If you want to be a great presenter, work on 3 things: resonancedesign and delivery.

It also helps to study great presentations, like TED Talks.

Before Checklist

  • Consider the time of day and agenda surrounding your presentation

  • Consider the size of your audience

  • What technology is available to you?

  • Visit your location ahead of time

  • Do a sound check

  • Go through your slides on the screen

  • See what the room set-up and lighting are like – influence it if you can

  • Decide where you ought to stand

  • Decide how to choreograph/reveal visual aids or STAR moment (Something They'll Always Remember)

  • Practice, practice, practice


During Checklist

  • Start & end strong – have an introduction and conclusion

  • Conjure your passion

  • Don’t make apologies

  • Make eye contact and hold it for a complete thought

  • Keep hands low, open and palms up – make purposeful gestures

  • Balance your feet – don’t rock or be a caged lion – move with purpose

  • Sit or stand up straight – have good posture

  • Project your voice – speak with energy – smile!

  • Vary your pitch (avoid upswing)

  • Use notes with key phrases, not a script (unless high stakes speech)

  • Eliminate barriers and make your space inviting

  • Weave in stories

  • Use strong, confident, inspiring language (no “ums”, like, basically, sort of, kind of, a little bit, obviously…but instead, “just think”, “imagine with me”)

  • Use transitions and sign posts (numbered points, next, if-then)


After Checklist

  • Be prepared for Q/A – consider likely questions ahead of time

  • Acknowledge problems, but focus on solutions

  • Be empathetic where appropriate

  • If you don’t know, say “I don’t know”

  • Don’t allow one audience member to dominate or ruffle your feathers

  • Say “thank you”


Non-verbals (55-38-7)


Communication is the transfer of meaning, not just words or information or data.

In the communication process, 55% of meaning is drawn from non-verbals, 38% is drawn from tone, and only 7% is drawn from the actual words. So mastering strong non-verbal communication is critically important for a speaker.

Some non-verbals translate in every culture. A smile, for example. Some don’t. Making strong eye contact is a sign of trust and confidence in the United States, but it’s a sign of disrespect in some cultures, like Madagascar, where it implies equal status.

In western cultures, we extend our hand to people we greet. This is a show of trust and vulnerability. This cultural tradition started in medieval times when one soldier was saying to another, “I am not armed. Your life is safe with me.”

10 Delivery Tips


1. Do everything you can to bolster your personal confidence.

The best thing you can do to bolster your confidence is to dress, prepare, and be a professional.


2. Make eye contact.

You don’t have to connect with every audience member, but find a few friendly faces and lock eyes with them as much as you can. Notes are okay. Using slides to prompt you is okay. But it is not okay to read verbatim from your notes or slides (only brief quotes or stats).


3. Keep your connection with your audience.


Remove all barriers you can control. Don’t stay rooted behind a lectern – step beside it or in front of it. Step over to your screen to point at something just don’t turn your back. Keep your body and face turned toward the audience.


4. Start strong.


I don’t recommend trying to memorize an entire presentation, even short ones. It can come across as “staged” and less sincere. Audiences today respond to authenticity above all other attributes in speakers. But it doesn’t hurt to know your opening statement well.


Avoid opening with gratitude, apologies, or matters of housekeeping if you can help it. If you’ll sell your audience on the value of your message first, then say “thank you” or make announcements, it’s more engaging. (Avoid apologies completely, as it affects your credibility.)


5. Tell them what you’re going to tell them…tell them…then tell them what you told them.


You’ve probably heard this. It’s the best organizational pattern for a presentation.


An oral presentation is linear. This means audience members can’t go back and review earlier information if they get confused, and they only know what you tell them in the order in which you tell it. So opening with a preview, sharing the message, then restating that message at the conclusion is reinforcing and easier to digest.


6. Have one central message.


The biggest mistake most presenters make is trying to say too much. When you try to say everything, your audience remembers nothing.

Preparation for an oral presentation is like a funnel. Do a lot of research and planning, but then narrow it all down to one central idea – something so simple it could be written on the back of a business card. This is the nugget you hope each audience member will still remember in a week…a month…a year.


Everything in your presentation should point back to this one simple message. Every audience member should so clearly hear the central message that he can recall it the next day. That’s your goal.


7. Be passionate.


Next to sincerity/authenticity, an audience most loves passion.


If you are sold on your message, it will be contagious. You don’t have to jump up and down. You don’t have to be contrary to your character if you’re a naturally subdued person, but don’t be half-hearted or monotone. That’s torture for your audience. Seek variation in your vocal tone and pitch.


A word about Tone & Pitch


Males with deep voices and females with high-pitched voices need to be especially cognizant of their vocal tone and pitch.


(See Julian Treasure's TED Talks listed below for good info on vocal tone and pitch.)


If you have a high voice and can train yourself to drop it a bit, particularly at the ends of your sentences, it will help you come across as more confident.

If you’re a male with a deep voice, this tends to be the hardest voice on aging ears. Pitch and variation help.


8. Stand up straight.


Good posture sends a message of confidence. Don’t be afraid to move your feet, just don’t rock back and forth on them. This is a common nervous habit for some speakers – to unconsciously rock front-to-back, or side-to-side on their feet.

9. Speak conversationally.

Gone are the days of oratory as art. Audiences today prefer conversational speech styles – conversational seems more sincere.

Seek to pace yourself. Avoid fast speech (a sign of nervousness), “um” and “ah” and other “fillers” (don’t be afraid of silence – silence can be a powerful tool for a speaker), and watch “upswing” – going up on the ends of your sentences as if you’re asking a question. If a speaker falls into a habit of upswing, it can make her seem unsure of herself, and therefore, less credible.

10. Tell stories.

Stories are engaging. We relate to stories, because they are illustrations of the human experience.

Stories are one of the best ways to tap the heart of an audience. If you want buy-in from an audience – an audience of one or one thousand – you must appeal to their hearts (emotions) and their heads (logic).


Examples of Great Deliveries


The happy secret to better work (Shawn Achor_12:17)

How to speak so that people want to listen (Julian Treasure_9:58)

5 ways to listen better (Julian Treasure_7:46)

The danger of silence (Clint Smith_4:18)

Sarah Kay: Poetess/Storyteller (Sarah Kay_12:23)

Additional presentation skills Content



TED Talk Links

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