Tips on Giving Presentations

A career's worth of advice on the art of giving speeches and the necessity of preparation.


Because you have hundreds of speeches, workshops, and presentations under your belt, a friend asks you for some quick tips. You take a deep breath and say:

“Know the audience’s needs, interests, hopes, and fears. Recognize that you may be speaking to more than one audience. Know the purpose of your talk and craft your presentation to achieve that goal. Dress appropriately and wear nothing that distracts. Strike the appropriate tone right from the beginning. Don’t swamp them with unnecessary information. Support generalizations with specific and realistic examples. If you talk about what is wanted also discuss what is not wanted. Keep a fast pace. Paint verbal pictures. Let them interrupt with questions at any point. Never postpone the answer. If you don’t know something, admit it. Have a theme to which all of the key points are attached and use that to segue from one area to another. Stick to plain language. Don’t talk down. Avoid jargon and unnecessary complexity. Keep visual aids to a minimum. Adjust your approach and tone to the size of the room and the audience. Understate your case. Make meaningful eye contact. Don’t play favorites with audience members. Deliver any humor in snippets and keep it always in good taste. Don’t hand out copies of PowerPoint slides and, if possible, avoid using PowerPoint entirely. Have short breaks hourly. Avoid repetitive gestures and expressions. Strive for clarity and credibility.

“And remember that the key to a successful speech is, as Jack Valenti once noted, slavish preparation.”

Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.


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