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12 Steps to Better Presentations

Only once my chin hit my chest did I realize I had fallen asleep. As I stiffened up I glanced around the room sure that someone had seen me dose off during the presentation. Instead of condescending looks from my fellow audience members I noticed something even more embarrassing. There were half a dozen other people with their eyes half closed or their heads sagging heavily. I felt embarrassed not for myself but for the guy up on stage. He was mumbling on about how his technology company has successfully merged with one of the giants of the industry. In theory his talk should have been riveting. After all we were all there by choice and the subject of successful mergers is a rare event to behold. So why was the audience merging with their dreams instead of with the exciting topic being presented?

Presenting is a daunting task for most of us. I am considered confident by my friends and colleagues but still I break out in a sweat of the mere thought of standing in front of a room of people.

  1. Never Start on the Wrong Foot
    As much as you feel like wanting to apologize for the bad screen quality or the lousy coffee, don't apologize. It's gives the audience the impression you are nervous, which you are, but there is no sense making it worse.

  2. Start with an Agenda
    Always let your audience know what you are going to talk to them about. The best way to set out the presentation agenda is to first suggest the problem and how it is relevant to the situation. Once you have done this you can then talk about the solution.

  3. Find the Middle Road
    PowerPoint presentations have given people an excuse to write down and present every little detail of their topic. Keep things simple by avoiding too many points on each page. Better yet, don't use PowerPoint at all if possible. Try using clever props that will get people to interact with you. As important as it is to keep things simple don't be tempted to simplify the content too much. A condescending presentation will turn the audience against you making it very hard to get their participation in the future. Respect their intelligence and their time.

  4. Leave your Mark
    I can't tell you how many presentations I have been to where all I got was a coffee and an opinion. If you want people to remember you and the things you said then you need to leave them with something. You need to leave a mark. This might be a copy of the presentation, a handbook or something fun that they might place on their office desk.

  5. Be on Time
    Edward Tufte, the visual information and design guru, says of being early, "Make sure you get there really early. I guarantee something good will happen." Being early also gives you time to check your technical support and arrange any last minute changes before your guests arrive.

  6. Leave the Ego at Home
    Presentations are about presentations not presenters. Be sure not to let your opinion get in the way of the content. Increasing the value of the presentation is directly related to the increase in the value of the content. People don't attend presentations to learn more about the presenter.

  7. Be Punctual
    Joan King, the Chairperson of Women in Neuroscience, and ubiquitous speaker likes to finish her presentations early. In fact she is so well prepared that she often tells her audience exactly how long the presentation will last and always delivers.

  8. Don't be too Funny
    Jokes can be good if well timed but beware the humor. A bad joke can set you back.

  9. Prepare
    Practice, practice, practice. Preparation is the best work you can do on your presentation. If you prepare well you will feel more confident and it will show in your voice and stance. The more confident you are the more likely your audience will enjoy watching the presentation.

  10. Get Feedback
    Hand out surveys or questionnaires before or during the session. Remind the audience that their opinion is valued and that you will be collecting all the surveys after the presentation. I have seen presenters who ask the audience to give them feedback in a special time alloted at the end of the presentation.

  11. Content is King
    The best presentation has the best content. If your content is good the presentation will not only be for the time your audience is with you but for every time they refer back to your handouts or read their notes.

  12. Believe in What You Say
    If you cannot stand behind your work, data or the premise of your presentation then don't go ahead with it. Your audience will see through your lack of faith and start to question the material. Understand what it is you are speaking about and learn to love it.

--Richard Banfield
Richard Banfield's passion for new ideas and business has resulted in a career of entrepreneurship. He has been involved in developing several businesses and has learned from both success and failure. Richard has also lectured students in online marketing and delivered seminars on marketing and business development strategies. His latest career is as a personal and professional coach. Richard's goal as a coach is to help his clients say more often, "Ah! I feel great. Everything is going just perfectly". You can contact Richard at