7 ways to improve your next presentation

Did your last presentation leave your audience quiet, passive, in a state akin to suspended animation? Go back to these seven basics, says this experienced business presenter.


In business, presentations are everything. If you cannot sell, the most thorough research, the most innovative idea or the most rigorous analytics amount to nothing.

Steve Jobs was famous for innovations in technology. But his software development skills were inferior to those of most software engineers. What made Jobs great? He was an amazing presenter. Jobs could sell you a time-share disguised as a pyramid scheme.

While you may never reach Jobs’ level, certain things you can do will dramatically improve your next presentation. Here are my top 7 tips:

1. Mimic a presenter you like

There is no one-size-fits-all presentation. For example, Malcom X, Barrack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose styles vary greatly, are all regarded as good presenters.

Find a model and learn from her or him. Take note of the way she varies her tone, emphasizes key words and controls her audience. Study the content of her speech and how it fits her audience.

You want to find an exemplar who has a style you find comfortable. If you like to stand still, mimic Martin Luther King, Jr. If you like using your hands, imitate Obama.

2. Tell a story

Our brains are hardwired to respond to stories. When we hear a narrative, whether from a movie or a friend, we immediately engage.

You must take advantage of this fact: Transform your boring bullet points into a chain of events. Turn your lifeless list of bullets into the story of the downfall of a giant corporation or the triumph of a hard-working student’s entrepreneurial vision. Be creative!

3. Relate to your audience

One of the biggest mistakes presenters make is not taking their audiences into account. You might be unveiling the meaning of life, but it will be useless unless your audience listens.

For example, if you talk to high school students, a joke about your mortgage does nothing for your speech. Find something they relate to, like student life, homework, or Justin Bieber.

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4. Props

Props are underutilized in presentations. When you use a prop correctly, it sparks audience interest and leaves a lasting impression. The fact that props are underused means that your prop will make your speech stand out. Look at how this speaker used a rose as a motif.

5. Slides

Often business presenters incorporate PowerPoint slides into their talks. Unfortunately, most don’t know how to use PowerPoint; they choose horrible colors, inflict massive text blocks on their viewers and create ugly, distracting animation.

Using PowerPoint is an art. Your text should be minimal, your colors should calm and your titles should accurately structure your presentation.

Have a look at: http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/design/ to see what I mean.

6. Humor

Humor engages your audience. It’s a useful tool. Humour doesn’t have to be a joke. It can be an anecdote set to hilarious pictures and videos.

7. Practice, practice, practice!

You’ve heard my last point a thousand times. Here it is again—for a reason: You can’t get better without practice. Practice presenting in front of a mirror, for friends and family or by recording yourself. Each time try something new. Experiment. Practice will make you a master speaker in no time!

Monique Goodyer works as a marketing specialist at Monaco Compensation Lawyers, one of Australia’s compensation law firms. She’s interested in all things online and the latest trends in social marketing.

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