Though part and parcel of everyday life for students and managers at all levels, few are those undaunted by the prospect of giving presentations.

To put paid to the angst, try applying the following tips …

The stage
‘be prepared’ is the motto managers borrow for their presentations – how many times have you attended a presentation only to find there are not enough copies of the handouts, the overhead projector starts to play up, and some of the slides come out upside down?

Take a tip from any events manager or location manager – do a recce – check out the venue
So before you even begin to think of making the presentation, some ‘just-in-case’ checks:

  • layout and seating arrangements – can the screen, podium be seen by all?
  • dimensions – are the slides legible from the back of the room?
  • sound – assuming the microphones are working, can you be heard from the back?
  • facilities – of course they’ll have a data projector and screen and flip charts for breakout sessions said the manager guilty of oversight
  • lighting – will you be controlling the lights yourself, and if so, do you know where the switch is (to avoid an embarrassed fumble in the dark with all eyes on you on the actual day)

The speech /presentation – think about the audience need


  • step into their shoes: research your audience and what in particular they want to know about your topic; know what to leave out; you may be a fanatic about nuclear fusion, but they may just want to know how it affects them, or the bare essentials of how it works, so don’t assume they are or want to be as knowledgeable as you
  • address the absent-minded: some estimates attribute adults with a mere 12.5 second ‘one thought’ attention span before the brain heads off onto another thought; the average overall ‘one sitting’ attention span is an estimated 45mins tops
  • write ‘Russian dolls’: split your speech into mini-speeches, each containing a key point – this accepts the principle that the audience will wander off and back, and allows them to re-join you at any point

the essentials:

  • first impressions: are made in the first 90 seconds – so use your opening remark and/or slide to grab their attention
  • ‘pitch’: condense the whole presentation into a short, themed ‘pitch’ to the audience which encapsulates the angle you are going to take (use aNABC – if you do not know it just ask us)
  • rapport: make eye contact, look up, do not bury your head in notes; and do not kick off controversially – you have to win credibility with an audience before they will believe your views
  • emotional appeal: speeches that are remembered appeal more on an emotional rather than logical level; so do not just give them the facts, aim to stir up some feeling about the facts
  • reinforcement: one common approach to make sure your message is received loud and clear, is to:


  1. tell them what you are going to say
  2. tell them
  3. then tell them what you told them alternatively, if you prefer a freer structure, and especially if speaking on a complex issue, summarise the key points at the end

The slideshow
If you are using slides think of you presentation as a story board – for each slide the title is the topic, the sub-title the summary, so your audience could just read the title and the sub-title and know what you are going to talk about. The body text of the slide adds the detail, the graphic or the quiz, poll, challenge to your audience.

Too plain, and they are duller than reciting your ten times tables. Too decorative and the risk is more song and dance than a Broadway show. How much to show?

The text

  • distil each idea into one short phrase – the fewer the words on each slide, the greater the impact
  • use lower case – capitals are less restful on the eye
  • try reversing out the letters on a coloured background – too few words on a slide can create a stark and cold impression
  • use words which will provoke instant recognition in the audience; avoid lists of abstract nouns e.g. ‘intelligence’, ‘idealism’ – presented out of context and in isolation on the page, they can appear vague and raise more questions than they answer


  • colours – do not use more than 4 to avoid garishness; red/orange brings lettering or graphics forward; blue makes them appear to recede; yellow can be hard to read if set against white
  • charts – use line graphs if you want to show trends over time; bar/pie charts for comparisons
  • ‘clipart’ – use sparingly, as an ‘instead of’ rather than an ‘as well as’ for text or charts – the clipart should capture the essence of the point you are trying to put across


  • the slide should not simply repeat what you are going to say (a verbal aid) but support it (a visual aid)
  • remove the visual once you have finished with it – never leave it hanging while you have wandered onto another point
  • make sure your last visual looks like a last visual and not just one more of many

Now all you have to do is stand and deliver …