100 Tips for Giving a Better Presentation

#100SpeakingTipsWant to learn how to give a better presentation with an absolute minimum investment of time and money?

Here are 100 quick tips in Twitter-sized chunks. They’re collected from my #100SpeakingTips project in which I tweeted a presentation tip a day for 100 (business) days.

The final tweet posted yesterday and you can see them in their original form on Twitter or scan through them here. For better readability, I’ve embedded the links and removed all those annoying hashtags and @ symbols.

This advice is the culmination of my 20 years in the speaking business, as both an executive speechwriter and a professional speaker myself. It also includes wisdom from a lot of experts I respect.

Enjoy!

  1. Before giving a presentation, ask yourself what you want your audience to KNOW, FEEL and DO.
  2. Speakers: it’s not enough to inform your audience; you must entertain them. TED Talks have raised the bar.
  3. Your presentation is not about you, it’s about them. Who are they? What do they want? What do they know?
  4. I ask 6 questions of every audience. Andrew Dlugan asks 30!
  5. Got issues? Made mistakes? You don’t have to dwell on the negative but you should acknowledge, pivot.
  6. Is your presentation tone deaf? Be sure to gauge your audience’s mood and adjust accordingly.
  7. For a comprehensive start-to-finish checklist, download this PDF from Scott Berkun.
  8. Stop putting audiences to sleep. Don’t kick off a presentation by talking about yourself, your agenda.
  9. The most trite way to start a presentation? The “Webster’s Dictionary definition.” So grammar school!
  10. You have 200 milliseconds to make a strong first impression, via Ethos3.
  11. Start with a story to grab your audience’s attention. But make it original! No starfish or lighthouses.
  12. Still stumped for a clever speech opener? Patricia Fripp has 27 opening lines.
  13. Thinking about getting help from a speech coach? Cliff Kennedy has some tips.
  14. Focus your presentation. If you try to say everything, you end up communicating nothing.
  15. Avoid kitchen sink syndrome. Have a goal for your presentation and stick to it. Cut all the rest.
  16. In a world where attention deficit is not a bug but a feature, err on the side of brevity.
  17. Why a shorter speech is better. Smart advice from Carmine Gallo.
  18. Worst speechwriting advice I ever got? “Never use contractions in a speech!” I’m not kidding.
  19. Introducing a speaker? Don’t just read their resume! 8 steps to doing it right.
  20. Is this thing on? Ten Things the Best Speakers NEVER Say by Jeff Haden.
  21. A simple presentation template: Problem, Solution, 3 Supporting Points, Differentiator, Call to Action.
  22. If you’re presenting just data, send a memo instead. From Seth Godin.
  23. Ignore the “um” and “uh” Nazis. Humans do that sometimes. Insight from Michael Erard.
  24. Stories should be the centerpiece of your speech. Stories break down walls, build trust, spur action.
  25. Simple story structure: a Character, in pursuit of a Goal, in the face of a Challenge. How’s it Resolved?
  26. Kevin Spacey’s Three Key Elements to a Compelling Story, via John Zimmer.
  27. Cut the clutter from your stories: proper nouns, precise numbers, specific dates. Let go of the facts.
  28. A personal story works IF it’s relevant to the audience and offers useful lessons. (Not just about you.)
  29. Advice from Gavin McMahon on using comparisons to illustrate complex points.
  30. Metaphors trump facts. Here’s why, by Douglas Van Praet.
  31. To change their minds, first you must win their hearts. Find the emotional core of your message.
  32. Are you more Spock than Kirk? Show your humanity. It’s what audiences want from leaders.
  33. Showing vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s strength. Advice from Nancy Duarte.
  34. What’s authenticity? Connect with the audience, tell stories meaningful to you, speak from the heart.
  35. Be yourself on stage. Albeit a slightly heightened, more energetic, more focused version of yourself.
  36. A presentation is a performance. Tips from Mick Jagger via David Scott and Nick Morgan.
  37. Don’t try so hard to be funny. Look for natural humor in the everyday business of life.
  38. Whatever you do, be original. Don’t resort to a joke you found online. Assume they’ve heard it before.
  39. Wordy slides are a crutch. Your audience isn’t here to read, they’re here to see you present.
  40. Life is a visual medium; your presentation should be, too. Ditch the text and use images instead.
  41. Worst advice for slides? The 6/6 rule: 6 lines of text, 6 words per line. That’s about 30 words too many.
  42. Here’s what science says about why bullet points don’t work, via Ethos3.
  43. The key to simple, elegant slides is to focus on just ONE idea per slide, with one evocative image.
  44. Slide headings should have a Point of view. “Pollution Trends,” weak. “Pollution on the Rise,” better.
  45. When referencing slides on screen, don’t turn your back to the audience. Keep your feet pointed forward.
  46. Without the presenter, your slides should be meaningless, per Mitch Joel.
  47. Need a deck to stand on its own (for pre- or post-reading)? Create a separate one or a Word outline.
  48. Feeling brave? Ditch the slides entirely. Scott Berkun shows how it’s done.
  49. Audiences don’t want to hear a lecture — they want to be part of the story. Make it a conversation.
  50. Ways to involve your audience: dialogue, quizzes, polls, role playing, group and individual exercises.
  51. Worst way to start discussion: “Any questions?” Instead, ask THEM a question specific to your content.
  52. Stay tuned in to your audience. Are they restless, bored, puzzled? Be aware and adjust as necessary.
  53. Not getting through? Find a SAM (Spectacular Audience Member), per Michelle Mazur.
  54. Don’t be rattled by audience members buried in their screens. Assume they’re tweeting your wisdom.
  55. Doing a webinar? Work harder — faster, more energy, better visuals. My 10 tips.
  56. For webinars, take advantage of interactive tools like chat window, polls, etc. Check in periodically.
  57. Want to look good on webcam? Advice from a pro at Daily Candy on lighting, angle.
  58. There’s no “I” in team. Work on making your fellow presenters look good, and you’ll look good.
  59. Energy can make or break your presentation. My 6 steps for bringing it.
  60. Passion sells. A presentation is not the time for cool detachment. If you don’t care, why should we?
  61. True or false? “93% of all communication is nonverbal.” FALSE. Content matters more than jazz hands.
  62. Here’s Craig Hadden busting the 93% myth: Beware of Body Language BS.
  63. Stop worrying about what your arms are doing. Focus your mind and heart and your gestures will follow.
  64. Intention is the key. Focus on goals, not just your gestures, per Nick Morgan.
  65. Myth: you must always move on stage. Not always! There’s great power in owning your space.
  66. Sitting down while presenting? “Lean in.” For energy, get on the edge of your seat, elbows on the table.
  67. Slow down, you’re going too fast. It’s a natural response to adrenalin, but stay in control of your pace.
  68. TED Talker Simon Sinek on how to slow down your speech, via Kim Lachance Shandrow.
  69. Don’t fear the silence; there’s strength in it. Pause between sections to allow your points to land.
  70. Speak UP and speak out. Tips on better vocal projection from Lisa Braithwaite.
  71. Are you an eye contact cheater, staring at the back wall? Stop! Read this.
  72. Serving on a panel? Don’t just show up to answer questions. 7 ways to prepare.
  73. Abide by the rule of threes. Check out John Zimmer on the tricolon.
  74. A speech is meant to be delivered aloud, so you absolutely must practice it aloud. And on your feet!
  75. There is no such as over-rehearsal. The more you practice, the closer you get to the material.
  76. Do you feel you’re better when you wing it? I can assure you you’re not. Respect the audience.
  77. Don’t just memorize your stories and points; internalize, per Doug Stevenson.
  78. 48 hours before your presentation, lock down the content. Revising is not the same as improving.
  79. Arrive early to test out the tech setup. Audience doesn’t want to watch you mess with your dongle!
  80. Tech tip: reboot your laptop before the presentation — reduces risk of a crash/sluggish performance.
  81. Always have multiple redundant backups: I keep my slides on hard drive, stick drive AND the cloud.
  82. Time cut short? Don’t just speed up. Cut content (whole sections) instead of rushing through slides.
  83. Speaking off-the-cuff? Try improv classes. Or these 5 Tips from John Coleman.
  84. Got stage fright? Practice, practice, practice. The more you know the material the more poised you’ll be.
  85. Don’t forget to breathe! Before going on stage, take three deep breaths to center and calm yourself.
  86. What is stage fright and how do you overcome it? Great tips from Nick Morgan.
  87. Do NOT check your email right before a presentation. You don’t want bad news to shake you, your mood.
  88. If you mess up, keep calm and carry on. Don’t call attention to a mistake and your audience won’t notice.
  89. Did you skip a point? Don’t obsess! Most of the time your audience won’t even know the difference!
  90. For confidence on stage, take an improv class. Check with local comedy club, theater troupe or college.
  91. When it comes to ending a speech, most people don’t know where to begin. Finish strong. Plan it out!
  92. First and last things you say most important, according to serial position effect.
  93. Don’t end with Q&A. You risk veering off message. Advice from Michelle Mazur.
  94. Conclude your speech with a callback to an earlier story. Add a PS or twist. Brings it full circle.
  95. If people applaud your presentation, don’t just rush off. Pause, soak it in, acknowledge them.
  96. If they compliment you, don’t brush it off. Accept it! Say, “Thank you, I’m glad you found it helpful.”
  97. After the speech, do a post-mortem. What went wrong, what went well? Get feedback from a trusted source.
  98. Get video of your speech. Identify physical, verbal tics. Bored? Make cuts! Watch with the sound off.
  99. So your presentation bombed? Now What? 4 things you can do by Anett Grant.
  100. And to feel better, check out this nightmare story from Joe Queenan.

For more great advice on delivering a better presentation, check out my book, 11 Deadly Presentation Sins: A Path to Redemption for Public Speakers.

Leave a Reply