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33 Steps to Great Presentation

Delivering Your Presentation: gain confidence, express yourself,

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Three Minute Presentation: elevator pitch, practice makes perfect,

Gain confidence by visualising in advance

Take a look at this YouTube movie of a gymnast practising visualisation: tinyurl.com/3minvisualisation.

You'll see how the gymnast rehearses her physical performance in her mind, concentrating on the process
again and again.

Visualisation is a familiar technique to some. In case it's new to you, here's how you can apply it to your

It's about picturing yourself going through the steps towards success. Sit quietly the day before you're due
to present and imagine yourself, in vivid detail, being introduced, walking to the front and delivering
your first sentences. Try to make it as vivid as possible in your mind: the clothes you'll be wearing, the
room you'll be in, some individuals who will be in the audience. Think about the best moments of your
speech and how you'll deliver them.

Finally, visualise the end of the presentation. Your last slide comes up; you give a clear and succinct
summary of your message; and you thank the audience. They clap, you take the applause, and you walk
off, satisfied.

It's perhaps strange to think that playing it through in the mind can help in reality. But for some reason,
it just works.

"I am the most spontaneous speaker in the world because every word,

every gesture, and every retort has been carefully rehearsed."

George Bernard Shaw (writer)

Keep calm if you make mistakes

One misconception is that audiences are very critical. Yet in 80–90% of cases, the listeners will be positive
towards you as a presenter.

Let's face it: most of them are happy to be in their chair and not your shoes. Many have experienced
what it is to be the one presenting. The collective will of an audience is right behind you, wanting you to
succeed. They're hoping all goes well for you and are looking forward to giving you a round of applause
at the end.

This positive support is especially important to remember if you make a mistake. An audience understands
that mistakes can happen, just as long as you don't make them feel uncomfortable about it.

If you drop something, simply smile, pick it up and carry on. Mumbling something like, "Blast, I always
do that! Why am I so clumsy?" makes the audience feel edgy. If you press the wrong button on the
computer or a movie in your presentation doesn't show on-screen, turn to the audience with a smile,
say something simple like, "That wasn't meant to happen!" turn away and fix the problem.

If you can't fix it (which will only happen rarely if you did the checks as mentioned), tell them "Something's
not quite right with that movie, I'll send a link to you later. What it demonstrated is…" and carry on
with your story.

There is one worst-case scenario to be ready for. You get up on stage, and something goes fundamentally
wrong with the equipment, through no fault of your own – the beamer lamp blows, the computer's
completely crashes, or the lights go out.

In this case, simply wait. If there is a technician around, don't worry – he'll fix it. In that case, tell the
audience calmly "Something's gone wrong – we'll fix that right now." Go to the side of the stage, wait
until he does his job, walk back to the stage and pick up the presentation as if nothing had happened.

If it's something you can fix yourself, then take your time. Tell the audience, "I'll just be a few moments"
to let them know they need to wait. Don't hurry; re-set the equipment in your own time and on you go.

Preparation will reduce the possibility of things going wrong. A calm reaction if things do go awry will
make the audience remember what did go right and forget the bits that didn't.

Keep calm if you make mistakes

Ensure they remember the important stuff

The reality is, the audience has many things on their mind; a meeting later on, an important email that
just popped up on their smartphone, personal problems – you name it. Sitting still for 20–30 minutes
means they will naturally start to mull those things over and their focus can drift.

During the Post-it Note process, you've established the key messages you want to get across. Here are
two simple tools to ensure the audience remember them.

Firstly, give the audience very clear signals to pay attention at certain moments, so that you keep the
audience alert. Be specific during your presentation about these core messages by telling them "There are
five key points I want you to remember today. If you go away with nothing else from this presentation
except these five, I believe we'll be taking a step forward. Now here's the first point."

On the slides introducing the important issues, make a visual mark to ensure they understand that
this is something they really need to remember. It can be as simple as a light bulb, a brightly coloured
shape, or a photo of a notepad. Use the same image for each of the five important issues so that you are
consistent and clear.

Re-enforce it with your body language. As you tell them, "There are five key points," put your hand up
with all your fingers stretched out. Next say, "Here's the first." Put your forefinger out with your hand
up to make clear you are referring to the first one. Repeat this for each of the main points as you come
to them during the presentation.

You'll be amazed how often people get their pens at the ready when you do this, and it will also help
you to structure your presentation.

We shouldn’t abbreviate the truth but rather get a new method of presentation

"We shouldn't abbreviate the truth but rather get a new method of presentation."
Edward Tufte (Yale Professor)

Don't learn your script

It is a natural temptation to learn what you plan saying. After all, you know you'll feel under pressure up
there in front of the audience – what could give you more confidence than memorising your message?

However, this idea is fundamentally flawed.

Most presenters speak at around 100 words per minute. If you have to learn a 25-minute presentation,
that's 2,500 words. Doesn't sound too much, does it? Well, to put it in perspective, that's the equivalent
of the first act of Macbeth, or two times the length of John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech.

Check the movie on YouTube (tinyurl.com/3minJFKspeech): you'll see JFK didn't bother to learn it either.

If you try to do so, you will – without exception – forget a part of your script. If you are fixed on a certain
text, when you lose the thread it's a struggle to get back. And if you do manage to memorise it, there's
a chance you'll come across as non-spontaneous and insincere.

The good news is this. If you've followed the steps of preparation there is absolutely no need for you to
learn what you plan to say.

Remember the Post-it notes and how you concisely summed up your main subjects? Your presentation
content on-screen is giving you the same – key words and images to prompt you into the next step of
your persuasion.

Remember the coffee machine talks you've had about the subject? Those chats arm you with a series of
standard phrases and sentences that are ready to come out.

And remember how much (or rather, how little) verbal content the audience will retain? What matters
is getting your message across with confidence and prompting them to look for the details later.

Nevertheless, you do need some solid leaning posts across the presentation.

Think about those five things you certainly want them to go away with and remember at the end of your
talk. It is worth having a couple of sentences that you know you will definitely say on those subjects. The
best way to develop your phrases is through discussing the topic with others in advance of the presentation.

And there is one very important exception to this rule, which we'll come to in the next chapter.

I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship."
Aeschylus (playwright)

The first 60 seconds

The only part of your presentation that you should learn word for word is the first 60 seconds.

Consider what happens when you get up on stage. Your heart-rate increases. You probably begin sweating
because your body temperature rises. Your hands might even shake a little. You're super conscious of
every move you make and concerned that everyone can see your uncertainty.

This all takes place because your body reacts under stress and goes into 'fight or flee' mode. Instinct
takes over and pumps your body full of adrenaline: your mind is less engaged and the animal need to
prepare for an attack wins.

Even the most experienced presenter in the world will suffer from some level of stress at the beginning
of a presentation, because it's a moment of being on show for all to see. It's hard to think straight when
the body is reacting that way. You're under the spotlight – nowhere to hide.

There is nothing like hearing yourself deliver a few good lines to give you confidence. Learning the first
60 seconds will help bring your body back on your side.

If you get the first sentences out of the way, without having to think too much, everything starts to relax.
Your instinct gets calmed, realising that the threat of attack is not so high. Your heart rate drops, your
body temperature starts heading back to normal and any shakes evaporate. Then you can concentrate
on communicating your message in the most convincing way possible.

Use body language to express yourself

In Chapter 7, you can read the formula of content, voice and body language that the audience will
remember. This naturally leads you to focus on how you communicate with your voice and body to
strengthen the story.

Most important is to prepare well. That will help you be relaxed and in control of your content and story,
which will automatically convey itself to your audience.

Here are a few additional suggestions to add some strength to your physical communication.

At the beginning, walk out in front of the audience, stand up straight, give a smile. This delivers a clear
indication to the audience that their attention is required. Keep as upright as you can without being
stiff: remain relaxed and professional.

Find your own level of comfort regarding where you stand. There is research suggesting the best position
is to the left of the screen (from the viewer's point of view) but this depends largely on how the room
is set up.

Ideally you stand where your laptop is easily visible, so that you are able to read your content and see
the slide transitions while looking at the computer, not the screen behind you. Turning your back on
the audience should be done very rarely, and this laptop setup will help you.

If the audience is sitting in a U-shape, it can be quite powerful for you to walk into the middle of the
group during your talk. However, use this very sparingly – it can also be quite threatening for an audience
member if you walk up close and talk directly to one person.

My suggestion is to walk a little closer to the audience when introducing yourself. Then find one, or at
maximum two more moments during your talk when you can tell them something without referring
to the slides, and do this a little closer to them too. A short personal anecdote works well in this way.

It's not essential to move around during the presentation, but if you decide to do so, be careful not to
pace backwards and forwards: it causes the audience a lot of anxiety. Choose three spots in the room
where you can effectively tell your story, and move between those spots at various moments during the
presentation. Walk slowly and hold your attention on the audience, keeping them involved.

Unsure about this? Then stay in one place and concentrate on delivering the message with your voice
and body language from a position of comfort.

blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts…the body

"A blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts…the body
language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere."
Edward R. Murrow (broadcast journalist)

Emphasise your message by using your hands in a conscious way

Your hands are perhaps the most important part of your body to pay attention to, because they can either
be very useful or very distracting.

A first simple rule: don't put your hands in your pocket. The worst-case scenario is a pocket full of
change, which you jingle unconsciously throughout. I know this seems obvious, but so many people
do it that it has to be said. Take out everything you don't need from your pockets; keys, tissues, money,
receipts. They act like hand-magnets.

Be relaxed and you'll know what to do. When you come to a key point, use your hands to emphasise it.
On a few occasions, point to the screen to make clear that this is something to remember. Do it sparingly
and it has impact. Do it too much, with every slide and every message and the focus is lost.

There is one moment where you can consider putting a hand in the pocket; during a Q&A. It gives a
signal that the formal part is over, and the audience is at liberty to put their questions forward. Do it
with just one hand for parts of questions session, and only if it feels comfortable (and if there's not a
single stray penny in there.)

One no-go is the politician's hand position – think Tony Blair. It's a symmetrical shape of the arms, elbows
out, with the tips of the fingers touching together or partly entwined. We are trained now to know that
this position is that of the smooth talker trying to cover stuff up. Avoid this position at all costs.

Using your hands also improves your vocal expression. Voice actors use their hands to fill their words
with additional emotion, because no-one can see their body language. If you put these tips into practice,
you'll add a new dimension to your communication.

Emphasise your message by using your hands in a conscious way

Break through the voice barrier: listen to yourself

Almost everyone says, "I hate hearing my voice" if they're played a recording of it. It's a curious issue
but there is a reason for it.

When we speak, we hear the sound in our own head. In recording and being heard by others, our voice's
sound waves are subject to various influences of environment as they travel through air. The result when
hearing a recording is our voice sounds quite different to what we think is heard when we speak. Our
dislike comes from the confusion caused by that difference between what we think we hear, and what
happens while we're recorded.

Don't worry about any of this. Your basic voice is a part of who you are and will sound great to some,
not so great to others. What matters is what you do with it and here are some suggestions.

Be loud enough to be heard.

If you use a microphone, check the tips in Chapter 14. If not, make sure you speak at a level that's audible
for the whole audience. Ask a colleague to sit at the back and indicate if you're loud enough or need to
add some volume.

Monotone is the enemy.

Record your voice (yes, be brave and break through the hate barrier) and see if there is a good variation
in the tone of what you say.

Refine how you emphasise certain key points, and ask yourself if there are better ways to do it. Re-record
your voice and try different approaches: for example, record one time with your hands still, and another
moving your hands around. You'll find the difference quite significant.

Pay special attention to how you round off sentences.

Do you finish everything as a question? That's something to change. The audience need to know when
you are asking them something, so make it very clear.

Find three or four occasions in the presentation where you make a clear 'moment'.

Stop for a second, take a breath, and tell the audience, "So, we've covered XYZ. Now what I'd like to talk
about is…" and make sure that this has a good strong emphasis.

It's a bit like reading a long paragraph in a book – it's almost a relief when you can come to the next one.
The page-break helps you read, and this breath-break will help them listen.

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the

"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the
human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."
Maya Angelou (poet)

Share your eye contact

Have you ever sat in a meeting with a number of people, and found that the main person in that meeting
looks at everybody but you? Did you ever go to a party as a couple and find that someone took no interest
in you and only talked to your partner?

It makes you feel excluded and unimportant – and that's exactly how you don't want anyone in your
audience to feel.

Making eye-contact is a simple way of telling someone, "You are included, you are a part of this."

Equally, focusing too much on one or two listeners is likely to make them feel uncomfortable, and to
make others feel excluded. How you share your eye-contact with the audience is a crucial way of getting
them involved, communicating that you are calm and in control.

The formula is straightforward: try to include the whole room during the course of the presentation,
and do it in a relaxed way.

Each time you say something, it's broken up into chunks as either short sentences, or parts of longer
ones. Look at one person and begin speaking; when you come to a good break, glance to another part
of the room, look at another person and finish the sentence. Then move to another person and continue.
Keep their eye for a few seconds at a time and move on again.

It might sounds a bit contrived, but if you try it out a few times, it will quickly become natural.

Make it interactive once you've gained confidence

Advanced presentations are not just a delivery to the listeners – they are an interaction between the
presenter and the audience. However, it's not an easy technique, and I recommend to get the basics in
place first. Once you are finding confidence and have given a number of satisfying presentations, it's
time to consider adding interactivity.

Questions are the key, yet they can be both very po

werful, and extremely dangerous.The worst kind is open-ended, where it might be possible for an audience member to talk endlessly on
the subject. "Does anyone have an opinion on global warming that they'd like to share?" Cue passionate
10 minute monologue on the issue from someone that the audience have not come to hear.

The best kind is the one where you know the possible answers. For example: "Who believes Global
Warming is an important issue for today's society?" In this case, you need to tell the audience what to
do – it's horribly cringing for all if you ask and nobody answers. If you want them to say something,
tell them so. "Shout out 'Yes' if you agree". If you want them to put their hand up, put your own hand
up and tell them to do the same.

The standing up game

I saw a guy called Daniel Frances do this at a Cold Call seminar, and the resulting interactivity was the
highest I have ever seen.

Daniel explained that he would make a statement, and the audience should stand up if it applied to them.
The key to this technique is to be as inclusive as possible: therefore he began with, "If you're a human
being, stand up". Naturally, everyone stood, helping them overcome their intrinsic fear of audience

Then he asked, "If you've made a cold call in the last month, stay standing." It was a Cold Call seminar,
so Daniel knew it was guaranteed that at least 60–70% of the audience would remain on their feet. He
asked a question which got an answer he was expecting.

He followed up by asking who had made Cold Calls that day, knowing this would narrow it down: then
he asked one of the remaining people to give their name, explain briefly what the call was about, and
why it was important. Daniel picked out someone that he'd spoken to before the event began, that he
knew would be comfortable with taking the microphone and giving their one-minute story. He then
asked two more people to do the same, moving to different parts of the audience.

During his seminar, Daniel followed this process on a number of occasions. What happens is a change
of dynamic. The audience moves from fear to involvement, with the result that people were waving and
actively grabbing the microphone by the final round of questions.

The power of this approach is in the audience telling the story. If they explain why the subject matters,
and what the problems are that they need solving, the audience feels connected to each other and the
presenter. It also gives the presenter a few hints for subjects to pick up on in a later part of the meeting,
and he can refer back to particular points made by the audience.

Try this tool out and you'll find yourself becoming more comfortable with introducing interactivity into
your presentations.

Involving the audience is a delicate thing. They came to see you

"Involving the audience is a delicate thing. They came to see you
do your work, yet they want their voice heard too."
David Beckett (presentation coach)

How to manage a Q&A session

In general, it's good to build in time for questions, but as with the previous chapter, it's another situation
that can go terribly wrong if you're not properly prepared. Here are a few tools to help you stay in control.

Someone asks a question which is very negative.

Don't defend. Acknowledge the comment and focus on the positives of your message. If the questioner
insists on responding negatively again (which happens in few cases) suggest you take the subject for
discussion during coffee, and make sure you do. The person may just have a very valid point that you
missed, which you can address in your next presentation.

An audience member talks and talks and talks…

Stay calm, let them have their say and think about your answer – which ideally should be very short –
while they are speaking. If they ask three questions in one, answer one of the questions, and if pressed
for time, recommend to discuss the other two later or by email.

Don't say, "Good question".

They are all good questions because somebody having the nerve to speak up is already a good contribution
to your meeting. Say, "thanks for your question" or something similar, to every question raised.

Never criticise the audience.

Once I saw a presenter ask, "Who knows what coaching is?" A boy of around 17 raised his hand and
gave his view: the presenter jumped in with, "No, no, no, that's a big mistake! Let me tell you what
coaching really is…"

The young lad shrivelled into his seat, humiliated. Even if an audience member says something that is
off-track or plain wrong, tell them, "That's a way of looking at it." Then add your own steering of the
subject back towards where you want your message to go.

Keep questions to a very few.

It can be gruelling to be up-front and handling questions. I would recommend five or six at most, and
when you've reached five, make it clear you're about to end: "I'll take this question and one more, then
we'll wrap it up."

If they clearly still have more to ask, advise them to send by email or to approach you afterwards. Beingaccessible is important: it makes clear that you genuinely want the audience to take action on your message.

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer
"A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer."
Bruce Lee (actor)

Give handouts at the end, never at the beginning

Ideally your presentation should be clear, not needing additional notes. Almost certainly, nobody will
read handouts if you do provide them, unless you give them out at the beginning: a guaranteed way of
ensuring the rustle of flipping pages drowns out your first 60 seconds!
There are, of course, exceptions.

On occasion, you may want your audience to refer to detailed data during the presentation. In that case,
I would recommend having the data on the slide and handing out prints of that specific slide, so that
you don't have to read aloud every detail they can't see on the screen.

There is also a good case for making two presentations; the one you personally deliver, and the one you
distribute. The one you show should be light on data and detail, but the one you distribute may need to
tell a more in-depth story, especially if you are sharing it with management as a reference paper. In that
case, you can add the detail in their version, also helping you resist the temptation to throw every word
and number into the slides you present.

Naturally creating two versions requires a lot of extra time and for most presentations is unnecessary.
However, for the big ones, it's worth it.

Finish with a bang

Have you ever been to a concert where there was no encore? The band gets up, plays and walks off,
giving the audience no chance to show their appreciation. It leaves you with a sense of unfulfillment, as
if something's not quite complete.

I once talked with musician Tom Robinson, and he explained why.

"You've been up on stage and given the audience your best. Part of the process is that we as the audience
like to say thank you in return. If the performer doesn't give us that chance, we feel like our part hasn't
been played."

Tom also told me that the most important part of any song he played live was the end. "You can have
an average song, but if you close it off with a clear riff and a bang, the audience will love it. They also
need to know when to applaud, so give them a definite and clear ending moment."
Tom's tips can easily be translated into your presentation approach.

  • Firstly, make your summary interesting. Instead of having seven bullets that you read one by
    one, make it visual; choose an image or one single word to represent each main point. This
    is worth rehearsing many times, as the last 60 seconds can be as important as the first.
  • Secondly, ensure you finish on a big issue; for example; "And finally, we'll launch Product X
    in September, and the goal is to reach 10,000 sales by end of the year!"
  • "To close off, we have three big projects to complete this year; first, complete transformation
    X; second, re-organise division Y; and third, reach sales of 5,000 with new product Z."
  • Thirdly, be clear about the ending. After you say your last sentence, finish with a simple and
    firm, "Thank you!" Then stand and take the applause; in most situations, the audience will
    show their appreciation for you.

Of course, there is a risk that no one claps. That is a small possibility if you use these tools, but if it
does occur, walk off after a couple of seconds and don't worry about it. You've done your job, and if
the audience didn't get it…? Well, that happens sometimes. But only rarely, as long as you've done your
preparation, created clear slides, and finished on a high.

A good opening and a good ending make for a good film

"A good opening and a good ending make for a good film."
Federico Fellini (film director)

Follow up

You've done your preparation, delivered the message to the best of your ability, and the audience seemed
to like it. The next part is what most presenters forget: the follow up.

Ideally, the audience understood the message, but how do you find out for sure? There are a number
of ways.

Firstly, ask a couple of trusted colleagues to tell you the truth. What went well? What could be improved?
What do they remember from the presentation? Try to get honest feedback at every opportunity, so that
you can improve and refine details, personal style and clarity of expression.

Secondly, make sure to send the attendees a follow-up email, reminding them of the five most important
issues. This is also an opportunity to send them either a more detailed version of the presentation.

Finally, consider setting up an online questionnaire, especially if the audience numbered more than
eight. You can find plenty of simple (and free) websites that offer this service; one that I use is

Keep the survey short and simple – maximum seven questions, with at least a couple of rating-related
answers to fill in, and a couple of general questions enabling attendees to comment freely on how they
rate the presentation.

Feedback is always useful and enables you to learn how your presentations are really being received.

Delivering Your Presentation: Summary

  1. Take time sitting alone to visualise your presentation and success in advance.
  2. Record and listen to your voice so you can improve the verbal aspect of your message.
  3. Learn the first 60 seconds – not the whole script.
  4. Stay calm if you make mistakes or if something technical goes wrong. The audience is on
    your side.
  5. Give clear signals – both on-screen, in word and with your body language – as to which are
    the most important items for the audience to remember.
  6. Stay in one place during your presentations until you feel very confident.
  7. Use your hands to emphasise the message, and keep them out of your pockets!
  8. Share your eye-contact to ensure the whole audience feels included.
  9. Make it interactive by asking questions: and only ask questions which will have answers you
    can predict.
  10. Don't give handouts at the beginning. If you need to share detailed information, hand it out
    during the presentation, slide by slide – or send it afterwards.
  11. Finish on a high note by make a clear motivational statement or a strong call to action.
  12. Follow up with a short online questionnaire, so you can incorporate feedback into your next

  1. Preparing Your Presentation: presentation summary, power point,
  2. Delivering Your Presentation: gain confidence, express yourself,
  3. Three Minute Presentation: elevator pitch, practice makes perfect,