How to Give Great Presentations (Part One)

Last Updated Mar 18, 2008 3:33 PM EDT

I've heard a ton of people give advice about presentations, and most of it, in my humble opinion, is bad advice.

Tips such as "gesture with your hands" are not bad tips, per se, but they aren't geared to the needs of people who actually have to learn to give better presentations. If you're at the level of learning how to use your hands better, you're an advanced presenter. And most of the people I see are so far from advanced it's not funny. They need fundamental recommendations for giving great presentations.

That's why I developed my list of the Top 10 Tips for Giving Great Presentations. These are designed to be fail-safe tips that, if followed, will surely improve the quality of any presentation.

Here are the first five (second half tomorrow):

  1. Familiarize yourself with the venue: Check out the room: the configuration, speaker location, microphones, seating. This will increase your comfort level and decrease uncertainty while speaking
  2. Know your audience:Who's in the audience? What is their knowledge level of your subject? Will there be competitors in the room?
  3. Know the context:When will you speak? How long? Who else is speaking? How will Q&A be handled?
  4. Establish rapport: You don't have to start with a joke, but it's helpful to have a brief icebreaker at the beginning to show your humanity. Example: "I'm really glad to be speaking to you today and I'm honored to be on the same panel as the distinguished Dr. Smith."
  5. Look at individuals in the audience: Don't stare into space, don't watch your own slides, or look down at your shoes. Look into the faces of the people listening, one at a time. Speak to one, then casually turn your attention to another.
And here's the uber-message: it's all about the content and the storytelling. If your story makes sense because it has a beginning, middle and end, if you organize your speech to take the audience from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time, then everything else will fall into place. If your presentation is an organizational mess, no amount of coaching or tips will save it.
  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.