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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 side-to-side or forward-and-back, 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, going up at the ends of your sentences)

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

  • Eliminate barriers and make your space inviting

  • Weave in stories

  • Use strong, confident, inspiring language (avoid ums, like, basically, sort of/kind of, and instead use phrases such as “just think”, “imagine with me”)

  • Use transitions and sign posts (numbered points, first/second, 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 during a Q/A

  • Say “thank you”


3 Notes on Nonverbals

Three points to remember about non-verbals...

1. Communication is the transfer of meaning, not just words or information or data, and actions speak loudest. If your non-verbals send a message that differs from your words, your non-verbals are more believable.

2. 55-38-7. In the communication process, 55% of meaning is drawn from nonverbals, 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 presenter who wants to persuade his or her audience.

3. Nonverbals can vary. A few non-verbals have the same meaning in every culture--a smile, for example--but 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 have historically extended our hand to people we greet. This has been a sign of trust and vulnerability, a tradition that started in medieval times when one soldier was saying to another, “I am not armed. Your life is safe with me.” With the 2020 Pandemic, this cultural norm may change.

10 Delivery Tips


1. Bolster your personal confidence. The best three things you can do to build up your confidence are to dress, prepare, and act like a professional.


2. Make eye contact. You don’t have to lock eyes with every audience member, but find a few friendly faces and make eye contact with them as much as you can. Using notes are okay and using slides to prompt you appropriately --as a guide, not a crutch--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 but keep your body turned to your audience. Don't turn your back to them. 


4. Start strong. There is no need to memorize a presentation verbatim (with the exception of a spoken word poem). It could come across as “staged” or 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 an apology 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. Starting with an apology undermines your credibility.


5. Tell them what you’re going to tell them…tell them…then tell them what you told them. This was mentioned in "design" but it bears repeating. This organizational pattern is hard to beat.


6. Have one central message. A common mistake is for a presenter 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, then narrow it down to a single 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 24 hours, or a month, even a year from now.


7. Be passionate. Next to sincerity, an audience most loves passion. It's contagious. If you are sold on your message, they are more likely to buy in. Passion doesn't mean you 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.


8. Seek variation in your vocal tone and pitch. Some males with deep voices and females with high-pitched voices need to be especially cognizant of their 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 have a deep voice, it can be difficult for aging ears to pick up on certain words. Pitch and variation help.


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

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. Audiences prefer conversational speech styles. Conversational seems sincere. 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 him or her seem unsure and less credible.

10. Tell stories. Stories are engaging. We relate to stories. They are illustrations of the human experience. Stories are one of the best ways to tap into the heart of an audience. 


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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