Public speaking can be very stressful. I know that whenever I get up in front of a crowd I go through a panic moment. It takes a lot of discipline, practice and preparation to put on a good presentation and even knowing what you need to know can be hard.

A year or so ago I wrote on the subject of first time speaking. Since that time I’ve been able to use many of those tips as well as some new tricks to help get myself ready for speaking engagements. I also had a chance to spend time with a speaking coach which helped more than I’d have ever guessed.

Now when I’m speaking, while not 100% comfortable, I do feel much better and I’m able to not only make it more fun for me, I think I pass along that good feeling a bit more to my audience. I’ve got several good tips, tricks and resources that will hopefully help some of you. These things should help whether you’re speaking at a large conference, giving a small internal presentation to you coworkers or classmates or giving a sales pitch. They’re pretty universal.

h3. Mental and Physical Preparation Before Your Presentation

I’ve found that the more prepared I am, the more confident I feel. This makes for a better presentation. As you get comfortable speaking you’ll naturally feel more confident and the need to prepare (and time it takes) will not be so important. For newer and first time speakers I think you should spend as much time as you can getting ready. Well, don’t make yourself crazy, just make sure you know and feel comfortable with your material and practice a few times.

If you’ve never spoken before a meeting with a speech coach can really help. They talk with you, get an idea of your style and will offer you some specific advice on how to address the crowd, what your particular problems might be and more. For example when I went I was told:

* Speak slower.
* Talk to individuals in the crowd.
* Think before you speak. Take pauses.

These things were (and still are) very, very helpful for me to remember when I’m speaking. Going over them before I get up there reminds me and helps me be more calm and confident.

A few other ways to prepare yourself:

* Drink lots of water.
* Get a good night’s sleep.
* Avoid the urge to go out drinking the night before. If you do, moderate yourself. (Especially if you’re at SXSW.)
* Eat.
* Breathe.
* Visualize a positive outcome.
* Hang out with the other speakers (if there are any) and ask them questions and for advice. This always helps me as they will usually build you up.

h3. Preparing Your Support Materials

The key to preparing your actual presentation is to remember that less is more. If you want to share your information with people who couldn’t be there, try writing an article. Even detailed presentations have something missing. A few common, and good to know, guidelines to a good presentation:

* Keep text to a minimum. No more than 5 bullet points per slide and if you can keep them to one core idea–that’s better. People will tend to read this stuff and not pay attention to what you’re saying.
* Check the contrast and font size. Make sure that if you have text on the screen that people can read it.
* Use pictures to get your idea across. They’re easier to remember, less distracting and make more impact. Have stories ready and use imagery to set the backdrop.
* Avoid complicated charts and graphs, they’re hard for your audience to follow. Keep visual ideas very simple.
* Check the resolution of your presentation. Maybe go with 800×600 to be safe. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen slides that don’t fit on the screen. You never know for sure how it’s going to work out when you get things set up if you don’t have full control over the environment.
* Have simple to follow notes to go along with your slides and major talking points. They should serve as a reminder, not something for you to read from.
* Prepare more than you can speak to, but also be prepared to get cut short. Time flies up there.

h3. Giving The Presentation

While you don’t want to spend too much time while in the midst of your presentation thinking about what to say or do, but there are a few things you should remember when speaking:

* Think positive.
* Tell stories. Stories will get your idea across much better than charts and graphs and numbers. They also have the added benefit of helping to engage your audience.
* Don’t read your slides. They should support what you are saying, not be what you are saying. The same goes for your notes.
* Keep your intro short and strong. People want to know who you are, but they also want to get into the meat of your talk. A quick, solid and clear intro is better than a meandering joke or list of accomplishments any day. Changes are most people in the audience know a bit about you already.
* Keep it slow and steady. Pause when you need to take a breath, you’ll think better.
* Don’t agonize over mistakes, and don’t say you’re sorry. Keep confident and if you mess up–move on.
* Pause to let strong ideas sink in. This can be hard to remember, but your audience needs time to absorb and take breaks too!
* Smile, joke and laugh if appropriate. A little humor can go a long way, but don’t over do it.
* Learn from your mistakes. I know that I learn a little every time I get up and speak.
* End strong. Make your finale crisp, clean and powerful.
* Be prepared for interruptions and questions. If you are doing well, you’ll have lots of questions.

I hope this stuff helps some of you. I know that the advice I’ve been given over the years has helped me quite a bit. I’m still not a great speaker, but I’m getting better and I sure as heck feel more comfortable about it than I used to — which to me is more than half the battle. As always, if you’ve got more tips or a story of your own, post it in the comments.

21 Comments on How To Give A Great Presentation

  1. Andrew says:

    A few things that come to mind:

    - When preparing your presentation, make sure you have a beginning, middle and end. Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then remind them what you said.

    - Telling stories is good; weaving the many parts of one story into your presentation is better.

    - Rehearse your material with your speaking notes so you know both inside and out, and that it works well within the alotted time. If you’re anything like me you WILL go over; let the Q&A at the end be your buffer.

    - Know who your audience will be; confirm that this is the same audience you were expecting at the start of your presentation. If these are not the ‘droids you’re looking for you’ll know to adapt instead of waste everybody’s time.

    - Riffing off the “speak slower” and “take pauses” words of advice, this is also how you kill the dreaded “ummm” (or “you know”). More often than not, if you’re saying “ummm” then you’re probably not speaking your sentences as full sentences; pause, know the sentence you’re going to say, speak the sentence, and pause.

    This is where the rehearsal and little stories really come into play. It’s ok to write out word-for-word what you want to say (including the stories) if you’re not strong at improvisation, but do not speak-as-you, ummm, read-it-word-for-word. You should be comfortable enough with the material to pause briefly to quickly read the next sentence or paragraph, then speak it to the audience while relating it to your overhead material. Since the stories are what you are (I hope) most comfortable with, at least those parts of the presentation should flow well and get your face out of the notes for extended periods of time.

    - If you’re getting lots of questions, don’t be afraid to ask the audience member to “hold that thought” if you’ll touch on the material later, or find a diplomatic way to say that it’s an interesting question and then ask them to ask it again at Q&A time. This gets back to the “know your audience” bit. By setting expectations (yours and the audience’s) at the start, you will avoid most of those really uncomfortable situations where the whole presentation is derailed because you’re giving an upper-management, big-picture presentation to folks in the trenches.

    If you’re getting a lot of “hold that thought” types of questions then you probably need to refine your “beginning, middle and end” technique; you haven’t been telling them enough about what you’re going to say. The “beginning” is the map that holds all the expectations together.

    …and I’ve probably already written way too much. That’s my three-cents-Canadian, eh?

  2. lifehack.org says:

    How To Give A Great Presentation

    D. Keith Robinson over To-Done has written a good piece on stuff you need to know to give a good presentation. Are you stress when you speak in front of public? Are you nervous during presentation? I used to be exactly like that. I set myself some goa…

  3. Scrivs says:

    Exactly what I needed for my choke session. Thanks Keith.

  4. A couple additional tips from a former speech instructor:

    - arrive a little early to test A/V, make changes to seating arrangements, greet the audience, and get some water to sip (rushing in at the last minute is one of the prime ways to kill your otherwise well-prepared presentation).

    - speaking to individuals is great advice — I recommend starting out by speaking to someone at the back of the room. If you can hold their attention you know you are speaking at the correct volume.

  5. How To Give A Great Presentation

    D. KEITH ROBINSON, in what’s quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs, writes about how to give a great presentation:
    I’ve found that the more prepared I am, the more confident I feel. This makes for a better presentation. As you get comfort…

  6. MP Estudios says:

    Como realizar una gran presentacion en publico

    D. Keith Robinson ha preparado una excelente guia para realizar presentaciones en público. Se consigue completa en inglés en …

  7. Great post. Thanks for the advices. Here’s another one I heard when I was a kid:

    - If you are scared of crowds, look at the back wall, not at the audience. You will forget a bit the audience, and for people in the crowd, it will feel just like you’re looking at them. Also, for really big rooms, don’t forget to look to the left and to the right; you don’t want to talk only to the people in the center section.

  8. Surf 11 says:

    Tips for public speaking

  9. The Program says:

    Conference Presentation Tips

    I had initiall thought that I would construct this big, long entry full of advice about how to create an effective poster or how to deliver a great presentation for all of the conference goers out there… But when I…

  10. Krishnakumar says:

    These are simple and valuable tips for good presentations. I was searching to get such type of advices. I have to practice this for my betterment. Thank you Dr.K. Robinson

  11. sahil pathan says:

    sir,
    i havv presentation on kashmir problem so please give some sugestions with releta this topic.

  12. Jigar Patel says:

    The information on this website has been very useful. Thank you all for your advice!

    here is something i strongly believe in:

    All great presentations are give by someone who is confident. CONFIDENCE is the key, anything that you do to make yourself belive you are the best is sure to help you. I find that closing my eyes and seeing myself giving the talk from the back of the room works well. I imagine myself captivating the audience and delivering a stunning presentation.

  13. chetan bhungani says:

    It is a fantastic presentation on how to give good presentation ! I am giving these details to my students, as I am hod in computer college. Thanking you.

  14. Roger Rendón says:

    I do appreciate all your tips you´ve gained in your professional life. It´s quite great having a person like you, concerned on othere´s people presentations.
    TNKS.
    Roger Rendón

  15. D.naem says:

    thank you all for this advices
    there is other ways for good presentation
    *talk to your self before talking &repeat(i can do it i amsure i can)
    *if you mistaken give alittle smile hen continue
    *belive in your self
    *belive in your idea

  16. I find that remembering the attendees really want the speakers to do well and they are sitting there sending good vibes is reassuring.

    Watch negative thoughts. They create a hostile environment in which you cannot do your best.You are probably doing much better than you think…unless, of course, the attendees are throwing ripened fruit. At that point you have nothing to lose and you can relax and enjoy your presentation.

  17. I feel the tips given by u are really helpful to the beginers. I will ask my students to read this article its very useful.

  18. Peter says:

    Good advice indeed.

    I am a trainer myself and would like to offer some tips for great speech.

    Prepare well in advance.
    Dress well.
    Reach before time at the venue.
    Don’t try to hide yourself on the stage.
    Greet the audience heartily.
    Don’t lecture, talk instead to your audience.
    Speak loudly, slowly and clearly.
    Pause, Pause to create curiosity.
    Add some relevant humour.
    Ask some questions to your audience to involve them into the talk.
    Maintain eye contact.
    Don’t pay attention to distractions.
    Have complete control on your audience like you are the leader of them.
    When you are on the stage behave like a leader.
    Tell the audience something about your past failure.
    Make your speech short and simple.
    Move on the stage, if short of courage to face the audience.
    Deep breathing normalizes us.
    Never argue with any audience.
    Never ask any audience to come on the stage{or he will eat up your time}
    Remind the main points of your speech at the end.
    Thanks the audience for the patience to listen you.

  19. Peter says:

    Good advice indeed.

    I am a trainer myself and would like to offer some tips for great speech.

    Prepare well in advance.
    Dress well.
    Reach before time at the venue.
    Don’t try to hide yourself on the stage.
    Greet the audience heartily.
    Don’t lecture, talk instead to your audience.
    Speak loudly, slowly and clearly.
    Pause, Pause to create curiosity.
    Add some relevant humour.
    Ask some questions to your audience to involve them into the talk.
    Maintain eye contact.
    Don’t pay attention to distractions.
    Have complete control on your audience like you are the leader of them.
    When you are on the stage behave like a leader.
    Tell the audience something about your past failure.
    Make your speech short and simple.
    Move on the stage, if short of courage to face the audience.
    Deep breathing normalizes us.
    Never argue with any audience.
    Never ask any audience to come on the stage{or he will eat up your time}
    Remind the main points of your speech at the end.
    Thanks the audience for the patience to listen you.

  20. S N MANOHARAN says:

    Dear Sir,
    This page is EXCELLENT.I’m sure that these tips will be very much helpful for the presenters to deliver very good presentation.
    Thank You.

  21. woh ! your site is great . i was getting ready for a speech tomorrow. and i just typed in the web.and i am in the right place. – srilanka

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