10 Tips for a Killer Presentation

monster eat powerpoint

Presentations are something that we’re all familiar with. Whether you are watching a presentation or giving a presentation, chances are you know what sucks and what doesn’t. However, in case you don’t know the suck from the not, here are ten tips to help insure you are giving a good presentation:

  1. Don’t abuse your visuals – Usually your visuals are posters, charts, or even a PowerPoint presentation. Whatever your visuals may be, keep them simple and don’t put too many words on them. The audience isn’t there to read your slides, they are there to listen to you present.
  2. Look at the audience – If you ever wondered where you should be looking when presenting, the answer is right in front of you. Don’t just single out one person, but instead try to make eye contact with numerous people throughout the room. If you don’t do this then you aren’t engaging the audience, you are just talking to yourself. This can result in an utter lack of attention from your audience.
  3. Show your personality – It doesn’t matter if you are presenting to a corporate crowd or to senior citizens, you need to show some character when presenting. If you don’t do this you’ll probably sound like Agent Smith from the Matrix. Nobody wants to hear him present. (If you do, you are probably an agent yourself and we will find you)
  4. Make them laugh – Although you want to educate your audience, you need to make them laugh as well. I learned this from Guy Kawasaki and if you ever hear any of his speeches you’ll understand why. In essence, it keeps the audience alert and they’ll learn more from you than someone who just educates.
  5. Talk to your audience, not at them – People hate it when they get talked at, so don’t do it. You need to interact with your audience and create a conversation. An easy way to do this is to ask them questions as well as letting them ask you questions.
  6. Be honest – A lot of people present to the audience what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear. Make sure you tell the truth even if they don’t want to hear it because they will respect you for that and it will make you more human.
  7. Don’t over prepare – If you rehearse your presentation too much it will sound like it (in a bad way). Granted, you need to be prepared enough to know what you are going to talk about but make sure your presentation flows naturally instead of sounding memorized. Usually if you ask experienced speakers what you shouldn’t do, they’ll tell you not to rehearse your presentation too much because then it won’t sound natural.
  8. Show some movement – You probably know that you need to show some movement when speaking, but naturally you may forget to do so. Make sure you show some gestures or pace around a bit (not too much) on the stage when speaking. Remember, no one likes watching a stiff. People are more engaged with an animated speaker.
  9. Watch what you say – You usually don’t notice when you say “uhm”, “ah”, or any other useless word frequently, but the audience does. It gets quite irritating; so much that some members of the audience will probably count how many times you say these useless words.
  10. Differentiate yourself – If you don’t do something unique compared to all the other presenters the audience has heard, they won’t remember you. You are branding yourself when you speak, so make sure you do something unique and memorable.

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Comments

  1. Great post Neil. Apart from being a copywriter, i’m also a visiting faculty at a college and i believe these points even apply to that profession. I read your posts regularly and each time you come up something great. great work, keep it up. oh btw, i’m from ahmeedabad, Gujarat :)

  2. great post, as usual, Neil.

    2 more tips:
    11) Tell stories. I’ve found that it breaks the monotony of a talking head, and we can even share anecdotes of key leaders in the room.

    12) Record yourself. Its amazing how much we can learn from reviewing an audio recording of our presentation. We can also re-use that content on our blogs, audiobooks, etc.

    Ttys
    ~ Vikram
    PersonalBrandMarketing.com

    • The other thing to note about stories is that they can be very effective if you tie in life experiences. Usually when speakers do this, I always seem to remember them.

      • I have used this technique a few times and every time I see certain people they are for some reason compelled to comment, its a great way to break the ice or lighten peoples moods as well.

  3. Excellent blog entry. I love when presenters use visual aids, and I especially love when they be themselves.

  4. Two thoughts:

    1) Re: #7, hear hear! Over-rehearsing is a good way to drive your natural enthusiasm for a subject right out of your presentation. But practicing is crucial. I’ve found that making sure your presentation is well-structured and then rehearsing that structure (the order of points, where questions will fit, etc), rather than the detail of each point, is a great way to stay fresh.

    2) There’s several strong points here about focusing on the audience. Here’s an additional thought – focus on the decision that you want the audience to make. Thinking about what they’re trying to decide, and what you know that can help in their decision, is a great way to clarify for yourself what goes into the presentation and what should be left out.

  5. Great post! I really like these 10 essential and straight forward biullet points. However I’ve got something to add (I’m lecturer @ university, so its my own experience) :-)

    ad (1) don’t abuse but use visualization as tool: For instance use black slides as effect (L. Lessig), use big pictures visualizing your ideas and surprising your audience. This is one arena where you can score by good preparation.

    Don’t try (4) too much. You will hurt your – hopefully good image – with bad jokes. If it doesn’t work then definitely don’t try harder. No jokes are better than bad ones.

    As for (7): Don’t over prepare your talk but do prepare questions you might be asked within or after your talk and the respective answers. Especially with scientific topics questions are an instrument to test the professional knowledge of the speaker.

    And another point (11 .. uh!): Review your talk critically afterwards. Ask friends who listened about your performance as soon as your talk is over. Watch video recordings and write down things you want to optimize next time to remember them before your next talk.

  6. All great points! This seems to be a popular topic lately as there was a WikiHow posted on Wired’s How-to Wiki lately.

  7. Re: visual images.

    I read somewhere that a nice tactic is to put up opposing visuals, something that contradicts what you are saying. If “information should be free”, an image of a jail perhaps, that kind of thing.

    I admit that I look to the presentations Steve Jobs does, and the style of the ‘slides’. Simple, big words and pictures.

    Final tip (not mine): If you ask your audience a question, and want a count of raised hands as a response, raise your own. Nobody likes to be first so you can lead the way. Worked a treat for me recently.

  8. I have been teaching people how to give speeches for over 12 years, and I heartily “second” all the items on your list.

    Here are a few additional tips:

    Beginning: Your presentation begins the moment that you stand up and start moving toward the podium/stage space. Don’t blow your first impression by adjusting your belt or some such. Also, those first moments when you begin to speak will be the moment that most people decide if they will try to pay attention, or will politely space out. So say something good.

    Only give a presentation you’d like to listen to. If you are not interested in part of your presentation, then you can hardly expect your audience.

    Plan on your technology breaking down. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. What will you do? Will your presentation still make sense? I always feel confident if I know my presentation can stand on its own.

    Thanks for a great post!

  9. Thanks for this advice. Your readers might also be interested in this similar article I wrote entitled “More Schmooze, Less Snooze: How to Deliver “The Most Talked About” Conference Session”. It’s got advice for moderators, panelists, and even audience members. You can download a PDF there too.

  10. Dave Nofmeister :

    Very cool!

    I think that public speaking is about the most unnerving thing that a person can go through. I’ll have to review your info again before my next meeting.

  11. I would add the following to the list:
    11. Show Enthusiasm. Display enthusiasm for your topic and your presentation. Excitement is contagious and engages the audience.

  12. This is a fantastic blog.

    I have to do a presentation next week as part of a job interview and I will be putting all of these tips into practice. I will let you know how I get on.

  13. Great list of classic tips! Here’s one I share with my (public speaking coaching) clients that I don’t see on your list or mentioned by commenters: Save your closing until AFTER the Q&A.

    You want to leave your audience with your memorable last words and a feeling of motivation to DO something as a result of your talk – not with some random question from an audience member that may be completely off topic. Q&A drains energy from the room, so be sure to plan a strong closing to inspire your audience and get your message back on everyone’s minds.

    Check out more tips on my public speaking blog “Speak Schmeak!”

  14. Great list. I’d add ‘slow down’.

    People tend to rattle through presentations unless they pay attention to how quickly they’re talking, partly because they’re nervous and partly because they can’t accurately judge how time is passing when they’re presenting.

    When people ‘um’ and ‘err’ it’s because they’re afraid someone else will fill the silence if they pause for thought but a presentation is the one time you don’t have to worry about this.

  15. Neil, superb post! I am posting it to my blog!

  16. cool….its help all to become when they preseting the things on front of others…nice keep it up…….

  17. massive thanks for these precious informations Neil :)

  18. I believe time management for a presentation is very important,while the speaker needs to focus on the key issues of the subject and let some time receiving comments and feedbacks of the audience.

  19. These are very good points for speakers. My own experiance is that its a really good icebreaker to start of with a joke or funny remark. Almost any topic will allow ( an intelligent ) joke.

    • It doesn’t even have to be a joke, some light humor even works. For example if my powerpoint has 10 slides I usually start off saying….

      “Hi everyone my name is Neil Patel. Today I am going to be giving a speech about X. To make it easy for you to follow along, I made the presentation in a list format with 10 points. And for those of you who don’t like the presentation, at least you know how many slides are left.”

  20. hi thanks a lot for tips because i was abt 2 give presentation in collage and i was really dam nervous bcoz of these tips i am sure i will be confident

  21. i am quite satisfied with this

  22. Excellent tips, Neil. I do presentations & I love adding humour while I speak. And yes, I do find that more than 10 – 15 words on the screen & you loose the audience to reading!
    Thanx for all the tips.

  23. Here is very nice ideas to make your presentation dynamic. I think some person are not use creative, participative formats in place of traditional Presentations.

  24. Morgan Sonya :

    Thanks Neil :) Had to read this for my EDTC 101 class and I found it really helpful. I will use these tips for my presentation next week.

  25. I can wholeheartedly agree with point seven, i have seen many presentations where a new policy or procedure has been rolled out/cascaded and the speaker has given the same presentation so many times they are sick of the material themselves.

    You need to create a presentation you would want to listen to yourself; I find this a great check before presenting.

    • Also, when you have a presentation, that you have to make, you need to act as if you passionate about the material if your not, and let it just come out. It will drastically change the way people see it.

  26. Chappidi Chandrika Reddy :

    Excellent tips, Neil. Tips are very simple and clear which helps for better and smooth presentations. In 1oth point you said that “You should be unique from other presentations” to be unique what we have to follow can you give some example please.
    I am from Hyderabad, India.

    • Be unique, meaning don’t be like all the other presentations. If everyone does a power point, you don’t. If everyone stands behind the podium and stands still, you don’t, and be animated…

  27. Make them laugh – if your presentation about global ecologycal crysis, I think this part is excess :) But fr business presentation – its point #1 :)

  28. thanks for ur effective presentation tips they are excellent and practical, but when u make audience laugh u dont have to create a cold joke that will give wrong perception to the audience.

  29. what if you dont know how to make people laugh

  30. What uniqueness can a tenth class student add to his presentation while giving a presentation?

  31. Handmade Knitwear :

    You can definitely ‘over prepare’. It leads to a scripted presentation which never feels relaxed in any way. There’s some great advice here.

  32. Some decent advice and I really think the first 30 seconds can make or break something. Prefer presentations in the morning as well as (most) people are fresh for the day.

  33. Great tips! I’m actually in speech/ debate so I had to learn those tips the hard way by getting a lower grade until I improved. Now I really enjoy speaking publicly and I joined drama. I still love getting tips on how to improve. Thanks!

  34. Thanks for the tips Neil, I present an Employment Services briefing to Wounded Warriors and utilize a PowerPoint slide show as a graphic aid, as well as a hand out of my key points covered since the briefing is conducted every Friday just before they are released for lunch … and typically a soldiers mind has already transported into their plans for the weekend. I liked the tip you gave in letting them know how many slides … I can see how that would inject humor. All the tips you give are on target, but what’s more interesting is the article generated everyone else’s tips. I will incorporate your comment about how many slides in my briefing, normally I have just said in the past, that in my 25 year military career, the best briefings I sat through … were just that, brief, to the point and information I can use. If anyone has any other funny remarks, or as they called them when I was in recruiting school, “Ho Hum Crashers” … please share, thanks again Neil, and everyone else for your comments.

  35. These are great tips I guess I can use it for my presentation guidelines on my thesis problems. Those are useful thank you…

  36. Neil,

    I think presentation is the best way to express your views to people. If presentation is just close to the topic then it will be much better.

  37. Presentation is certainly a good way to express your views to people but not all of us are comfortable to get in front of a big audience and talk, nevertheless if you do this one time you will find out that it’s not so difficult

  38. Wow , I will consider these step for my next presentation in my Collage.

  39. These tips are great.
    I have a presentation coming up this week, and im gonna implement your tips.
    I have a real fear of Public Speaking, and i hope that these tips help.

  40. Thanks a lot 4 sharing these tips …. they really helped in my presentation ….@college … they help me to make the best ppt ….ever … and also help my friend wo has a real stage fright ..!!!!!
    so thanks a ton !!! :D

  41. awesome. but i found some great ideas here too
    http://www.firstain.com/index.php/2012/02/05/ideas-for-a-great-presentation/

    have a look if u wish to

  42. That Image At The Top Of The Screen Is Extremely Inappropriate …

  43. Thanks for your advice. I’m giving a presentation soon so I wanted some tips. I also wanted you to know that I’ve come across this presentation website called Present.me. It allows you to upload your powerpoint and then record yourself explaining it. Also great for practising presentations as you can watch your video back… Hope this is useful to everyone!

  44. Hi Neil,

    I have never given a presentation in my life. My new job requires me to make a budget presentation for the last 3 years.
    Could you pls help me with the opening & closing speech. I am really nervous. Please help.

    Regards / Aisha

  45. sir ,i am a college student.i have to give presentation on “HEART”.can u giv e some opening and closing tip .it is on 24th of this month

  46. Hi Neil,

    These are all great tips. I do think that adding humor can be a slippery slope since telling a bad joke can take the wind out of your sail.

    I design professional slides for a living and the most common mistake I see is slides that have WAY TO MUCH

  47. Hi Neil,

    These are all great tips. I do think that adding humor can be a slippery slope since telling a bad joke can take the wind out of your sail.

    I design professional slides for a living and the most common mistake I see is slides that have WAY TO MUCH text on them.

    If anyone is looking to take their their slide design to the next level … I offer an illustrative eBook that provides all my best tips, tools, and resources for designing KILLER slides. Check out the link below.

    http://presentationpanda.com/book/

  48. Your content is excellent and contains tons of great information. Your perceptions on this topic are interesting, profound and different.

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  49. Great tips thanks ;)

  50. Thanks for the tips it was great help :)

  51. Libster Frantike :

    hi Neil,
    these tips are fantastic for my upcoming speech i would like to share some Spanish with you
    Fantastico = fantastic
    Hola = hello , hi
    Adios = bye
    Gracius = thanks
    Muchouse = very much
    Uno = 1
    Thos = 2
    Tres = 3
    Quatro = 4
    Sinco = 5
    Seeyetai = 6
    Ucho = 7

  52. Thank you Neil. Just love reading your blog posts )) Stay cool brother

  53. This is a good list! I also found another really good one at strat-talking http://strat-talking.com/presentation-building

  54. Poop(: Helpful tips IM READY TO KILL.

  55. I was looking for some inspiration for a new client. Thanks for providing some great ideas.

  56. I would add an additional point.

    # Use 5 +/- 2 words and not more. 7 words the maximum number that an average person can admit and convert into his/her mind. Instead of using long sentences or long words, use visuals to make it easy to conceive.

    ;) I hope it could help

  57. Hey Neil,

    I just discovered this great post of yours. Since you both enjoy the topic of presentations and also talk a lot to entrepreneurs maybe you will also enjoy having a look at a process that I have tailored to help fellow entrepreneurs and freelancers when they are called to speak somewhere.

    Here’s the link:
    http://www.lafabbricadellarealta.com/2014/08/21/the-16-questions-you-must-answer-when-you-prepare-a-talk-or-a-presentation

    Cheers,
    Matteo

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