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8 Tips to a Better Presentation

8 Tips to a Better Presentation

Yesterday and today I am attending the WebDU conference here in Sydney and I’ve been seeing presentations by some very good speakers and a few not so good speakers. Today is my turn when this afternoon I am presenting a talk about online communities. I like to think of myself as a pretty good presenter, though I still get some pretty bad nerves before getting up! It is a mystery to me why public speaking should ignite such fear in people (myself included). There really is no rational explanation for it…

In any case here are some of my tips on how to give a good presentation:

  1. Be Rehearsed and Prepared …
    Ironically the more you rehearse the more natural you will wind up sounding. I once read that to give a really great talk you should have run through it 25 times. This seems a little excessive to me, but certainly a good half-dozen dry runs – preferably in front of other people – will ensure you sound good.
  2. Get Feedback on your Technique
    When you’re rehearsing its hard to think about how you are coming across as well as your material, so having someone listen and then give you feedback is priceless. Everything from your speed to your pausing to how effective different parts of your talk are
  3. Tell Short and to-the-point Anecdotes
    There’s just something undeniably interesting about anecdotes and personal stories. Even if you are sitting in the most boring talk of all time, the moment the speaker starts telling you a story you’ll tune in. Of course don’t be a Grandpa Simpson and run off into a hard to follow story about the price of potatoes and the personal life of the potato seller who was actually the sister of your cousin who owned a dog that had nice fur which wound up in a coat you once wore to a …
  4. Let Your Enthusiasm Out
    I’m not sure how many of you know who the late Steve Irwin – “the Croc Hunter” was, but for those of you who didn’t get to see him, he used to present documentaries about animals. Now the thing about Steve was that no matter what you thought of him or his animals you couldn’t help getting a bit excited and a bit awed by just how excited he was. While you don’t need to reenact Steve’s antics in a talk, it helps to let your passion out. If you’re excited about what you’re presenting, your audience will be too.
  5. If You Have Slides, Make Them Good
    Having short, to the point, consistent slides is a great start. But you should also look at adding images, title pages and breaking up the monotony – a word to the wise though, don’t start animating like crazy. Ivan recently sent me a link to a great blog about the art of presentation, read it!
  6. Have a Beginning, Middle and End
    Sounds obvious right? You’d be surprised how often presentations just kind of go on and as the listener you have no idea where you are. Start your talk with a brief summary of how the talk is going to go, this orients your listener and gives them an idea of where you are up to and where you are going…
  7. Watch your Language
    I don’t mean don’t swear – though I suppose you probably shouldn’t do that either – rather I mean watch you don’t shoot yourself in the foot by saying things like “I Guess” and “Does that make any sense?”. Ben from wrote a really amusing post on this subject, read it!
  8. Don’t Read your Presentation
    Unless you are the President or you are giving a talk on a very delicate subject where wording is critical, you should not be reading off a piece of paper. Have notes, by all means, but they should be brief statements or keywords that remind you the general gist of what you need to say. This will help your tone be conversational which is a heck of a lot more listenable than reading.

I’m sure you can think of some more tips, I will be doing my best to follow all of these today! In any case you can expect to get a long article next week on the subject of my talk!

Wish me luck!

Liam Cavanagh

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