Jul 15, 2014

66 Best Presentation & Public Speaking Tips


I wrote my 500th post last week. That's a big milestone for me. In this post, I try to present the crux of my five and a half years of blogging. What follows is the best 66 tips you will ever read on making a presentation and giving a talk. Benefit from it.

Planning Your Presentation

1. You have to tell a story to your audience. Stories are memorable and stories appeal to people. Ask not what information I have to share. Instead ask, what story should I tell?

2. Appeal to emotions. Most presentations are too logical but all decisions are based on emotions.

3. Every argument needs; Ethos, Pathos and Logos (Aristotle). Ethos is credibility, pathos is emotions and logos is logic. You need all the three to convince someone. Most presentations lack emotions.

4. Our brain loves novelty. Teach people something new.

5. If your audience remembers only one thing, what would it be? Try to come up with your main message in less than 140 characters. This will force you to think properly.

6. Divide your talk into 3 parts. Your audience will find it easy to follow and remember.

7. Deliver a jaw-dropping moment which will be remembered for a really long time. Nancy Duarte calls it the 'star moment'. STAR - Something They'll Always Remember.

8. Our brain also loves humor. It lowers defenses and make you more likable by your audience. Using humor will mean audience will not find your boring.

9. If you can, try to present/speak in 18 minutes or less. The shorter your presentation the better.

10. Give concrete examples. Your audience cannot understand abstract concepts.

11. Set a time limit and make your presentation. Creativity flourishes under constraints. Do not keep working on your presentation till the last minute.

12. Plan your content on paper. Software comes at the end. Once you have complete clarity, your slides will get made faster.

13. Spend time in understanding your audience. Who are they? What they know? What they want from your presentation? Where are they right now and where do you want them to be at the end of the talk?

14. Prepare for questions which your audience will ask. On every slide ask, what will my audience ask me on this slide?

15. Make proper handouts. Handouts are not printouts of the slides. Use handouts effectively. You can print a summary in a one page handout and given it at the end of the presentation.

16. As per John Medina, a molecular biologist, our brain loses attention after 10 minutes. If your talk is longer than that then every 10 mins do something different. Play a video, get a new speaker or give a task to your audience.

17. Prepare for less time. For a 10 min talk, you should prepare for 7-8 minutes.

18. Everyone pays attention at the start. Make the most of that extra attention and start well.

19. End early. Everyone loves to go home early or finish a meeting early.

20. How to start a presentation? Start from where your audience is now. What do they know about the topic. Start talking about that and get everyone on the same page. Now start your journey to where you want to take them.

21. What is the objective of your talk? Remember this all the time and make sure you fulfill it.

Designing Your Slides

1. Visual display of information is important. Avoid too much text and go for images and videos.

2. Picture Superiority Effect states that photos are better than text. Using photos make your audience understand more and remember more. Use photos to amplify your message.

3. Have one theme per slide. Do not try to say too many things on one slide.

4. Use very few words per slide. Avoid bullets at all costs.

5. For every slide ask; "What's my point?" and "Why does it matter?"

6. Remove all 'noise' from your slides. Try to keep it clutter free. Whatever can be removed without losing the main message is a 'noise'.

7. Keep animations and transitions to the minimum. Use it only if very necessary.

8. Do not use 3-D charts. Your objective is not to impress your audience. 2-D charts are better for audience understanding.

9. Utilize empty space on your slide properly. Do not fill every corner of your slide. Empty space adds to the power of your slide.

10. Help your audience understand your numbers. Make sense of the numbers and compare/contrast them.

11. Have large size text on your slides. Your slides must be visible from the back of the room.

12. If you have 10 slides with 10 charts, try to give a break to your audience by showing images or telling a story after presenting 3 slides.

13. Have a one sentence summary of what is the key finding of every chart/table you present. Do not wait for your audience to figure out the key message.

14. Edit your slides ruthlessly after your first draft is ready. Remember, the shorter the better.


Delivering Your Presentation

1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Unless you rehearse 10 times you cannot master your presentation. The aim is not to memorize but to be in the flow.

2. Talk as if you are having a conversation. You are not 'giving a presentation' to me. You are talking to me as a person talks to another.

3. Deliver a multisensory experience. Try to engage more than one sense. Can you make people feel the message?

4. Be authentic. Do not try to be someone else. Speak from your heart.

5. Do not hold yourself back during delivery. Be natural. Be the same person; on and off the stage.

6. Move around. Do not stand behind a lectern. Move your hands as well.

7. Make proper eye contact.

8. Do not read the slides.

9. Do not stand facing the slides. Have a laptop in front of you, so you don't look back.

10. Use a wireless presenter to change slides.

11. Reach your venue early. Check your equipment. Do a dry run before the actual talk starts.

12. Do not try to be a perfect speaker. Just go and talk. No one is perfect. No one can become perfect.

13. No one cares about your mistakes. Most of them will not even notice it. Take your mistakes in your stride.

14. Calm yourself before every presentation. Tell yourself everyone gets nervous. Take slow deep breaths to calm your nerves.

15. Engage your audience. You talk is not a one way lecture. Ask questions. Give away prizes. Mingle with the crowd.

16. Take charge of the room in which you are presenting. Make any changes in seating styles, lighting, etc. if you feel that is affecting your performance.

17. Share the stage with other speakers. Your audience will love this change. One speaker can become boring (especially in long presentations/workshops).

18. Voice modulation is necessary. You remember your college professor who drove you to sleep in every lecture because she kept on talking without any voice modulation.

19. Do not use jargon.

20. Have fun while preparing your presentation and while delivering it. If you have fun, your audience will also have fun. You are tense and they will not enjoy at all.

21. Use props to explain concepts. Go out of the way in figuring out ways to make your audience understand and remember your story.

22. Do not speak too fast. Pause often. Pauses help you get extra attention.

23. The more you speak, the better you become. If it is your first presentation, you will fumble and that is fine. Only after you have presented multiple times can you hope to improve.

Other Tips
1. You have to be passionate about your topic. If you are not moved by the topic, how can you move your audience? Passion is contagious. Your passion will affect your audience.

2. Your talk has to help people. Do not sell what you will not buy yourself.

3. Start with a beginners' mind. There is no right and wrong way of giving a talk. Do what you feel right. Take a risk. Try out something new.

4. Be clear, be simple and be short.

5. PowerPoint is not a must every time you speak. Go without slides once in a while. Just carry some prints of data you want to present.

6. You are the focus of your presentation. Not your slides. People have come to listen to you. So stop equating presentation with PowerPoint.

7. Videotape first few minutes of your talk and watch it. It will help you immensely.

8. Look back at the talk you just gave. What went right, repeat it. What went wrong, learn from it.

Most of these tips are based on the following books: Presentation Zen, Talk Like TED, Confessions of a Public Speaker, Resonate, HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, The Quick & Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking  & The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. It is also based on my 6 years of blogging. Read the book reviews by clicking here.