Ten tips to giving a dazzling presentation

Tony Featherstone

Have you been wowed by a TED presentation where a speaker effortlessly tells a captivating, inspiring story? And then been bored by a dull presentation from your boss, colleague or some lame speaker at an industry event?

You wish more people gave TED-like presentations and that you could do the same.

Well, the principles behind TED talks, useful as they are, don’t suit every speaker or presentation. Each talk must be tailored to an audience. You wouldn’t give an against-all-odds TED sermon if your clients wanted a sales presentation.

Here are ten tips for a killer presentation.

Know thy audience

Don’t get star-struck by the presentation. It’s about the audience, not you. Great speakers think deeply about their audience’s needs, questions and objections – and adapt the presentation’s tone. They have a clear goal. Bad speakers give the same presentation over and over.

Be generous

When framing the presentation, consider how you help, inform or inspire your audience. Be selfless. Give them something useful in return for their 20 minutes to watch your presentation. A truly selfless approach to presenting is rare – and something your audience will notice.

Don’t fall up the stairs

Know the venue back to front. Too many talks are not tailored to the venue; a speaker uses slides with too much detail in large room; or a softly spoken speaker doesn’t have a microphone, or can’t use the technology. The little glitches kill the talk.

Don't get star-struck by the presentation. It's about the audience, not you.

No notes, please

Presenting from notes kills presentations. It distracts the audience. It says you don’t know the idea and lack confidence. True entrepreneurs can talk about their idea for days.

With slides, think like an artist

Too many speakers use slides like a script. Think and communicate visually and use slides to reinforce key points – lots of white space, striking images, an eye-catching chart here or there, and minimal text. Your audience will love you for it.

Too much sizzle, not enough sausage

The right balance between words and numbers – or the narrative and the detail – depends on the audience. Generally, when presenting to a large audience, focus more on the narrative through storytelling, and weave in select, powerful facts to provide evidence.

Great presenters speak from the heart, putting themselves in the story using anecdotes.

Make it personal

Great presenters speak from the heart, putting themselves in the story using anecdotes. They use simple storytelling devices: the problem, solution, how I did it, and what’s next. People relate to people. They learn by stories. It’s in our DNA.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse … then rehearse again

Go through the presentation until you can give it almost word-perfect without notes. At least one rehearsal should be in front of someone. Time it. There’s nothing worse than a talk that is too long or too short. Ensure the delivery is not too rushed. Visualise yourself on stage from start to finish.

Stage presence

Some simple rules: stand up straight; don’t touch yourself; make strong eye-contact; speak with a “smile” (the audience responds to upbeat people), and never put hands in pockets. Invest in a good suit, ensure it’s dry-cleaned, polish those shoes, and get your hair cut. You’ll feel more confident. Don’t try to be something you’re not: if joke-telling is not your thing, don’t do it. It always backfires.

Seek feedback

Too few presenters seek feedback from the audience or event organiser. What worked or did not? Where can you improve? What can you take from that presentation into your next one? Most of all, keep evolving your presentation and delivery style. Aim to make each one better than the last, and learn to harness – and love – that nervous energy.

Tony Featherstone

Tony Featherstone is a former managing editor of BRW and Shares magazines.

Image: Ben GreyFlickr Creative Commons license