How to Deliver Effective Presentations


Delivering presentations is an everyday art form that anyone can master. To capture your audience's attention, present your information with ease and confidence. Act as if you are in a conversation with your audience, and they will pay attention to you. To get this level of fluency, write an engaging narrative, use more visuals than text in your slides, and practice, practice, practice.

Part 1
Rehearsing Your Presentation

Rehearsing Your Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

1
The "bar" test ensures that your idea is clear and your storytelling is effective. Before you write your presentation, make notes sketching out your message. Think of it as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Then ask a colleague or friend who knows nothing about your project to listen to your summary.[1] Deliver your summary to them in friendly, direct language, as if you were telling the story to a friend in a bar. In fact, you can tell the story to a friend in a bar. However, telling a colleague over coffee can work just as well. Get them to tell you what their takeaway was. If they can summarize your message accurately, that's a good sign.

Rehearsing Your Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

2
Find a friend, colleague, or mentor who you trust to give you useful feedback. Rather than waiting until your presentation is "finished," deliver it to them while it's still a draft. That way, they can give you tips not just on your delivery, but on the organization of your content as well.[2] Ask them to be your coach. Give them your presentation once or twice and let them ask you questions and give feedback. Ask them to point out moments that are dull or confusing.

Rehearsing Your Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

3
It's important to rehearse in front of people because it will make you less nervous when the time comes. If you tend to get nervous when you give presentations, you can go further during your rehearsals in order to reduce your nerves.[3] Write down what you're afraid of. What exactly worries you when you give a speech? Looking foolish? Being asked a hard question? Write down your exact fears, and then consider them each individually. Think about what you will do in each situation. For instance, if your fear is, "I'll forget what I'm saying," you can prepare a plan like, "If I forget what I'm saying, I'll pause, scan my notes, and find the next important point I need to make." Catch your negative thoughts, and calm them. If you think, "I'm going to get nervous and sweaty," replace it with, "I have important information to deliver and everyone is going to pay attention to that."

Rehearsing Your Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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You don't want to go over your time frame and get cut off, or wear on the patience of your audience. Time your rehearsals, especially those you give in front of others, to see that you are staying within the time you have. Give yourself extra time if you plan to take questions, or if you anticipate lots of digressions.

Rehearsing Your Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

5
Try practicing in front of your dog, your mirror, or your family. Practice speaking with an engaging tone. Gesture and emote as if you were addressing your audience. Know your presentation backward and forward.[4] This doesn’t mean sticking to a strict script every time. Instead, when you rehearse, improvise freely. Deliver your main points, but include quips and anecdotes that occur to you as you go. You'll remember the best ones when you actually deliver the presentation.

Part 2
Delivering Your Presentation with Confidence

Delivering Your Presentation with Confidence on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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It's totally fine to feel nervous, but you don't have to act that way. The more confident you act, the more confident you will feel. This doesn't mean that you need to act arrogant. Try to calm yourself and remind yourself that what you're doing isn't unusual. Rather, it's necessary, interesting, and ordinary. Remind yourself that your audience likely can't see your nerves.[5] Take a deep breath and exhale before you go on stage.

Delivering Your Presentation with Confidence on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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Smile, raise your eyebrows, and otherwise tell your story through feelings as well as facts. Show your audience your own passion for the topic. Say everything as if you find it interesting and expect them to be interested by it as well. Your enthusiasm will be infectious.[6]

Delivering Your Presentation with Confidence on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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The more directly you address your audience, the more engaged they will feel. Be relaxed and conversational. Rather than rattling off your points, deliver them to the audience as if you are certain they will be interesting. Look directly into the faces of the people you are addressing.[7] If there are too many people to really see faces, just look boldly into the crowd. Project your voice. MaureenTaylor, the Founder and CEO ofSNP Communications, tells us:"You might even feel like you'rescreaming. However, volume makesyou enunciate your words betterand it brings out inflection. Youcan easily sound bored if you'requiet. Bring the volume up, andyou'll bring up your inflectiontoo."Project your voice. Maureen Taylor,the Founder and CEO of SNPCommunications, tells us: "You mighteven feel like you're screaming.However, volume makes you enunciateyour words better and it brings outinflection. You can easily sound boredif you're quiet. Bring the volume up,and you'll bring up your inflectiontoo."Project your voice. Maureen Taylor, theFounder and CEO of SNP Communications, tellsus: "You might even feel like you'rescreaming. However, volume makes youenunciate your words better and it bringsout inflection. You can easily sound boredif you're quiet. Bring the volume up, andyou'll bring up your inflection too."Project your voice. Maureen Taylor, the Founder and CEO of SNPCommunications, tells us: "You might even feel like you're screaming.However, volume makes you enunciate your words better and it brings outinflection. You can easily sound bored if you're quiet. Bring the volumeup, and you'll bring up your inflection too."Project your voice. Maureen Taylor, the Founder and CEO of SNP Communications,tells us: "You might even feel like you're screaming. However, volume makesyou enunciate your words better and it brings out inflection. You can easilysound bored if you're quiet. Bring the volume up, and you'll bring up yourinflection too."

Delivering Your Presentation with Confidence on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

4
Stand up straight and face the audience completely. Keep your head up and your shoulders back and relaxed. Don't twist any part of your body (shoulders, hips) away from the audience. Move your hands as you speak. Don't wave them, as this will make you look nervous. Instead, try calmly gesturing with your palm out when you make a point. If you describe a shape, draw it in the air with your hands.

Part 3
Crafting a Compelling Presentation

Crafting a Compelling Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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As you write, instead of organizing your presentation by topics and subtopics, organize it along a story arc. Start by setting the stage, then pull your audience into a tale with an exciting climax. It may help to start your presentation with a question or a dilemma so they feel involved from the start.[8] Have a clear through line that runs through all parts of your presentation, leading to your main point. Include stories that put your listeners into a situation. Get their energy with tactile details (sound, sight, smell, taste, touch) and descriptions of an emotional state. Include moments of reflection in which you share how you felt or feel.

Crafting a Compelling Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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Avoid bullet points that explain everything you are going to say. Instead, present charts, graphs, photos, or illustrations that only you can explain. This way, your audience remains focused on you.[9]

Crafting a Compelling Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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Before you deliver something you want the audience to pay attention to, alert them of this. If you can, make your audience feel as if they have a stake in whether or not they get your point. Say something like, "now this is where we lose a lot of people" or, "this is one of the parts that's the most difficult to explain."[10]

Crafting a Compelling Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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Make jokes and tell funny anecdotes. Try leading your audience up to a point that sounds as if it will be serious, technical, or even dangerous, and then surprise them with a joke. If your presentation has a lot of data, you might transition between topics with funny visuals. As always with humor in a work setting, remember that humor varies widely between cultures. Avoid making any jokes that make fun of anybody's sex, gender, race, class, or ability. Remember to "punch up"—if your jokes take someone on, take on someone with more power than you, rather than less. If you get nervous, try starting your presentation with a simple joke or a funny story. It will put you and your audience at ease.

Crafting a Compelling Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

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If you are working with a small crowd, you can talk directly to members of the audience. Ask someone to tell a joke to get you warmed up, or quiz audience members about their experience with something related to your topic. If it's a large group, ask questions that each audience member can answer with a show of hands. Take votes, or polls. Ask the crowd to consider something or imagine something, and hold a moment of quiet while they do. Interactive moments make great pivots from one section of your talk to another.

Crafting a Compelling Presentation on How to Deliver Effective Presentations

6
Write a presentation that will help you effectively communicate with the audience you have. Ask yourself: Will these be experts, or newcomers to your ideas? If they're experts, you'll need to present them with specific, technical, and new ideas. If they're newcomers, plan to introduce them more generally to your topic, and avoid technical terms. Will audience members be on your side from the start, or will they need persuading? Will you have a large, faceless crowd, or a small group? If you're working with a small group, you can include them in parts of your presentation through questions, personal digressions, and conversations.