All Eyes to the Front

All Eyes to the Front

Tips for Giving a Great Presentation

Presentations are something that we’re all familiar with. Whether you are watching a presentation or giving a presentation, chances are you know what works and what doesn’t. However, in case you don’t know the good from the bad, we would like to offer some tips to help ensure you are giving a good presentation.


1. Look at the audience.

If you ever wondered where you should be looking when presenting, the answer is: right in front of you. Don’t just single out one person, but instead try to make eye contact with numerous people throughout the room. Use the 3-second method (i.e. look straight into the eyes of a person in the audience for 3 seconds at a time, then move on to another). This is only a guideline and does not have to be precise. Don’t count in your head, just do what you feel comes naturally.Try to make eye contact with each person, not in any particular order, so they know you are focused on them and their needs. Looking around the room at your audience members will make them feel as if you are focused on them as much as they are focused on you. This communicates to them that you are there reaching out to them personally. If you don’t do this then you aren’t engaging the audience, you are just talking to yourself. This can result in an utter lack of attention from your audience.

2. Show your personality.

It doesn’t matter if you are presenting to a corporate crowd or to senior citizens, you need to show some character when presenting. Nobody wants to hear a dull presentation. Try to have a little fun because if you do, your audience will too. If you make an error, have fun with it and let it blow over, then continue with your presentation. Even the world’s biggest presenters goof up from time to time.

3. Make them laugh.

Similarly, although you want to educate your audience, you need to make them laugh as well. In essence, it keeps the audience alert and they’ll learn more from a humorous narrative than from some dry, educational, droning lecture.

4. Talk to your audience, not at them.

People hate it when they get talked at, so don’t do it. You need to interact with your audience and create a conversation. An easy way to do this is to ask your audience questions as well as letting them ask questions of you.

5. Give them a task.

Start the presentation by giving people something to do during or at the conclusion of the presentation. By giving people a task—something to listen for or a challenge to think about—you increase their interest and lengthen their attention span.

6. Be honest.

A lot of people present to the audience what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear. Make sure you tell the truth even if they don’t want to hear it because they will respect you for that and it will make you more human.

7. Prepare, but don’t over prepare.

The use of audio-visual aids or props for enhancement is great if appropriate and necessary. Master the use of your presentation software (i.e. PowerPoint) well before your presentation. Know how to go backwards or to a specific slide if necessary, then how to restart where you left off rather than from the beginning. Remember – These audio-visual tools are just that…tools, not the presentation in its entirety. The presenter is the presentation. If you rehearse your presentation too much it will sound like it (in a bad way). Granted, you need to be prepared enough to know what you are going to talk about but make sure your presentation flows naturally instead of sounding memorized. Usually if you ask experienced speakers what you shouldn’t do, they’ll tell you not to rehearse your presentation too much because it won’t sound natural.

8. Show some movement.

You probably know that you need to show some movement when speaking, but naturally you may forget to do so. Make sure you show some gestures or pace around a bit (not too much) on the stage when speaking. Remember, no one likes watching a stiff. People are more engaged with an animated speaker.

9. Watch what you say.

You usually don’t notice when you say “uhm”, “ah”, or any other useless word frequently, but the audience may. If you know your material well this shouldn’t be a problem.

10. Differentiate yourself.

If you don’t do something unique compared to all the other presenters the audience has heard, they won’t remember you. You are branding yourself when you speak, so make sure you do something unique and memorable.

11. Make a little game.

After the presentation, quiz the audience to see how much information they retained during your presentation. (Idea: make company paper money and give a company dollar to each correct answer. The audience member with the most company dollars receives a gift. Or toss out a candy bar or company logo gift to those who provide the correct answer.)

12. Incorporate a “quiz” into your presentation.

Hesitate before key words in your sentences and encourage the group to fill in the missing word or phrase. This keeps them on their toes and makes them pay more careful attention.

13. Provide handouts.

Have your handouts ready and give them out at the appropriate times. Tell your audience ahead of time if you will be giving out an outline of your presentation so that they will not waste time taking unnecessary notes during your presentation. Have plenty of business cards on hand, as well as brochures describing your company. Make sure everyone has your telephone numbers, and key individual’s names. Have some giveaways available with your company logo (e.g. key chains, magnets, calendars, etc.)

14. Close with Q and A.

End your presentation with a Question and Answer period. Have a sign-in sheet available for your audience. Make sure you capture their names, telephone numbers, email addresses, and the company they represent.

15. Follow-up afterward.

Send everyone who attended a thank you note and make sure they get on your mailing list. Stay in touch with them regularly. Don’t be shy… Ask for referral business if that’s what you’re looking for.

Being an expert presenter doesn’t happen overnight and most people are not born with this ability. If you are nervous…that’s okay, everybody goes through the exact same anxieties. However, if you allow yourself to be too nervous, you may try to rush through in order to hurry up and get out of this uncomfortable situation. This can cause you to end up talking too fast, too quietly or even slurring words. Remember to breathe and try to relax. Know that if you feel nervous or uncomfortable, you are not alone. Be easy on yourself and do not critique yourself harshly. With each presentation you give, you will continue to grow and develop.