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How to Give a Killer Presentation
- Chris Anderson
For more than 30 years, the TED conference series has presented enlightening talks that people enjoy watching. In this article, Anderson, TED’s curator, shares five keys to great presentations:
- Frame your story (figure out where to start and where to end).
- Plan your delivery (decide whether to memorize your speech word for word or develop bullet points and then rehearse it—over and over).
- Work on stage presence (but remember that your story matters more than how you stand or whether you’re visibly nervous).
- Plan the multimedia (whatever you do, don’t read from PowerPoint slides).
- Put it together (play to your strengths and be authentic).
According to Anderson, presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance—not style. In fact, it’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. So if your thinking is not there yet, he advises, decline that invitation to speak. Instead, keep working until you have an idea that’s worth sharing.
Lessons from TED
A little more than a year ago, on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, some colleagues and I met a 12-year-old Masai boy named Richard Turere, who told us a fascinating story. His family raises livestock on the edge of a vast national park, and one of the biggest challenges is protecting the animals from lions—especially at night. Richard had noticed that placing lamps in a field didn’t deter lion attacks, but when he walked the field with a torch, the lions stayed away. From a young age, he’d been interested in electronics, teaching himself by, for example, taking apart his parents’ radio. He used that experience to devise a system of lights that would turn on and off in sequence—using solar panels, a car battery, and a motorcycle indicator box—and thereby create a sense of movement that he hoped would scare off the lions. He installed the lights, and the lions stopped attacking. Soon villages elsewhere in Kenya began installing Richard’s “lion lights.”
The story was inspiring and worthy of the broader audience that our TED conference could offer, but on the surface, Richard seemed an unlikely candidate to give a TED Talk. He was painfully shy. His English was halting. When he tried to describe his invention, the sentences tumbled out incoherently. And frankly, it was hard to imagine a preteenager standing on a stage in front of 1,400 people accustomed to hearing from polished speakers such as Bill Gates, Sir Ken Robinson, and Jill Bolte Taylor.
But Richard’s story was so compelling that we invited him to speak. In the months before the 2013 conference, we worked with him to frame his story—to find the right place to begin and to develop a succinct and logical arc of events. On the back of his invention Richard had won a scholarship to one of Kenya’s best schools, and there he had the chance to practice the talk several times in front of a live audience. It was critical that he build his confidence to the point where his personality could shine through. When he finally gave his talk at TED , in Long Beach, you could tell he was nervous, but that only made him more engaging— people were hanging on his every word . The confidence was there, and every time Richard smiled, the audience melted. When he finished, the response was instantaneous: a sustained standing ovation.
Since the first TED conference, 30 years ago, speakers have run the gamut from political figures, musicians, and TV personalities who are completely at ease before a crowd to lesser-known academics, scientists, and writers—some of whom feel deeply uncomfortable giving presentations. Over the years, we’ve sought to develop a process for helping inexperienced presenters to frame, practice, and deliver talks that people enjoy watching. It typically begins six to nine months before the event, and involves cycles of devising (and revising) a script, repeated rehearsals, and plenty of fine-tuning. We’re continually tweaking our approach—because the art of public speaking is evolving in real time—but judging by public response, our basic regimen works well: Since we began putting TED Talks online, in 2006, they’ve been viewed more than one billion times.
On the basis of this experience, I’m convinced that giving a good talk is highly coachable. In a matter of hours, a speaker’s content and delivery can be transformed from muddled to mesmerizing. And while my team’s experience has focused on TED’s 18-minutes-or-shorter format, the lessons we’ve learned are surely useful to other presenters—whether it’s a CEO doing an IPO road show, a brand manager unveiling a new product, or a start-up pitching to VCs.
Frame Your Story
There’s no way you can give a good talk unless you have something worth talking about . Conceptualizing and framing what you want to say is the most vital part of preparation.
Find the Perfect Mix of Data and Narrative
by Nancy Duarte
Most presentations lie somewhere on the continuum between a report and a story. A report is data-rich, exhaustive, and informative—but not very engaging. Stories help a speaker connect with an audience, but listeners often want facts and information, too. Great presenters layer story and information like a cake and understand that different types of talks require differing ingredients.
From Report . . .
(literal, informational, factual, exhaustive).
Research findings. If your goal is to communicate information from a written report, send the full document to the audience in advance, and limit the presentation to key takeaways. Don’t do a long slide show that repeats all your findings. Anyone who’s really interested can read the report; everyone else will appreciate brevity.
Financial presentation. Financial audiences love data, and they’ll want the details. Satisfy their analytical appetite with facts, but add a thread of narrative to appeal to their emotional side. Then present the key takeaways visually, to help them find meaning in the numbers.
Product launch. Instead of covering only specs and features, focus on the value your product brings to the world. Tell stories that show how real people will use it and why it will change their lives.
VC pitch. For 30 minutes with a VC, prepare a crisp, well-structured story arc that conveys your idea compellingly in 10 minutes or less; then let Q&A drive the rest of the meeting. Anticipate questions and rehearse clear and concise answers.
Keynote address. Formal talks at big events are high-stakes, high-impact opportunities to take your listeners on a transformative journey. Use a clear story framework and aim to engage them emotionally.
. . . to Story
(dramatic, experiential, evocative, persuasive).
Nancy Duarte is the author of HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations , Slide:ology , and Resonate . She is the CEO of Duarte, Inc., which designs presentations and teaches presentation development.
We all know that humans are wired to listen to stories, and metaphors abound for the narrative structures that work best to engage people. When I think about compelling presentations, I think about taking an audience on a journey. A successful talk is a little miracle—people see the world differently afterward.
If you frame the talk as a journey, the biggest decisions are figuring out where to start and where to end. To find the right place to start, consider what people in the audience already know about your subject—and how much they care about it. If you assume they have more knowledge or interest than they do, or if you start using jargon or get too technical, you’ll lose them. The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic, explaining why they care so deeply about it, and convincing the audience members that they should, too.
The biggest problem I see in first drafts of presentations is that they try to cover too much ground. You can’t summarize an entire career in a single talk. If you try to cram in everything you know, you won’t have time to include key details, and your talk will disappear into abstract language that may make sense if your listeners are familiar with the subject matter but will be completely opaque if they’re new to it. You need specific examples to flesh out your ideas. So limit the scope of your talk to that which can be explained, and brought to life with examples, in the available time. Much of the early feedback we give aims to correct the impulse to sweep too broadly. Instead, go deeper. Give more detail. Don’t tell us about your entire field of study—tell us about your unique contribution.
A successful talk is a little miracle—people see the world differently afterward.
Of course, it can be just as damaging to overexplain or painstakingly draw out the implications of a talk. And there the remedy is different: Remember that the people in the audience are intelligent. Let them figure some things out for themselves. Let them draw their own conclusions.
Many of the best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story. The speaker starts out by presenting a problem and then describes the search for a solution. There’s an “aha” moment, and the audience’s perspective shifts in a meaningful way.
If a talk fails, it’s almost always because the speaker didn’t frame it correctly, misjudged the audience’s level of interest, or neglected to tell a story. Even if the topic is important, random pontification without narrative is always deeply unsatisfying. There’s no progression, and you don’t feel that you’re learning.
I was at an energy conference recently where two people—a city mayor and a former governor—gave back-to-back talks. The mayor’s talk was essentially a list of impressive projects his city had undertaken. It came off as boasting, like a report card or an advertisement for his reelection. It quickly got boring. When the governor spoke, she didn’t list achievements; instead, she shared an idea. Yes, she recounted anecdotes from her time in office, but the idea was central—and the stories explanatory or illustrative (and also funny). It was so much more interesting. The mayor’s underlying point seemed to be how great he was, while the governor’s message was “Here’s a compelling idea that would benefit us all.”
Storytelling That Moves People
As a general rule, people are not very interested in talks about organizations or institutions (unless they’re members of them). Ideas and stories fascinate us; organizations bore us—they’re much harder to relate to. (Businesspeople especially take note: Don’t boast about your company; rather, tell us about the problem you’re solving.)
Plan Your Delivery
Once you’ve got the framing down, it’s time to focus on your delivery . There are three main ways to deliver a talk. You can read it directly off a script or a teleprompter. You can develop a set of bullet points that map out what you’re going to say in each section rather than scripting the whole thing word for word. Or you can memorize your talk, which entails rehearsing it to the point where you internalize every word—verbatim.
My advice: Don’t read it, and don’t use a teleprompter. It’s usually just too distancing—people will know you’re reading. And as soon as they sense it, the way they receive your talk will shift. Suddenly your intimate connection evaporates, and everything feels a lot more formal. We generally outlaw reading approaches of any kind at TED, though we made an exception a few years ago for a man who insisted on using a monitor. We set up a screen at the back of the auditorium, in the hope that the audience wouldn’t notice it. At first he spoke naturally. But soon he stiffened up, and you could see this horrible sinking feeling pass through the audience as people realized, “Oh, no, he’s reading to us!” The words were great, but the talk got poor ratings.
Many of our best and most popular TED Talks have been memorized word for word. If you’re giving an important talk and you have the time to do this, it’s the best way to go. But don’t underestimate the work involved. One of our most memorable speakers was Jill Bolte Taylor , a brain researcher who had suffered a stroke. She talked about what she learned during the eight years it took her to recover. After crafting her story and undertaking many hours of solo practice, she rehearsed her talk dozens of times in front of an audience to be sure she had it down.
Obviously, not every presentation is worth that kind of investment of time. But if you do decide to memorize your talk, be aware that there’s a predictable arc to the learning curve. Most people go through what I call the “valley of awkwardness,” where they haven’t quite memorized the talk. If they give the talk while stuck in that valley, the audience will sense it. Their words will sound recited, or there will be painful moments where they stare into the middle distance, or cast their eyes upward, as they struggle to remember their lines. This creates distance between the speaker and the audience .
Getting past this point is simple, fortunately. It’s just a matter of rehearsing enough times that the flow of words becomes second nature. Then you can focus on delivering the talk with meaning and authenticity. Don’t worry—you’ll get there.
But if you don’t have time to learn a speech thoroughly and get past that awkward valley, don’t try. Go with bullet points on note cards. As long as you know what you want to say for each one, you’ll be fine. Focus on remembering the transitions from one bullet point to the next.
Also pay attention to your tone. Some speakers may want to come across as authoritative or wise or powerful or passionate, but it’s usually much better to just sound conversational. Don’t force it. Don’t orate. Just be you.
If a successful talk is a journey, make sure you don’t start to annoy your travel companions along the way. Some speakers project too much ego. They sound condescending or full of themselves, and the audience shuts down. Don’t let that happen.
Develop Stage Presence
For inexperienced speakers, the physical act of being onstage can be the most difficult part of giving a presentation—but people tend to overestimate its importance. Getting the words, story, and substance right is a much bigger determinant of success or failure than how you stand or whether you’re visibly nervous. And when it comes to stage presence, a little coaching can go a long way.
The biggest mistake we see in early rehearsals is that people move their bodies too much. They sway from side to side, or shift their weight from one leg to the other. People do this naturally when they’re nervous, but it’s distracting and makes the speaker seem weak. Simply getting a person to keep his or her lower body motionless can dramatically improve stage presence. There are some people who are able to walk around a stage during a presentation, and that’s fine if it comes naturally. But the vast majority are better off standing still and relying on hand gestures for emphasis.
How to Pitch a Brilliant Idea
Perhaps the most important physical act onstage is making eye contact. Find five or six friendly-looking people in different parts of the audience and look them in the eye as you speak. Think of them as friends you haven’t seen in a year, whom you’re bringing up to date on your work. That eye contact is incredibly powerful, and it will do more than anything else to help your talk land. Even if you don’t have time to prepare fully and have to read from a script, looking up and making eye contact will make a huge difference.
Another big hurdle for inexperienced speakers is nervousness—both in advance of the talk and while they’re onstage. People deal with this in different ways. Many speakers stay out in the audience until the moment they go on; this can work well, because keeping your mind engaged in the earlier speakers can distract you and limit nervousness. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor who studies how certain body poses can affect power, utilized one of the more unusual preparation techniques I’ve seen. She recommends that people spend time before a talk striding around, standing tall, and extending their bodies; these poses make you feel more powerful. It’s what she did before going onstage, and she delivered a phenomenal talk. But I think the single best advice is simply to breathe deeply before you go onstage. It works.
Nerves are not a disaster. The audience expects you to be nervous.
In general, people worry too much about nervousness. Nerves are not a disaster. The audience expects you to be nervous. It’s a natural body response that can actually improve your performance: It gives you energy to perform and keeps your mind sharp. Just keep breathing, and you’ll be fine.
Acknowledging nervousness can also create engagement. Showing your vulnerability, whether through nerves or tone of voice, is one of the most powerful ways to win over an audience, provided it is authentic. Susan Cain , who wrote a book about introverts and spoke at our 2012 conference, was terrified about giving her talk. You could feel her fragility onstage, and it created this dynamic where the audience was rooting for her—everybody wanted to hug her afterward. The fact that we knew she was fighting to keep herself up there made it beautiful, and it was the most popular talk that year.
Plan the Multimedia
With so much technology at our disposal, it may feel almost mandatory to use, at a minimum, presentation slides. By now most people have heard the advice about PowerPoint: Keep it simple; don’t use a slide deck as a substitute for notes (by, say, listing the bullet points you’ll discuss—those are best put on note cards); and don’t repeat out loud words that are on the slide. Not only is reciting slides a variation of the teleprompter problem—“Oh, no, she’s reading to us, too!”—but information is interesting only once, and hearing and seeing the same words feels repetitive. That advice may seem universal by now, but go into any company and you’ll see presenters violating it every day.
Many of the best TED speakers don’t use slides at all, and many talks don’t require them. If you have photographs or illustrations that make the topic come alive, then yes, show them. If not, consider doing without, at least for some parts of the presentation. And if you’re going to use slides, it’s worth exploring alternatives to PowerPoint. For instance, TED has invested in the company Prezi, which makes presentation software that offers a camera’s-eye view of a two-dimensional landscape. Instead of a flat sequence of images, you can move around the landscape and zoom in to it if need be. Used properly, such techniques can dramatically boost the visual punch of a talk and enhance its meaning.
Artists, architects, photographers, and designers have the best opportunity to use visuals. Slides can help frame and pace a talk and help speakers avoid getting lost in jargon or overly intellectual language. (Art can be hard to talk about—better to experience it visually.) I’ve seen great presentations in which the artist or designer put slides on an automatic timer so that the image changed every 15 seconds. I’ve also seen presenters give a talk accompanied by video, speaking along to it. That can help sustain momentum. The industrial designer Ross Lovegrove’s highly visual TED Talk , for instance, used this technique to bring the audience along on a remarkable creative journey .
Another approach creative types might consider is to build silence into their talks, and just let the work speak for itself. The kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin used that approach to powerful effect. The idea is not to think “I’m giving a talk.” Instead, think “I want to give this audience a powerful experience of my work.” The single worst thing artists and architects can do is to retreat into abstract or conceptual language.
Video has obvious uses for many speakers. In a TED Talk about the intelligence of crows, for instance, the scientist showed a clip of a crow bending a hook to fish a piece of food out of a tube—essentially creating a tool. It illustrated his point far better than anything he could have said.
Used well, video can be very effective, but there are common mistakes that should be avoided. A clip needs to be short—if it’s more than 60 seconds, you risk losing people. Don’t use videos—particularly corporate ones—that sound self-promotional or like infomercials; people are conditioned to tune those out. Anything with a soundtrack can be dangerously off-putting. And whatever you do, don’t show a clip of yourself being interviewed on, say, CNN. I’ve seen speakers do this, and it’s a really bad idea—no one wants to go along with you on your ego trip. The people in your audience are already listening to you live; why would they want to simultaneously watch your talking-head clip on a screen?
Putting It Together
We start helping speakers prepare their talks six months (or more) in advance so that they’ll have plenty of time to practice. We want people’s talks to be in final form at least a month before the event. The more practice they can do in the final weeks, the better off they’ll be. Ideally, they’ll practice the talk on their own and in front of an audience.
The tricky part about rehearsing a presentation in front of other people is that they will feel obligated to offer feedback and constructive criticism. Often the feedback from different people will vary or directly conflict. This can be confusing or even paralyzing, which is why it’s important to be choosy about the people you use as a test audience, and whom you invite to offer feedback. In general, the more experience a person has as a presenter, the better the criticism he or she can offer.
I learned many of these lessons myself in 2011. My colleague Bruno Giussani, who curates our TEDGlobal event, pointed out that although I’d worked at TED for nine years, served as the emcee at our conferences, and introduced many of the speakers, I’d never actually given a TED Talk myself. So he invited me to give one, and I accepted.
It was more stressful than I’d expected. Even though I spend time helping others frame their stories, framing my own in a way that felt compelling was difficult. I decided to memorize my presentation, which was about how web video powers global innovation, and that was really hard: Even though I was putting in a lot of hours, and getting sound advice from my colleagues, I definitely hit a point where I didn’t quite have it down and began to doubt I ever would. I really thought I might bomb. I was nervous right up until the moment I took the stage. But it ended up going fine. It’s definitely not one of the all-time great TED Talks, but it got a positive reaction—and I survived the stress of going through it.
10 Ways to Ruin a Presentation
As hard as it may be to give a great talk, it’s really easy to blow it. Here are some common mistakes that TED advises its speakers to avoid.
- Take a really long time to explain what your talk is about.
- Speak slowly and dramatically. Why talk when you can orate?
- Make sure you subtly let everyone know how important you are.
- Refer to your book repeatedly. Even better, quote yourself from it.
- Cram your slides with numerous text bullet points and multiple fonts.
- Use lots of unexplained technical jargon to make yourself sound smart.
- Speak at great length about the history of your organization and its glorious achievements.
- Don’t bother rehearsing to check how long your talk is running.
- Sound as if you’re reciting your talk from memory.
- Never, ever make eye contact with anyone in the audience.
Ultimately I learned firsthand what our speakers have been discovering for three decades: Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance, not speaking style or multimedia pyrotechnics. It’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. If you have something to say, you can build a great talk. But if the central theme isn’t there, you’re better off not speaking. Decline the invitation. Go back to work, and wait until you have a compelling idea that’s really worth sharing.
The single most important thing to remember is that there is no one good way to do a talk . The most memorable talks offer something fresh, something no one has seen before. The worst ones are those that feel formulaic. So do not on any account try to emulate every piece of advice I’ve offered here. Take the bulk of it on board, sure. But make the talk your own. You know what’s distinctive about you and your idea. Play to your strengths and give a talk that is truly authentic to you.
- CA Chris Anderson is the curator of TED.
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How to give a good presentation: 8 tips
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What are the main difficulties when giving presentations?
How to prepare an effective presentation, after that, how do i give a memorable presentation, how to connect with the audience when presenting.
Public speaking and presenting isn’t everyone’s forte, but it’s a valuable skill, regardless of your job. If you want your voice to be heard, you’ll need to master communicating your thoughts and opinions simply and politely.
It’s okay if you’re nervous ; that’s completely normal. Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects anywhere from 15–30% of the general population . Social anxiety is also becoming more prevalent, seen in 12% more adults in the last 20 years , and it’s a key cause of glossophobia.
But presentation jitters aren’t necessarily bad. Nerves and excitement feel the same in the body, so reframing nervousness as excitement means you’ll feel more positively about your feelings — and the upcoming presentation.
Giving a speech may seem daunting, but many industries demand learning how to be a good presenter. Luckily, you can always implement new strategies to face challenges and deliver an engaging presentation.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or first-timer, there’s always room to improve your presentation skills. One key to preparing a presentation is to define what you’re most worried about and address these fears.
The most common of worries in school or company presentations include:
- Fear of public speaking . Having a great idea doesn’t mean we’re comfortable telling people about it. Not everyone shines in front of an audience. Some people rationally feel fine about presenting but experience physical symptoms such as nausea and dizziness as the brain releases adrenaline to cope with the potentially stressful situation . The more public speaking you do, the less you’ll experience these symptoms and the more comfortable you’ll be pushing ahead despite any physical discomfort.
- Not keeping the audience's attention . We all want to be liked, and this need for affirmation makes us worried people won’t care about what we have to say. But if you care about the topic, chances are high that others do too.
- Not knowing what content, and how much, to place on slides . Overloading PowerPoint presentations is a surefire way to lose the audience’s attention, while brevity may not communicate important information. Watch presentations and note the ones you find most effective to figure out a good balance between what to write on slides and what to say.
- Discomfort incorporating nonverbal communication . Standing still won’t engage your audience, and moving around constantly will distract them. Delivering an effective presentation means figuring out how much nonverbal communication to use.
Presenting and watching more presentations will help you know how to handle these issues.
Below are our top five tips to aid you with your next business presentation and limit associated stress.
1. Keep it simple
You want your presentation’s ideas to be accessible and easy to follow. As you prepare, ask yourself: what are the key points you want people to take away? Nothing is worse than watching a presentation that goes on and on that you hardly understand. Audiences want to understand and implement what they’ve learned.
Simplicity is vital if you’re looking to reach a broad and diverse audience. Try placing important points in bullet points. That way, your audience can identify the main takeaways instead of searching for them in a block of text. To ensure they understood, offer a Q&A at the end of the presentation. This gives audience members the opportunity to learn more by asking questions and gaining clarification on points they didn’t understand.
2. Create a compelling structure
Pretend you’re an audience member and ask yourself what the best order is for your presentation. Make sure things are cohesive and logical . To keep the presentation interesting, you may need to add more slides, cut a section, or rearrange the presentation’s structure.
Give a narrative to your business presentation. Make sure you’re telling a compelling story . Set up a problem at the beginning and lead the audience through how you discovered the solution you’re presenting (the “Aha! moment”).
3. Use visual aids
Aim to incorporate photos or videos in your slides. Props can also help reinforce your words. Incorporating props doesn’t lessen your credibility or professionalism but helps illustrate your point when added correctly.
4. Be aware of design techniques and trends
You can use an array of platforms to create a great presentation. Images, graphs, and video clips liven things up, especially if the information is dry. Here are a few standard pointers:
- Don’t put blocks of text on a single slide
- Use a minimalistic background instead of a busy one
- Don’t read everything off the slide
- Maintain a consistent font style and size
Place only your main points on the screen. Then, explain them in detail. Keep the presentation stimulating and appealing without overwhelming your audience with bright colors or too much font.
5. Follow the 10-20-30 rule
Guy Kawasaki, a prominent venture capitalist and one of the original marketing specialists for Apple, said that the best slideshow presentations are less than 10 slides , last no longer than 20 minutes, and use a font size of 30. This strategy helps condense your information and maintain the audience’s focus.
Here are some tips to keep your audience actively engaged as you’re presenting. With these strategies, the audience will leave the room thinking positively about your work.
Tip #1: Tell stories
Sharing an event from your life or another anecdote increases your relatability. It also makes the audience feel more comfortable and connected to you. This, in turn, will make you more comfortable presenting.
Gill Hicks did this well when she shared a powerful and terrifying story in “ I survived a terrorist attack. Here’s what I learned ” In her harrowing tale of explosions, disfigurement, and recovery, Hicks highlights the importance of compassion, unconditional love, and helping those in need.
Tip #2: Smile and make eye contact with the audience
Maintaining eye contact creates a connection between you and the audience and helps the space feel more intimate. It’ll help them pay attention to you and what you’re saying.
Tip #3: Work on your stage presence
Using words is only half the battle regarding good communication; body language is also critical. Avoid crossing your arms or pacing since these gestures suggest unapproachability or boredom. How you present yourself is just as crucial as how your presentation slides appear.
Amy Cuddy’s talk “ Your body language may shape who you are ” highlights the importance of paying attention to stage presence. She offers the “Wonder Woman” pose as a way to reduce public speaking stress.
Tip #4: Start strong
Like reading a book, watching a movie, or writing an essay, the beginning draws your target audience in. Kick off your presentation on a solid note. Leveraging the benefits of humor increases the chance your presentation will be well-received. Here are some ways to start strong:
- Use a quotation from an influential person. This provides subject context, situating the topic culturally.
- Ask a rhetorical question. This encourages listeners to actively participate in your presentation as they think of the answer.
- Start with an anecdote. Brief stories add context to your presentation and help the audience know more about you, in turn making them more interested in what you have to say.
- Invite your audience in. Begin your presentation by suggesting they join you on a puzzle-solving or discovery journey. If they feel involved in the talk, they’re more likely to pay attention and retain information.
Tip #5: Show your passion
Let your passion for a topic shine. The best presentations have a speaker who’s genuinely excited about the subject.
In “ Grit: The power of passion and perseverance ,” Angela Lee Duckworth discusses the importance of passion in research and delivery. She enthusiastically delivers her presentation to show — not just tell — the audience how this helps pique interest.
Tip #6: Plan your delivery
This step encompasses how you convey the information. What’s appropriate for the setting — preparing a PowerPoint presentation, using a teleprompter, delivering the presentation via Zoom? Should you memorize your notes or plan an activity to complement them?
The best TED talks are usually committed to memory, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing note cards with you as a safety net. And if your tech completely fails, you’ll have to rely on your natural charm and wit to keep your audience’s attention. Prepare backup material for worst-case scenarios.
Tim Urban, a self-proclaimed procrastinator, discusses how preparation helps us feel more capable of tackling daunting tasks in “ Inside the mind of a master procrastinator .” We often avoid preparing for scarier obligations, like a presentation, because of nerves and anxiety. Preparing removes many of the unknowns overwhelming us.
Tip #7: Practice
As the phrase goes, practice makes perfect! Practice giving your speech in front of the bathroom mirror, your spouse, or a friend. Take any feedback they give you and don’t feel discouraged if it’s critical or different than you expected. Feedback helps us continually improve. But remember, you can’t please everyone, and that’s fine.
Tip #8: Breathe
Take deep breaths. It’s better to go slow and take time to convey everything you need to instead of rushing and leaving your audience more confused.
The best leaders are often some of the best presenters, as they excel at communication and bringing together ideas and people. Every audience is different . But as a general rule, you’ll be able to connect with them if you research your topic so you’re knowledgeable and comfortable.
Practicing your presentation skills and remembering that every opportunity is a chance to grow will help you keep a positive mindset.
Don’t forget to ask for help. Chances are a coworker or family member has extensive experience delivering professional presentations and can give you pointers or look over your slides. Knowing how to give a good presentation feels overwhelming — but practice really does improve your skills.
Shonna Waters, PhD
Vice President of Alliance Solutions
The self presentation theory and how to present your best self
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Giving effective presentations: 5 ways to present your points with power, not just PowerPoint
The prospect of giving a presentation fills some people with dread, while others relish the experience. However you feel, presenting your work to an audience is a vital part of professional life for researchers and academics. Presentations are a great way to speak directly to people who are interested in your field of study, to gather ideas to push your projects forward, and to make valuable personal connections.
In this article, I'll give some tips to help you prepare an effective presentation and capitalize on the opportunities that giving presentations provides.
Also, you might want to try our e-learning module and quiz on how to change the style of phrases we commonly write in research papers into those we would naturally say aloud in presentations. See Tip 4 below for details.
Tip 1: Know your audience
The first and most important rule of presenting your work is to know your audience members. If you can put yourself in their shoes and understand what they need, you'll be well on your way to a successful presentation. Keep the audience in mind throughout the preparation of your presentation.
By identifying the level of your audience and your shared knowledge, you can provide an appropriate amount of detail when explaining your work. For example, you can decide whether particular technical terms and jargon are appropriate to use and how much explanation is needed for the audience to understand your research.
What is your audience's level of expertise and what knowledge do you have in common?
You can also decide how to handle acronyms and abbreviations. For example, NMR, HMQC, and NOESY might be fine to use without definition for a room full of organic chemists, but you might want to explain these terms to other types of chemists or avoid this level of detail altogether for a general audience.
It can be difficult to gauge the right level of detail to provide in your presentation, especially after you have spent years immersed in your specific field of study. If you will be giving a talk to a general audience, try practicing your presentation with a friend or colleague from a different field of study. You might find that something that seems obvious to you needs additional explanation.
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Tip 2: Create a clear, logical structure
Next, you'll need to think about creating a clear, logical structure that will help your audience understand your work. You're telling a story, so give it a beginning, middle, and end.
To start, it can be helpful to provide a brief overview of your presentation, which will help your audience follow the structure of your presentation. Then, in your introduction, get everyone "on the same page" (i.e., provide them a shared reference point) by giving them a concise background to your work. Don't swamp them with detail, but make sure they have enough information to understand both what your research is about and why it is important (e.g., how it aims to fill a gap in the research or answer a particular problem in the field). By making the foundation of your research clear in the introduction, your audience should be better able to follow the details of your research and your subsequent arguments about its implications.
In the main part of the presentation, talk about your work: what you did, why you did it, and what your main findings were. This is like the Methods and Results sections of a manuscript. Keep a clear focus on what is important and interesting to your audience. Don't fall into the trap of feeling that you have to present every single thing that you did.
Finally, summarize your main results and discuss their meaning. This is your opportunity to give the audience a strong take-home message and leave a lasting impression. When crafting your take-home message, ask yourself this: If my audience remembers one thing from my talk, what do I want it to be?
When you are considering how long each section should be, it is helpful to remember that the attention of the audience will usually wane after 15–20 minutes, so for longer talks, it's a good idea to keep each segment of your presentation to within this amount of time. Switching to a new section or topic can re-engage people's interest and keep their attention focused.
3. Write for your specific readers: consider shared knowledge
Visual materials, probably in the form of PowerPoint slides, are likely to be a vital part of your presentation. It is crucial to treat the slides as visual support for your audience, rather than as a set of notes for you.
A good slide might have around three clear bullet points on it, written in note form. If you are less confident speaking in English, you can use fuller sentences, but do not write your script out in full on the slide.
As a general rule, avoid reading from your slides; you want the audience to listen to you instead of reading ahead. Also, remember that intonation can be 'flattened' by reading, and you don't want to put the audience to sleep. However, if you need to rely on some written text to explain some difficult points and calm your nerves, make sure you pause and look at the audience between these points; then go back to talking and not reading the next slide.
Ideally, the slides should focus on relevant visual material, such as diagrams, microscope images, or chemical structures. A good diagram can be far easier for people to understand than words alone. Make sure that you point to the slides as you talk. This will help guide the audience's attention to the correct part of the slide, and can keep them engaged with what you are explaining.
Make sure your visual materials are easy to read. Use dark lettering on a pale background for maximum visibility; pale lettering on a dark background can be difficult to read. Choose a standard clear font, like Arial or Times New Roman, and make sure that the size is large enough to be seen from the back of the room. Lay out the slides so that the elements are properly spaced. It is better to split a slide into two or three separate slides instead of overfilling one slide. Although your time is limited, your number of slides is not!
Remember that you are not writing a manuscript, so you don't have to use complete sentences. On your slides, verbs (especially "be" verbs) can be omitted. An example is shown in the figure.
Tip 4: Talk in "spoken English" style, not in "written English" style
The style of spoken English is quite different from that of written English. If you are preparing your script from text in a research paper, you will need to change the style of the written phrases into that of spoken phrases.
The written English we read in research papers often has a very formal style, using complex vocabulary and grammatical structures. This level of complexity is possible because readers can take their time reading papers to understand the content fully and can look up unfamiliar words or grammatical phrases as needed. This is not possible when listening to spoken English, when the audience hears your point once and fleetingly (this is why brief text and images on your slides can help convey your message fully).
You can learn about the characteristics of written English versus those of spoken language in a free e-learning module and quiz we have prepared.
Also, check back for a later edition of our newsletter to find out how best to deliver your spoken presentation.
Tip 5: Practice your presentation and practice again!
Public speaking is the part of presentations that most people dread. Although it might not be possible to get over your nerves completely, good preparation and practice will give you confidence. Most confident speakers do lots of preparation and use notes well.
After you've written your script, practice and learn is—not so that you learn to say it by rote, but so that it will become easier to remember the important points to say, the links between the points (to maintain the flow of your 'story'), and the words and phrases that express your points clearly.
One way that we at ThinkSCIENCE can help you with this is through our audio recording service, in which a native speaker records your script at your chosen speed (native speed, slightly slower, or considerably slower). You can then use the recording to practice pronunciation, intonation, and pacing.
Again, if possible, try to avoid reading directly from your slides or script. Once you know your script, you can make a simple set of notes to jog your memory. If you are speaking instead of just reading, you can better engage with your audience and capture their attention.
Leave yourself adequate time to practice your presentation with your notes and slides. Check your timing, remembering that you might speak a little faster if you are nervous, and that you will need to account for changing slides and pointing at visual material.
As you rehearse, you will probably notice some words that are awkward to say, particularly if English is not your first language. Check pronunciation with a reliable source, such as www.howjsay.com , an online dictionary, or a native speaker, and then practice to avoid stumbling and putting yourself off during the presentation.
Practice can help you feel more comfortable with your material and more confident to present it to others.
Remember the importance of knowing your audience, giving yourself time to prepare thoroughly, and structuring your talk appropriately. And, don't panic!
At ThinkSCIENCE, we have years of experience helping people prepare effective research and conference presentations. From comprehensive editing and translation of your slides and scripts to our audio recording service, we can help you get ready for your presentation. We also offer one-on-one private presentation coaching sessions to help you make the most of your opportunities to present, and provide semester courses to young researchers.
I hope these tips will help you to prepare your English presentations with confidence.
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Our online Q&A support service offers researchers, physicians, and academics quick and easy online access to specialist editors. Ask questions and receive the answers in English or Japanese.
"The mind is a wonderful thing. It starts working the minute you're born and never stops working until you get up to speak in public." (Unknown)
The quality of your presentation is most directly related to the quality of your preparation. Rarely will you have difficulties in your presentation due to being overprepared.
- If you are responsible for the promotion of your presentation, create an accurate, but inviting, description. Emphasize the relevance of the content to the audience.
- Include a statement in promotional materials on how participants with disabilities can obtain disability-related accommodations for the presentation. This statement will provide an example that may be adapted by participants to use in their own publications.
- Believe in the importance of your message.
- Visualize yourself giving a great speech.
- Organize your material in a way that is most comfortable to you by using a script, outline, notes, or 3 x 5 cards. Number them.
- Proofread all printed materials.
- Practice, practice, practice—by yourself or with someone. During practice sessions you can work out the bugs and add polish to your presentation. (Note: a rehearsal usually will run about 20% shorter than a live presentation; adjust your content accordingly.)
- As participants enter, consider providing them with 3 x 5 cards and asking them to write at least one question they have about the topic of the presentation. Read them silently as people settle in. Address the questions throughout the presentation and/or at the closing.
- Have a backup plan for delivering the presentation if all of your audiovisual materials become unavailable. Do not rely on technology to work.
- Test all audiovisual equipment. Practice using your presentation slides and other visual displays. If you are using a video, make sure it is set to the correct beginning point, at the appropriate volume and with captions turned on.
- Check the lighting. If you need to adjust it during your presentation, practice the adjustments before you begin. Consider showing someone else how to make the adjustments for you.
- Have a glass of water available for yourself.
- Think about questions that might be asked and rehearse brief, clear answers to each.
- Memorize the first few minutes of your presentation.
- Review your main points.
- Dress for success.
Create a Comfortable Learning Environment
"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given." (Bertrand Russell)
- It is important to create a learning environment that is comfortable and welcoming.
- Arrive early and get a feel for the room, including its temperature, size, and overall set-up. Re-arrange furniture as needed.
- Warmly welcome participants, use eye contact and a welcoming posture, and thank participants for coming.
- For smaller groups, ask them to introduce themselves and indicate what they hope to learn. For larger groups, poll the audience, asking them to respond to questions related to your topic. For example, ask the audience, "How many of you have had a student with a learning disability in your class?" and then ask one individual to elaborate.
- Create a safe and nonthreatening environment where participants are not afraid to ask questions. Encourage them to share experiences and ask questions of you or other participants.
- Emphasize that everyone can contribute to the learning process.
- Clearly identify the objectives at the beginning of the session.
- Keep to the time schedule, but show that you value participant input by not rushing.
- Frame questions so that they are easy to understand.
- Do not criticize or allow audience members to criticize other participants.
- Maintain confidentiality and ask the audience to respect the privacy of other participants.
Manage Your Anxiety
"There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars." (Mark Twain)
Nervousness before a talk or workshop is healthy. It shows that your presentation is important to you and that you care about doing well. The best performers are nervous prior to stepping on stage. Below are suggestions for assuring that anxiety does not have a negative impact on your presentation.
- Use nervousness to your advantage—channel it into dynamic energy about the topic.
- Remind yourself that you and the audience have the same goal, and, therefore, they want you to succeed as much as you do.
- Speak about what you know. Keeping your presentation within the realm of your knowledge and experience will build confidence and minimize nervousness.
- Focus on delivering your message, not on how you feel.
- Smile. Be relaxed, poised, and at ease on the outside, regardless of how you feel internally. Acting relaxed can help make you relaxed.
- Keep presenting! Your anxieties decrease the more presentations you give.
Create a Strong Beginning
"The greatest talent is meaningless without one other vital component: passion." (Selwyn Lager)
Keep your opening simple and exciting to engage your audience in your content.
- Consider using a short icebreaker activity.
- A tasteful, humorous commentary can be effective if related to the topic.
- Explain the purpose of your presentation in one sentence that is free of professional jargon and emphasizes what participants will gain.
- Start off with a natural pace—not too fast and not too slow—to establish a strong, positive image. Make a strong ending statement that reinforces the objectives of the presentation.
Incorporate Universal Design Principles
"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." (Confucius, 451 BC)
Model accessible teaching methods that your participants can use. Incorporate universal design principles to address the needs of participants with a wide range of knowledge, abilities, disabilities, interests, and learning styles. Examples are listed below.
- Use large fonts in your visuals. Make copies of slides available for participants.
- Be prepared to provide your materials in an alternate format, which may include electronic text, audio recording, large print, or Braille.
- Show captioned videos. If not available, provide a transcription of the content upon request.
- Arrange for a sign language interpreter if requested by a participant.
- Use a clear, audible voice. Use a microphone as needed. Face the audience at all times.
- Make sure the room is well-lit.
- Use multimedia in your presentation, such as videos, visual aids, props, and handouts.
- Demonstrate how to speak the content presented on slides and other visuals. For example, verbally describe graphs and cartoons.
Create a Dynamic Presentation
"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." (Albert Einstein)
If your audience enjoys and remembers your presentation, it is because you presented it in a dynamic or compelling manner.
- Talk to your audience, not at them.
- Project enthusiasm for the topic without preaching. The majority of communication is nonverbal, so how you look and sound are vital.
- Present your material in a well-organized manner. However, be flexible to adjust to your audience. Let participants know if you wish to field questions during or after your presentation.
- Speak to the knowledge level of your audience. Define all terms they might not be familiar with.
- Choose your major points carefully and illustrate them with examples or stories.
- Incorporate real-life experiences into your presentations. Recruit students with disabilities or faculty to share their experiences. Ask audience members to share experiences and use these examples to illustrate key points or to answer questions.
- Role-play interactions between students and professors.
- Use natural gestures and voice inflection to add interest to your presentation.
- Address different learning styles by incorporating a variety of instructional methods that use a variety of senses (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic).
- Repeat questions participants pose to ensure that the entire audience hears and understands them.
- Redirect the discussion if it strays from the topic at hand.
- Postpone questions related to resolving specific or individual problems to private discussions later. Do not get locked into an extended dialogue with one person; move on to questions from other participants and offer more time to talk after the presentation.
- If people ask questions that you cannot answer, say that you will locate the answer and get back to them (and then do!), suggest appropriate resources that will provide the answer, or ask for suggestions from members of the audience.
- Give demonstrations.
- Never apologize for your credentials or your material.
- Tailor your topic to audience interests.
- Never read your presentation word for word.
- Talk clearly and in well-modulated tones. Avoid speaking too rapidly, softly, or loudly. Make sure that the ends of your sentences don't drop off.
- Maintain eye contact. It conveys confidence, openness, honesty, and interest. It also lets you know how the audience is responding to your presentation. In large groups, mentally divide up the room into sections, and then make eye contact with different people in each section on a rotational basis.
- Use hand gestures naturally, gracefully, and to emphasize points. When not gesturing, let your hands drop to your sides naturally. Keep them out of pockets, off your hips, or behind your back. Avoid fiddling with clothes, hair, or presentation materials.
- Maintain good posture, but do not be rigid.
- Occasionally move from one spot to another, stop, then continue to speak. Don't pace.
- Remember that adult learners have a wealth of experience; are goal oriented and appreciate outcomes more than process; have set habits, strong tastes, and little time to waste; have strong feelings about learning situations; are impatient in the pursuit of objectives, and appreciate getting to the point; find little use for isolated facts and prefer application of information; and have multiple responsibilities, all of which draw upon their time and energy.
Make Your Presentation Interactive
"It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers." (James Thurber)
Avoid simply lecturing to your audience. Engage your audience in an active discussion.
- Listen attentively before responding to questions.
- Encourage interactions between audience members.
- Present an accommodation challenge and ask audience members how they would address the issue.
- Respectfully reflect back to people what you observe to be their attitudes, rationalizations, and habitual ways of thinking and acting.
- Allow plenty of time for questions. Address all questions within your presentation or direct participants to appropriate resources.
- Demonstrate or provide hands-on experiences with assistive technology.
- Give useful or entertaining prizes for responses from the audience or have a drawing for a larger prize at the end of the presentation.
- If your audience is small, ask members to identify themselves and their
- experiences and interests related to the topic.
- Involve the audience in a learning activity. People remember more of what you teach them if they are able to learn it via an activity.
- Ask audience members how they have used specific accommodations or worked with students with specific disabilities. Ask questions like, "Has anyone done this? How did it work for you?"
- Stimulate group interaction and problem-solving.
- Promote discussion to help participants integrate themes and key points.
Include a Group Activity
"Real prosperity can only come when everybody prospers." (Anna Eleanor Roosevelt)
Include a short activity that makes an important point and encourages participation and discussion. Here's one to try. Announce that you're going to have a five-minute activity, then ask your participants to choose someone sitting nearby and share with each other two things:
- One thing you are very good at.
- One thing you are not very good at.
Have the instructions written on a presentation slide or write them on a flip chart. Read the instructions aloud. Give participants three to four minutes (there will be a lot of laughter and lighthearted talk), and then say you're not really interested in what they do well; ask people to share things that their partner does not do well. (This usually ends up funny—participants enjoy sharing that he can't do math, he hates public speaking, she's not good at fixing things around the house.)
After the fun, make the point that, "You have experienced, in a small way, what a person with an obvious disability experiences all the time—that people first notice something they are not particularly good at (e.g., walking, seeing, hearing) and don't take the time to learn his or her strengths. A disability may impact 10% of a person's life, yet is considered a defining characteristic by others. We need to pay attention to what everyone, including those with disabilities, can do, rather than accentuating what they can't do." To emphasize the point ask participants to reflect on how they felt when you said you weren't really interested in what they do well.
This activity is short, fun, and effective. It addresses the issue of attitudes, yet does not have some of the negative elements of traditional simulations that leave people feeling like having a disability is an impossible problem with no solution. This activity is also good to use when talking about internal and external barriers to success for students with disabilities, which can include lack of self-advocacy skills (internal barrier), and negative attitudes or low expectations on the part of individuals with whom they interact (external barrier).
Incorporate Case Studies
"Learning is an active process. We learn by doing . . . Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind." (Dale Carnegie)
Have participants discuss case studies in small groups. At the end of this section are sample case studies that can be used in your presentation. They are all based on real experiences at postsecondary institutions. Each case study is formatted as a handout that can be duplicated for small group discussion. On the back of each activity sheet is the full description, including the solution actually employed. This version can be used for your information only or can be distributed to the group after the initial brainstorming has occurred. Participants can compare their ideas with the resolution in the actual case.
Address Key Points
"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic, and faithful, and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Be sure that your presentation covers the most important content for your audience.
- Explain the legal requirements regarding accommodating students with disabilities in clear, simple terms. Make it clear that legislation, such as the ADA, provides broad statements about accessibility, but our judicial system ultimately decides what is legal or illegal in a specific situation.
- Explain the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities, faculty, and the disabled student services office.
- Describe specific situations that have occurred on your campus, including what was successful and situations that could be improved, and how.
- Demonstrate low-tech and high-tech accommodations, including adaptive computer technology.
- Explain how accommodations that are useful to students with disabilities can also benefit all learners.
- Provide information on campus-specific resources and procedures.
Provide Resources for Participants to Keep
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." (Karl Marx)
Make sure that you provide your audience with information on which they can follow up after your presentation.
- Provide written materials of key content for future reference.
- Provide contact information and invite participants to contact you with questions after the presentation. Distribute business cards.
- For further exploration refer participants to The Faculty Room and to the Center for Universal Design in Education .
Conclude with a Strong Ending
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own." (Benjamin Disraeli)
The most important and remembered words you speak are the last ones.
- Summarize key points.
- Consider concluding with examples that show the importance of providing educational opportunities for students with disabilities. One idea is to have an alumnus with a disability discuss how they navigated your campus, worked with the disability services office, received the accommodations they needed, graduated with a degree, and went on to succeed in employment.
- Empower your audience to use information you presented to improve access for and education of all students with disabilities.
Improve Each Presentation
"I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best." (Oscar Wilde)
Take steps to gain feedback about your presentation that will lead to improvements.
- Practice your presentation with colleagues or friends and ask for their feedback.
- Record your presentation for self-analysis.
- Evaluate your presentation through an anonymous written survey. Two examples of evaluation instruments are included on pages 188-190.
- Incorporate suggestions into subsequent presentations.
"When you can do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." (George Washington Carver)
In summary, to give effective presentations where participants gain valuable information in a dynamic way, make sure to:
- prepare well in advance
- incorporate universal design principles
- facilitate interaction, sharing of experiences, and creative problem?solving within the session
- promote a welcoming and non?judgmental learning environment
- Case Studies
Tips for creating and delivering an effective presentation
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- PLoS Comput Biol
- v.17(12); 2021 Dec
Ten simple rules for effective presentation slides
Kristen m. naegle.
Biomedical Engineering and the Center for Public Health Genomics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America
The “presentation slide” is the building block of all academic presentations, whether they are journal clubs, thesis committee meetings, short conference talks, or hour-long seminars. A slide is a single page projected on a screen, usually built on the premise of a title, body, and figures or tables and includes both what is shown and what is spoken about that slide. Multiple slides are strung together to tell the larger story of the presentation. While there have been excellent 10 simple rules on giving entire presentations [ 1 , 2 ], there was an absence in the fine details of how to design a slide for optimal effect—such as the design elements that allow slides to convey meaningful information, to keep the audience engaged and informed, and to deliver the information intended and in the time frame allowed. As all research presentations seek to teach, effective slide design borrows from the same principles as effective teaching, including the consideration of cognitive processing your audience is relying on to organize, process, and retain information. This is written for anyone who needs to prepare slides from any length scale and for most purposes of conveying research to broad audiences. The rules are broken into 3 primary areas. Rules 1 to 5 are about optimizing the scope of each slide. Rules 6 to 8 are about principles around designing elements of the slide. Rules 9 to 10 are about preparing for your presentation, with the slides as the central focus of that preparation.
Rule 1: Include only one idea per slide
Each slide should have one central objective to deliver—the main idea or question [ 3 – 5 ]. Often, this means breaking complex ideas down into manageable pieces (see Fig 1 , where “background” information has been split into 2 key concepts). In another example, if you are presenting a complex computational approach in a large flow diagram, introduce it in smaller units, building it up until you finish with the entire diagram. The progressive buildup of complex information means that audiences are prepared to understand the whole picture, once you have dedicated time to each of the parts. You can accomplish the buildup of components in several ways—for example, using presentation software to cover/uncover information. Personally, I choose to create separate slides for each piece of information content I introduce—where the final slide has the entire diagram, and I use cropping or a cover on duplicated slides that come before to hide what I’m not yet ready to include. I use this method in order to ensure that each slide in my deck truly presents one specific idea (the new content) and the amount of the new information on that slide can be described in 1 minute (Rule 2), but it comes with the trade-off—a change to the format of one of the slides in the series often means changes to all slides.
Top left: A background slide that describes the background material on a project from my lab. The slide was created using a PowerPoint Design Template, which had to be modified to increase default text sizes for this figure (i.e., the default text sizes are even worse than shown here). Bottom row: The 2 new slides that break up the content into 2 explicit ideas about the background, using a central graphic. In the first slide, the graphic is an explicit example of the SH2 domain of PI3-kinase interacting with a phosphorylation site (Y754) on the PDGFR to describe the important details of what an SH2 domain and phosphotyrosine ligand are and how they interact. I use that same graphic in the second slide to generalize all binding events and include redundant text to drive home the central message (a lot of possible interactions might occur in the human proteome, more than we can currently measure). Top right highlights which rules were used to move from the original slide to the new slide. Specific changes as highlighted by Rule 7 include increasing contrast by changing the background color, increasing font size, changing to sans serif fonts, and removing all capital text and underlining (using bold to draw attention). PDGFR, platelet-derived growth factor receptor.
Rule 2: Spend only 1 minute per slide
When you present your slide in the talk, it should take 1 minute or less to discuss. This rule is really helpful for planning purposes—a 20-minute presentation should have somewhere around 20 slides. Also, frequently giving your audience new information to feast on helps keep them engaged. During practice, if you find yourself spending more than a minute on a slide, there’s too much for that one slide—it’s time to break up the content into multiple slides or even remove information that is not wholly central to the story you are trying to tell. Reduce, reduce, reduce, until you get to a single message, clearly described, which takes less than 1 minute to present.
Rule 3: Make use of your heading
When each slide conveys only one message, use the heading of that slide to write exactly the message you are trying to deliver. Instead of titling the slide “Results,” try “CTNND1 is central to metastasis” or “False-positive rates are highly sample specific.” Use this landmark signpost to ensure that all the content on that slide is related exactly to the heading and only the heading. Think of the slide heading as the introductory or concluding sentence of a paragraph and the slide content the rest of the paragraph that supports the main point of the paragraph. An audience member should be able to follow along with you in the “paragraph” and come to the same conclusion sentence as your header at the end of the slide.
Rule 4: Include only essential points
While you are speaking, audience members’ eyes and minds will be wandering over your slide. If you have a comment, detail, or figure on a slide, have a plan to explicitly identify and talk about it. If you don’t think it’s important enough to spend time on, then don’t have it on your slide. This is especially important when faculty are present. I often tell students that thesis committee members are like cats: If you put a shiny bauble in front of them, they’ll go after it. Be sure to only put the shiny baubles on slides that you want them to focus on. Putting together a thesis meeting for only faculty is really an exercise in herding cats (if you have cats, you know this is no easy feat). Clear and concise slide design will go a long way in helping you corral those easily distracted faculty members.
Rule 5: Give credit, where credit is due
An exception to Rule 4 is to include proper citations or references to work on your slide. When adding citations, names of other researchers, or other types of credit, use a consistent style and method for adding this information to your slides. Your audience will then be able to easily partition this information from the other content. A common mistake people make is to think “I’ll add that reference later,” but I highly recommend you put the proper reference on the slide at the time you make it, before you forget where it came from. Finally, in certain kinds of presentations, credits can make it clear who did the work. For the faculty members heading labs, it is an effective way to connect your audience with the personnel in the lab who did the work, which is a great career booster for that person. For graduate students, it is an effective way to delineate your contribution to the work, especially in meetings where the goal is to establish your credentials for meeting the rigors of a PhD checkpoint.
Rule 6: Use graphics effectively
As a rule, you should almost never have slides that only contain text. Build your slides around good visualizations. It is a visual presentation after all, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, on the flip side, don’t muddy the point of the slide by putting too many complex graphics on a single slide. A multipanel figure that you might include in a manuscript should often be broken into 1 panel per slide (see Rule 1 ). One way to ensure that you use the graphics effectively is to make a point to introduce the figure and its elements to the audience verbally, especially for data figures. For example, you might say the following: “This graph here shows the measured false-positive rate for an experiment and each point is a replicate of the experiment, the graph demonstrates …” If you have put too much on one slide to present in 1 minute (see Rule 2 ), then the complexity or number of the visualizations is too much for just one slide.
Rule 7: Design to avoid cognitive overload
The type of slide elements, the number of them, and how you present them all impact the ability for the audience to intake, organize, and remember the content. For example, a frequent mistake in slide design is to include full sentences, but reading and verbal processing use the same cognitive channels—therefore, an audience member can either read the slide, listen to you, or do some part of both (each poorly), as a result of cognitive overload [ 4 ]. The visual channel is separate, allowing images/videos to be processed with auditory information without cognitive overload [ 6 ] (Rule 6). As presentations are an exercise in listening, and not reading, do what you can to optimize the ability of the audience to listen. Use words sparingly as “guide posts” to you and the audience about major points of the slide. In fact, you can add short text fragments, redundant with the verbal component of the presentation, which has been shown to improve retention [ 7 ] (see Fig 1 for an example of redundant text that avoids cognitive overload). Be careful in the selection of a slide template to minimize accidentally adding elements that the audience must process, but are unimportant. David JP Phillips argues (and effectively demonstrates in his TEDx talk [ 5 ]) that the human brain can easily interpret 6 elements and more than that requires a 500% increase in human cognition load—so keep the total number of elements on the slide to 6 or less. Finally, in addition to the use of short text, white space, and the effective use of graphics/images, you can improve ease of cognitive processing further by considering color choices and font type and size. Here are a few suggestions for improving the experience for your audience, highlighting the importance of these elements for some specific groups:
- Use high contrast colors and simple backgrounds with low to no color—for persons with dyslexia or visual impairment.
- Use sans serif fonts and large font sizes (including figure legends), avoid italics, underlining (use bold font instead for emphasis), and all capital letters—for persons with dyslexia or visual impairment [ 8 ].
- Use color combinations and palettes that can be understood by those with different forms of color blindness [ 9 ]. There are excellent tools available to identify colors to use and ways to simulate your presentation or figures as they might be seen by a person with color blindness (easily found by a web search).
- In this increasing world of virtual presentation tools, consider practicing your talk with a closed captioning system capture your words. Use this to identify how to improve your speaking pace, volume, and annunciation to improve understanding by all members of your audience, but especially those with a hearing impairment.
Rule 8: Design the slide so that a distracted person gets the main takeaway
It is very difficult to stay focused on a presentation, especially if it is long or if it is part of a longer series of talks at a conference. Audience members may get distracted by an important email, or they may start dreaming of lunch. So, it’s important to look at your slide and ask “If they heard nothing I said, will they understand the key concept of this slide?” The other rules are set up to help with this, including clarity of the single point of the slide (Rule 1), titling it with a major conclusion (Rule 3), and the use of figures (Rule 6) and short text redundant to your verbal description (Rule 7). However, with each slide, step back and ask whether its main conclusion is conveyed, even if someone didn’t hear your accompanying dialog. Importantly, ask if the information on the slide is at the right level of abstraction. For example, do you have too many details about the experiment, which hides the conclusion of the experiment (i.e., breaking Rule 1)? If you are worried about not having enough details, keep a slide at the end of your slide deck (after your conclusions and acknowledgments) with the more detailed information that you can refer to during a question and answer period.
Rule 9: Iteratively improve slide design through practice
Well-designed slides that follow the first 8 rules are intended to help you deliver the message you intend and in the amount of time you intend to deliver it in. The best way to ensure that you nailed slide design for your presentation is to practice, typically a lot. The most important aspects of practicing a new presentation, with an eye toward slide design, are the following 2 key points: (1) practice to ensure that you hit, each time through, the most important points (for example, the text guide posts you left yourself and the title of the slide); and (2) practice to ensure that as you conclude the end of one slide, it leads directly to the next slide. Slide transitions, what you say as you end one slide and begin the next, are important to keeping the flow of the “story.” Practice is when I discover that the order of my presentation is poor or that I left myself too few guideposts to remember what was coming next. Additionally, during practice, the most frequent things I have to improve relate to Rule 2 (the slide takes too long to present, usually because I broke Rule 1, and I’m delivering too much information for one slide), Rule 4 (I have a nonessential detail on the slide), and Rule 5 (I forgot to give a key reference). The very best type of practice is in front of an audience (for example, your lab or peers), where, with fresh perspectives, they can help you identify places for improving slide content, design, and connections across the entirety of your talk.
Rule 10: Design to mitigate the impact of technical disasters
The real presentation almost never goes as we planned in our heads or during our practice. Maybe the speaker before you went over time and now you need to adjust. Maybe the computer the organizer is having you use won’t show your video. Maybe your internet is poor on the day you are giving a virtual presentation at a conference. Technical problems are routinely part of the practice of sharing your work through presentations. Hence, you can design your slides to limit the impact certain kinds of technical disasters create and also prepare alternate approaches. Here are just a few examples of the preparation you can do that will take you a long way toward avoiding a complete fiasco:
- Save your presentation as a PDF—if the version of Keynote or PowerPoint on a host computer cause issues, you still have a functional copy that has a higher guarantee of compatibility.
- In using videos, create a backup slide with screen shots of key results. For example, if I have a video of cell migration, I’ll be sure to have a copy of the start and end of the video, in case the video doesn’t play. Even if the video worked, you can pause on this backup slide and take the time to highlight the key results in words if someone could not see or understand the video.
- Avoid animations, such as figures or text that flash/fly-in/etc. Surveys suggest that no one likes movement in presentations [ 3 , 4 ]. There is likely a cognitive underpinning to the almost universal distaste of pointless animations that relates to the idea proposed by Kosslyn and colleagues that animations are salient perceptual units that captures direct attention [ 4 ]. Although perceptual salience can be used to draw attention to and improve retention of specific points, if you use this approach for unnecessary/unimportant things (like animation of your bullet point text, fly-ins of figures, etc.), then you will distract your audience from the important content. Finally, animations cause additional processing burdens for people with visual impairments [ 10 ] and create opportunities for technical disasters if the software on the host system is not compatible with your planned animation.
These rules are just a start in creating more engaging presentations that increase audience retention of your material. However, there are wonderful resources on continuing on the journey of becoming an amazing public speaker, which includes understanding the psychology and neuroscience behind human perception and learning. For example, as highlighted in Rule 7, David JP Phillips has a wonderful TEDx talk on the subject [ 5 ], and “PowerPoint presentation flaws and failures: A psychological analysis,” by Kosslyn and colleagues is deeply detailed about a number of aspects of human cognition and presentation style [ 4 ]. There are many books on the topic, including the popular “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds [ 11 ]. Finally, although briefly touched on here, the visualization of data is an entire topic of its own that is worth perfecting for both written and oral presentations of work, with fantastic resources like Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” [ 12 ] or the article “Visualization of Biomedical Data” by O’Donoghue and colleagues [ 13 ].
I would like to thank the countless presenters, colleagues, students, and mentors from which I have learned a great deal from on effective presentations. Also, a thank you to the wonderful resources published by organizations on how to increase inclusivity. A special thanks to Dr. Jason Papin and Dr. Michael Guertin on early feedback of this editorial.
The author received no specific funding for this work.
Northern Illinois University Effective Presentation Skills Tutorial
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- Delivering the Presentation
Once you have rehearsed the presentation well, here are some simple suggestions to consider in delivering the presentation effectively:
Dress appropriately for the presentation, based on the context, disciplinary protocols, formality of the occasion and the type of audience (faculty, students, clients, etc.). Do not wear inappropriate clothing, jewelry, hats or footwear that distract.
Arrive early for the presentation, and do not arrive just in time or late.
Meet the moderator
If there is a presentation moderator who will introduce you, meet that person well in advance of the presentation so he or she knows you are in the room on time and that you will be ready.
Decide how to handle audience questions
Decide how you will handle questions during the presentation, and either request the audience to wait until you are finished with your presentation or make sure you will have time to answer the question in the middle of your presentation.
Have a plan if the technology fails
Similarly, decide how you will continue your presentation if the presentation technology fails or freezes in the middle of your presentation.
Smoothly Handling Difficulty with Technology
This video clip is an example of a presenter encountering difficulty with technology but handling it smoothly with a backup plan.
Poorly Handling Difficulty with Technology
This video clip is an example of a presenter encountering difficulty with technology but handling it poorly without a backup plan.
Greet the audience
If you have some free time before the presentation starts, walk up to some members of the audience, introduce yourself, and thank them for being there. This may put you at ease during the presentation.
Load your visuals before your allotted presentation time
If you plan to use presentation tools, load your presentation or connect your presentation device to the projector before you are asked to present so you do not use up your presentation time to load your files and make the audience wait.
Be pleasant and smile when you stand in front of an audience so it makes the audience feel comfortable listening to you.
Don't eat or chew gum
Do not chew gum or eat during your presentation. You may drink water or other allowed beverages during the presentation.
Take a deep breath
Before you begin to speak, take a few deep breaths and calm yourself.
Speak slowly and clearly, and do not rush through sentences, as some do when they get nervous.
Speak at an even pace
Pay attention to the pace in which you speak, to avoid your pace of delivery being either too fast or too slow for the audience to follow.
Pace Too Slow
This video clip is an example of a presentation pace that is too slow.
Pace Too Fast
This video clip is an example of a presentation pace that is too fast.
This video clip is an example of the presenter's pace of delivery being appropriate for the audience to follow.
Change the inflection of your voice to gain audience attention or to emphasize content
If you are trying to make a point about a particular idea, enunciate or pronounce the words clearly and distinctly. At this point, you can slow down and raise the volume of your voice to clearly express what you have to say. Speak with authority, confidence and enthusiasm.
Effective Voice Quality & Emphasis
This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating effective voice quality and emphasis on significant words.
Ineffective Voice Quality & Emphasis
This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating ineffective voice quality and emphasis on significant words.
Use appropriate gestures
Use appropriate gestures to emphasize appropriate points, and do not make wild gestures or pace back and forth in front of the screen in a distracting manner.
This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating effective hand gestures and body language.
This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating ineffective hand gestures and body language.
Make proper eye contact
Make proper eye contact: that is, look at the audience from one side of the room to the other side, and from the front row to the last row. Do not look down the whole time, and do not focus on just one side of the room or just the front row of the audience.
Effective Eye Contact
This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating effective eye contact.
Ineffective Eye Contact
This video clip is an example of a presenter demonstrating ineffective eye contact.
Stand beside the screen
If you plan to use projected visuals on a screen, stand to one side of the screen. Ideally, you should be facing your audience at all times and just glance at the screen to look at cues from the slides.
Effective Position Near Screen
This video clip is an example of a presenter standing by the side of the screen during a PowerPoint presentation so the audience view of the screen is unobstructed, and glances at the screen only occasionally.
Ineffective Position Near Screen
This video clip is an example of a presenter standing in front of the screen during PowerPoint presentation, obstructing the audience view of the screen.
Do not talk to the screen or board
Do not talk to the screen or the presentation device; look at the audience and talk. It is alright to look at the screen occasionally and point to something important on the screen as you present.
Looking at Screen
This video clip is an example of a presenter looking mostly at the screen (instead of the audience).
Writing on the Board
This video clip is an example of a presenter writing on the board while talking and the writing is difficult to read.
Do not read line-by-line
Do not read presentation materials line-by-line unless there is someone in the audience who is visually-impaired and cannot see the slide, or if it is a quote that you have to read verbatim to emphasize.
Reading Each Word
This video clip is an example of a presenter reading word by word from an overly dense slide that is difficult to read.
Talking from a Slide
This video clip is an example of a presenter talking from a slide with easily readable bullet points, using them as cues.
If you get stuck, look at your notes
If you get stuck on a point and do not know what to say, feel free to look at your notes to continue.
Use the microphone effectively
If you are presenting in a large room where a handheld microphone is needed, hold the microphone near your mouth and speak directly into it.
Using Microphone Effectively
This video clip is an example of a presenter using the microphone effectively.
Using Microphone Ineffectively
This video clip is an example of a presenter using the microphone ineffectively.
Do not curse or use inappropriate language
Do not curse or use inappropriate language if you forget a point during the presentation or if the presentation technology fails.
Be considerate of your team
If you are part of a team and giving a group presentation, be considerate to other team members by not using up their time or dominating the presentation. Smoothly transition from one presenter to another.
This video clip is an example of transitioning from one presenter to another in a polished manner.
This video clip is an example of awkward or unpolished transitions from one presenter to another.
Do not conclude abruptly
Do not conclude the presentation abruptly by saying "This is it" or "I'm done." Conclude properly by summarizing the topic and thanking the audience for listening.
This video clip is an example of the presenter concluding a presentation properly by summarizing the important points and thanking the audience.
This video clip is an example of the presenter abruptly concluding a presentation.
Be considerate of the next presenter
After your presentation and the question and answer part are over, remove your presentation materials from the desk or the podium, and close any open presentation software so the next presenter can get ready quickly.
Thank your moderator
Remember to thank your moderator (if there is one) and the audience, and if you were part of a panel presentation, make sure to thank the panel members.
Participate in the audience
If there are other presentations scheduled after yours, do not leave the room, but stay and listen to their presentations.
- Preparing for the Presentation
- Organizing the Presentation
- Designing Effective Presentation Materials
- Rehearsing the Presentation
- Handling Questions and Answers
- Presentation Skills Quiz
- Presentation Preparation Checklist
- Common Reasons for Ineffective Presentations
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Essential Study Skills
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- Putting it all together
- Additional Resources
- Coping With Stress
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- Reading with Purpose
- Taking Notes in Class
- Deciding What To Study
- Knowing How to Study
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- Meeting with Your Group
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Once you have created your presentation and your visual aids, and you have prepared for the presentation, you can deliver it to your audience. This module will help you learn how to confidently deliver your presentation.
Strategies for Your Presentation
How to deliver an effective presentation.
Watch this video or read the tips below to learn some techniques for delivering a presentation.
- Video Transcript - How to Deliver an Effective Presentation
Tips for Delivering a Good Presentation
- Have good posture
- Smile and act relaxed. It will make you look and feel more confident.
- Make eye contact with your audience instead of reading off your notes the entire time.
- Avoid distracting behaviours, like chewing gum or fidgeting.
- Watch for nervous gestures, such as rocking, or tapping.
- Make sure to dress appropriately for your profession.
- Take time to think during your presentation! People have a tendency to speak more quickly under pressure. Make an effort to slow your pace and include pauses. Speaking slower will also help you avoid excessive verbal fillers like “ummm” or “ahhhh”.
- Pay attention to your volume. Think about projecting your voice to the back of the classroom so that everyone can hear what you have to say.
- Try to speak clearly so that your audience can easily understand your words.
- Avoid the ‘lecture’. By incorporation more than a speech into your presentation, you’ll be better able to hold your audience’s attention. Try using visuals, asking questions, or doing activities.
How to Rehearse Your Presentation
Review this checklist before you present to make you that you are ready to deliver your presentation. It will help you rehearse your presentation so that it will go smoothly when you deliver it in class.
- Presentation Rehearsal Checklist - Word
- Presentation Rehearsal Checklist - PDF
Presenting online involves many of the same skills as presenting in person, but there are a few additional considerations. Watch the video below to learn more about how to successfully present online.
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Presentation can be defined as a formal event characterized by teamwork and use of audio-visual aids . The main purpose of presentation is to give information, to persuade the audience to act and to create goodwill. A good presentation should have a good subject matter, should match with the objective, should best fit the audience, and should be well organized.
Characteristics of a Good/Effective Presentation
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- Business Communication - Introduction
- Communication Process Components
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- Non Verbal Communication
- Importance of Communication
- Communication Flows
- Writing Effectively
- Effective Writing for Results
- How to make a Great Presentation?
- Body Language in communication
- Grapevine Communication
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- Communication Barriers
- Effect of Communication Barriers
- Overcoming Communication Barriers
- Seven Cs of Communication
- Informal Networks in Organizations and Organizational Effectiveness
- Corporate Meetings
- Conducting Effective Meetings
- Intercultural Communication
- Guidelines for Effective Communication
- Format of a Resume
- A Resume - What it is and Why You Need One ?
- Different Types of Resume
- The Importance of a Resume
- How to Write an Impressive Resume
- Resume Mistakes to Avoid
- How to Make Your Resume Stand Out and a Winning One
- How to Address Career Gaps and Other Career Weaknesses in Your Resume
- Writing a Resume in the Absence of Strong Work Experience
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Your presentation needs to be built around what your audience is going to get out of
By now most people have heard the advice about PowerPoint: Keep it simple; don't use a slide deck as a substitute for notes (by, say, listing the bullet points
How to prepare an effective presentation · 1. Keep it simple · 2. Create a compelling structure · 3. Use visual aids · 4. Be aware of design techniques and trends.
To start, it can be helpful to provide a brief overview of your presentation, which will help your audience follow the structure of your presentation. Then, in
Consider using a short icebreaker activity. · A tasteful, humorous commentary can be effective if related to the topic. · Explain the purpose of your presentation
Choose a font size that your audience can read from a distance. Try to avoid using font sizes smaller than 18 pt, and you may need to go larger for a large room
When you present your slide in the talk, it should take 1 minute or less to discuss. This rule is really helpful for planning purposes—a 20-
If you plan to use projected visuals on a screen, stand to one side of the screen. Ideally, you should be facing your audience at all times and just glance at
Tips for Delivering a Good Presentation · Be aware of your non-verbal communication. Use body language that shows CONFIDENCE! · Take time to think
To communicate the desired information, the speaker should use more of visual aids such as transparencies, diagrams, pictures, charts, etc. Each transparency/
Addition- ally, we will offer some simple tactics that you can use to take a conversational, visual storytelling approach to your next presentation. Page 4