Best Practices for Presenting Like a Pro

By Jamie Davidson · April 1, 2019

Are you primed and ready to give your best presentation possible? At first, public speaking and presenting your work online may seem daunting. How do the pros make it look so easy? Giving a great live presentation doesn’t come naturally to many of us, but it does get easier with some preparation and practice. Whether you’re presenting in person, on a conference call, or using a screen share tool, keep these top ten presenting tips in mind, and soon you’ll be the one handing out the expert advice.

The early bird gets the Powerpoint to work

“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

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 up and test equipment before your presentation. This is when using reliable, high-quality online meeting technology truly makes a difference.

Follow the 10/20/30 rule

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

People are visual creatures, and fewer, better slides will make more of an impact than many slides cluttered with too much text. You can always provide more explanation verbally, but resist the impulse to overdo it with your slides.

Good things come in 3s

“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

Plan your presentation around 3 key takeaways. What are the most important themes or ideas for your audience to leave your presentation knowing? More than 3 and they may start to lose track.

Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it

“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 a 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 talk. Are there some sections better suited to audience engagement than others? Where can you project an open, conversational tone with your body language?

Take your audience on a 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 your audience to learn along the way and should what they know by the end of your talk. And let them know how you will get there together – i.e., how many steps will it take? Which information is the most important? And when you’ve reached the “Aha” moment.

Inspire your audience with actionable ideas

“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.

Provide your audience with clear steps that can be taken after listening to your presentation. Even if you’ve discussed a major idea or broad concepts, there are small ways to help suggest how your audience can relate in their own lives. Make sure to identify any of these steps so that your audience can feel engaged and accomplished.

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 inside and out. You are the expert providing your knowledge and factual information to an audience that intends to learn from you. You don’t want to appear inauthentic or be unable to answer questions.

Use an assist

“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 find someone who can help with technical issues that may that arise or moderate a live Q & A session while you engage with the audience.

No one just wings it

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.” –  Slidebean

Once you’re confident in the content, practice helps you present your material more naturally. 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 too. And take advantage of a friend to provide constructive criticism before the live event.

Can the dad jokes

“Jokes and stories should offer some kind of insight or add value to your point. Going off on a long tangent of a joke or story that doesn’t relate could be perceived as a waste of your audience’s time; after all, they have come to learn from your expertise and your insights.” – Speakerhub

Bring humor into your presentation when you can, but keep it light, keep it clean, and keep it relevant. Stay away from politics or anything divisive. Find a balance in order to appeal to the wide range of people in the audience.

Which of these tips do you find most useful in your presentations? With practice and perseverance, presentations can be an effective way to reach your audience emotionally and build your business in a personal way.


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