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The 10 Best Presentation Tips for Professionals

Jamie Davidson October 10, 2016

Top Ten Tips for Presenting Professionally

Are you prepared to give a presentation or host a webinar? Presenting may not come naturally to everyone, but with practice and preparation, it does get easier. Whether you’re presenting in person or via an online meeting or video conference, keep these tips from presentation experts in mind as you’re getting ready. The more thoughtful preparation you do, the better your session will be.

Ten Expert Presentation Tips

1 The early bird really does get the worm

“Don’t fumble with PowerPoint or hooking up a projector when people are waiting for you to speak. Come early, scope out the room, run through your slideshow and make sure there won’t be any glitches. Preparation can do a lot to remove your speaking anxiety.” -Scott Young, Lifehacker

Seriously, this one is easy to get right and will help you stay in control of your presentation from start to finish. Give yourself enough time to set any equipment up, and test it several times before your presentation. Save a backup copy of any files on a flash drive and cloud server so you can access what you need no matter what.

2 Follow the 10/20/30 rule every time

“I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.” –Guy Kawasaki

Why? People are visual creatures, and fewer, better slides will make more of an impact than many slides cluttered with lots of text and information. You can always explain more verbally, but resist the impulse to overdo it with your slides.

3 Good things come in threes

“I strongly recommend using the ‘Rule of 3’ in all areas of communications: marketing, pitches, and presentations. [Three is] is the most persuasive number in communications.  It is well established that we can only hold a small amount of information in short term, or ‘active,’ memory.” -Carmine Gallo, Forbes

Try to plan your presentation around 3 key takeaways. What are the most important themes or ideas for your audience to take away from your presentation? More than 3 and they may start to lose track.

4 Engage your audience with physical proximity

“To encourage audience participation, use open gestures and if possible walk around and toward people. We tend to participate more when we have proximity to the speaker.” -SOAP Presentations, Business Insider

Be thoughtful about your body language and movement. Don’t over-choreograph your presentation, but think through how you will move through each part of the presentation. Are there some sections better suited to audience engagement than others? How can you project an open, conversational tone with your body language?

5 Guide your audience through the journey

“In real-world journeys, signposts guide you to your destination (“Smallville 10 Miles”) or tell you when you’ve arrived (“Welcome to Smallville!”).  In business presentations, signposts are slides that contain facts, graphics, or tables that either point to where you want your audience to go or tell it when it has arrived.” -Geoffrey James, Inc.

Make clear what your destination is throughout your presentation. Indicate what you want them to learn and know at the end of your talk, and how you will get them there. How many steps will it take? Which information is the most important? Let them know along the way.

6 Spell out clear takeaways

“Always provide something specific the audience can do almost immediately. No matter how inspiring your message, every audience appreciates learning a tangible way they can actually apply what they’ve learned to their own lives. Inspiration is great, but application is everything: Never be afraid to say, “Tonight, think of an employee who is really struggling–and then tomorrow, do (this) and (this) to try to rescue them.” -Jeff Haden, Inc.

Give clear steps to take right after the presentation. Even if you’ve discussed a major idea, there are small ways to make progress towards it that can be done right away. Make sure to spell those out so everyone can begin to feel accomplished and productive almost immediately.

7 Know your stuff

“Ernest Hemingway wrote that, ‘In order to write well, you must know 10 words about the subject for every word that you write.  Otherwise, the reader will know that this is not true writing.’ I personally feel that, in speaking, you must know 100 words for every word that you speak.  Otherwise, your audience will have the sense that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.” –Brian Tracy

It seems obvious, but don’t give a presentation until you’re confident you know the subject in and out. You don’t want to seem inauthentic, nervous, or unable to answer any questions if you’ve only read up on the exact content of your presentation but don’t have knowledge outside of your presentation script.

8 Make sure everything is in working order, and have a backup plan

“Keep in mind that during your webinar you need to be focused on delivering your content. Have an assistant who knows how to handle technical issues, if they occur, in real time.”- Christopher Pappas, eLearningIndustry

Whether you give a presentation live or virtually, can you find someone to help with technical issues that arise – who isn’t you? While it’s not always feasible, it’s important for the more high stakes presentations you give so you can have peace of mind that everything is working.

9 Practice and practice again and again

“Practice your presentation. At least once, at least alone in your room, but allow yourself to go over it so you get familiar with the words you want to say, and to see how long it takes you to cover all the slides. Doing it a couple of times goes a long way in improving your performance on the day you present for real.” -Caya, Slidebean

Practice helps you present your material more naturally – so it doesn’t sound like you’re going strictly off a script. With practice, you’ll be able to feel out which phrases sound right and which may be too stiff for your audience. You can play with tone, timing, and humor when you practice too. That way, when you’re up there, it won’t be the first time you’ve done this thing.

10 Use humor, smartly

“Use natural humor (not jokes). Humorous quotes work well, especially during your introductions. For example, one section of my presentation skills workshop has to deal with speaking anxiety, and I usually begin this section with the following quote: “Mark Twain said it best: ‘There are two types of speakers. Those that are nervous and those that are liars. Which one are you?'” This usually results in a chuckle or two from the participants in my workshop. — Lenny Laskowski, CEO, LJ Seminars

Bring humor into your presentation when you can. Use a light, welcoming tone where appropriate — but don’t slap on the awkward Dad jokes. Find a balance in order to appeal to the wide range of people in the audience.

Have you tried any of these tips? Let us know your best practices on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn

With practice and perseverance, presentations can be an effective way to reach your audience emotionally and build your business in a personal way.