken word is actually a pretty inefficient means of communication, because it uses only one of your audience’s five senses. That’s why presenters tend to use visual aids, too. But you can help to make the spoken word better by using your voice effectively.

Varying the speed at which you talk, and emphasising changes in pitch and tone all help to make your voice more interesting and hold your audience’s attention.

For more about this, see our page on Effective Speaking .

9. Use your Body Too

It has been estimated that more than three quarters of communication is non-verbal.

That means that as well as your tone of voice, your body language is crucial to getting your message across. Make sure that you are giving the right messages: body language to avoid includes crossed arms, hands held behind your back or in your pockets, and pacing the stage.

Make your gestures open and confident, and move naturally around the stage, and among the audience too, if possible.

10. Relax, Breathe and Enjoy

If you find presenting difficult, it can be hard to be calm and relaxed about doing it.

One option is to start by concentrating on your breathing. Slow it down, and make sure that you’re breathing fully. Make sure that you continue to pause for breath occasionally during your presentation too.

For more ideas, see our page on Coping with Presentation Nerves .

If you can bring yourself to relax, you will almost certainly present better. If you can actually start to enjoy yourself, your audience will respond to that, and engage better. Your presentations will improve exponentially, and so will your confidence. It’s well worth a try.

Improve your Presentation Skills

Follow our guide to boost your presentation skills learning about preparation, delivery, questions and all other aspects of giving effective presentations.

Start with: What is a Presentation?

Continue to: How to Give a Speech Self Presentation

See also: Five Ways You Can Do Visual Marketing on a Budget Can Presentation Science Improve Your Presentation? Typography – It’s All About the Message in Your Slides

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  • 12 Ways to Give an Outstanding Presentation

Public Speaking and Debate summer school - Student speaks in front of other students

Learning how to give a presentation well is a significant life skill.

It’s valuable at school, where you may often be called upon to give presentations on something you’ve been learning about. The same is true at university. And almost any office job requires giving presentations, whether that’s to pitch to prospective clients or partners, or simply to keep your colleagues up-to-date with what’s going on it your team. Giving a presentation is frequently part of job applications as well, because it demonstrates a transferable skill without requiring you to know more of the ins and outs of the job itself than might be reasonably expected. For all these reasons, it’s worth learning how to give a really good presentation – not just one that conveys all the necessary information, but one that keeps your audience engaged, rather than counting down the minutes until lunch. Unfortunately, the number of people giving bad presentations far outnumber the good ones – though this does give you an opportunity to shine if you hone your skills. Here are our top tips.

1. Check the technology

There’s nothing worse than showing up for a 15-minute presentation where the speaker takes ten minutes to get the projector working. Similarly, having great slides is pointless if the projector is so out of focus that everything is unreadable. No matter how confident you are in the technology you’ve got available, it’s best to have backup options just in case. That might mean bringing your own projector, or at the very least having your presentation on a memory stick in case your own laptop won’t connect to the projector. You might even want to have a printed copy of your slides available for everyone in the audience just in case, especially if the presentation is for a job interview – while it’ll be disappointing not to have the proper presentation available, they’ll be impressed by your resourcefulness. If none of these options are possible, then try to show up early so that you’re not setting up in front of your audience and you’ll have time to call for IT support if needed.

2. Focus on what the audience needs to know

In a school context, thinking about what the audience needs to know can be tricky. Chances are you’ve been assigned certain topics that your presentation has to cover, and you’ll need to include all of them even if you know that the people watching won’t care, or might have covered the same material in their presentations too. However, where it is possible, do try to select content based on what your audience needs to know and will find interesting. Hopefully these two things will overlap to a certain extent. Why are they there watching you? What are they hoping to find out? Do your best to answer any questions that you expect they might have, and do so clearly, to be rewarded with a more engaged and attentive audience.

3. Choose slides that complement what you’re saying

The biggest mistake that people make when giving presentations is creating slides that either distract from what they’re saying, or that simply repeat it. Your audience shouldn’t be sitting there wondering how on earth the photo on the slide is going to be connected to what you’re saying. They also shouldn’t be getting bored of hearing you talk because you’re just repeating the same things that they’ve already read from the screen in front of them. So what does it mean for a slide to complement what you’re saying? It could be that while you’re talking through some statistics, your slide shows a graph to present the same thing in visual form. It could be that if you’re talking about a product, or a location, your slides include photos. If what you’re talking about involves names that are hard to spell, include those details on your slides. The key thing that all of these ideas have in common is that they are useful to your audience to have available and they make what you’re saying clearer

4. Use the ‘notes’ section if you have to provide slides

The above might seem difficult if you’ve also been required to provide slides that are fully informative for anyone who couldn’t be there. This requirement defeats the point of giving a presentation – if you just wanted people to read off a page, you should be writing a report instead – but nonetheless it’s often stipulated both at school and in the workplace. The solution is to make full use of the ‘notes’ section in your presentation software. This is where you should put the text of what you’re saying in conjunction with that slide, which can then be provided as a handout or emailed to people who couldn’t attend. They can read it, without you needing to produced over-detailed slides in order to take them into account.

5. Concentrate on the key message

However much you might hope, the chances of everyone in your audience remembering every detail of your presentation is remote – especially if it’s only one of half a dozen that they’re going to be watching that day. But at a minimum, you do want them to remember something about what you said, and ideally not something irrelevant, such as the odd way that you pronounced a particular word, or that one of your shirt buttons was undone. The way to ensure that the audience remembers the message that you want is to focus on it ruthlessly. Whatever that message is, come back to it several times over the course of the presentation, spelling out how the rest of what you’re saying ties in to it; don’t leave too much for your audience for work out themselves if you can’t be sure they’re paying attention.

6. Use the 10/20/30 rule

Guy Kawasaki has had a distinguished career in business, but his 10/20/30 rule might be his best-known idea. This is the rule that a PowerPoint should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and contain no font size smaller than 30pt. Of course, if you’re giving a presentation in a school context, you may not have any choice – you might be required to produce 20 or more slides, or talk for half an hour. But you might at least be able to honour the rule about font sizes, ensuring that your slides won’t be crammed full of excessive text. And if you do have any choice over how long you’re speaking for, then the rest of the 10/20/30 rule is worth heeding too. It keeps you from speaking longer than your audience’s concentration will last, and trying to boil down your message to 10 slides or fewer (and there’s no rule against using fewer) obliges you to be concise and think about what really matters in what you have to say. If this feels restrictive, remember that your audience is likely only to remember 10 of your slides anyway – even if you have 50.

7. Tell stories

Facts, figures and statistics are a necessary part of most presentations, but they’re also not usually very interesting – especially if they amount to things going as usual. What can make a dull presentation more interesting is finding a story to tell. In some areas, this will be much easier than in others. If you’re in a history class, for instance, it’s easy to see how you could draw on the story of a single individual in your time period and use that to make the necessary but dull parts of your presentation more interesting. It’s rather harder if your presentation is on sales figures, but even then you might be able to say something about a customer that you’ve worked with to provide a human angle on the data. Anything that provides a break from graphs and tables can make a huge difference to your audience’s attention levels.

8. Use your voice

The illusionist Derren Brown gives the advice that if you notice that your audience isn’t paying attention – for instance, if you notice lots of fidgeting and coughing – one way to make them pay more attention is not to shout over their noise, but instead to speak more quietly. They’ll automatically become more engaged if they’re putting in the effort to hear you. Pulling off this particular technique without considerable skills in showmanship is hard work. But it does illustrate the broader point that the way we use our voices can make a big difference to how much people listen to us. A monotone will always be soporific, even if the information conveyed is fascinating, so make sure to vary the way you speak, changing speed, volume and pitch as appropriate. You might feel silly doing it, but your audience will be more engaged.

9. Don’t try to answer every possible question

Whatever the topic is that your presentation is addressing – whether that’s the theme of revenge in Hamlet or why the sales figures this month are more optimistic than they seem – there will be a variety of possible questions that it could answer. It’s natural to try to cover every single thing that your audience might want to ask, because that’s why they’re giving you their time and attention, isn’t it? In fact, your presentation will be much better if you cover what you think is important, rather than trying to cover every last thing. If you feel like some of your slides could be captioned ‘and another thing…’, that’s a hint that you might be trying to cover too many bases, and that will distract from the all-important key message we mentioned above.

10. Have a strong opening

The way most people begin a presentation goes something like this: “Hi, I’m Jane, and I’m here to talk to you about the theme of revenge in Hamlet .” It’s perfectly reasonable, but if it’s a warm room and after lunch, there’s a good chance that by the time you’ve got to the end of that introduction, some of your audience will already have fallen asleep. Why not open with something more interesting? For instance, you could begin with a blank, black opening slide, and read, “Haste me to know ‘t, that I, with wings as swift/ As meditation or the thoughts of love,/ May sweep to my revenge.” Your audience will be much more inclined to listen to the rest of what you have to say if you interest them and grab their attention from the start.

11. Use your body and the space

Some of the most interesting and inspiring examples of presentations out there are TED talks . One thing you’ll notice about them is that they very rarely stick the speaker behind a podium so that they can’t move – instead, they give them a microphone and a stage that they can walk on. This gives them much more range to express themselves through movement and body language. You may not be so lucky with your presentation set-up, but do try to use the space as much as you can. You can walk forwards when you want the audience to pay more attention to you, and back when their focus should be primarily on your slides. Don’t be afraid to use big gestures, too – if the room is large, they might be the only thing that can be seen from the back.

12. Give your audience something to take home

You can give the best presentation imaginable, and there might still be some people in the audience who won’t take all of it in. Perhaps they’re tired or preoccupied with something else – or perhaps they found an early point of yours so fascinating that they failed to pay attention to anything you said later on in the presentation. You can have a second go at engaging with these people by giving them some kind of handout to take away with them. It’s best to hand this out only after your presentation if possible, so that the audience doesn’t focus on the handout instead of on you. It could be a printout of your slides and notes, or it could be a summary page that outlines your key messages again. Either way, it gives you another shot at engaging your audience – and if they really found it fascinating, they then have something they can pass on to friends who weren’t there, as well.

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