established 2008

Media Training

How To Give A Presentation

by Joreth Innkeeper © 2009

There's really no substitute for taking an actual public speaking class, but here, I will attempt to highlight some of the important parts to making a good presentation.

First, write an outline of your topic. This will help you to organize your points.

Once you have the direction of your presentation prepared, you can begin work on the actual text of your presentation. Refer to the basic 5 Paragraph Essay and expand as necessary. The 5 Paragraph Essay is a formula for basic essay-writing: An Introductory paragraph, 3 Body Paragraphs, and a Conclusion Paragraph.

In the first paragraph, you start with something to catch your audience's attention. You can use a historical review, an anecdote, a surprising statement, a joke, or something about a famous person that is related. Next is your Thesis Statement, which is a declarative statement that tells the audience what your presentation is about. Avoid writing the Thesis Statement as if it were a Thesis Statement, i.e. "The purpose of this presentation is..." or "In this presentation, I will attempt to...". You can also list the main points you will be addressing in your presentation. There are only 3 points in a 5 Paragraph Essay, but you may be covering more than 3 points in your topic. However, unless you are given a long time to present, 3 main points is often sufficient.

Sometimes, 3 or so main points isn't applicable. If you are giving the history of polyamory, working the presentation like a sales pitch with 3 main points doesn't work. And that's OK, this is just a guideline. The bottom line is to be organized and clear about what you want to talk about and what the goal of your presentation is. You can't hit all areas of polyamory in a single talk, so you will want to focus on a single area and break that down into easily digestible segments.

Next are the Point Paragraphs where you will address each individual point. Try to do so clearly and concisely, starting with your strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. Each point should have some sort of segue between them, tying the previous point in with the following point.

The conclusion should make an allusion to the pattern used in the Intro paragraph, it should restate the Thesis using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language without being a duplicate, it should summarize the main points, and leave the audience with a final statement that indicates the presentation is over. A "Call To Action" is often used as the final statement.

In timing your presentation, an ideal breakdown would be:

Opening - 10 to 20 percent

Body - 65 to 75 percent

Closing - 10 to 20 percent

Visual aids greatly increase the receptiveness of a presentation. Whether you asked an organization if you could give a presentation, or an organization invited you to speak to them, you should find out what kind of facilities you will be speaking in and adjust your presentation accordingly. Do you have access to a microphone and speakers? How about to a projector and power for your computer? Can you bring or will they provide a white board or a flip-chart? Can you bring handouts? Will there be a podium or lectern or table for you to present from? Will you have easy access to power outlets? Can you bring a video camera to record your presentation? How many people do they expect?

Whether you use flip-charts, whiteboards, chalkboards, videos, or PowerPoint, you want to make your visual aids graphical and interesting. Refrain from using text at all if you can help it (with the exception of handouts), or if you must, use only single words or phrases to illustrate your point. Studies show that anytime the audience has something to read while you are speaking, they will not retain the information from either your speech or the printed words, even if they are the same thing. Images, charts, graphs, and physical models will better get your point across and make your presentation more memorable.

Speak clearly and learn to project your voice, even if you are using microphones. Speak in an animated fashion. But do not fidget or reflexively pace. You may want to move around your presentation area, but do so purposefully and minimally. You want to find a middle ground between standing as still as a statue and pacing the stage like a caged tiger. Do not keep your hands in your pockets, either keep them on the podium, holding your microphone, or gesturing while you speak.

Eliminate "uh", "um", and other useless phrases, like "right?" and "y'know" and "like". A silent pause is preferable to any of these filler words and phrases. Only punctuate your sentences with "right?" if you actually want the audience to respond.  Otherwise, they won't know to respond when you really want them to because they won't be able to tell the difference between you asking them a question and you using a filler word.

Practice, practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of a mirror, in front of friends and family, in front of a video camera, in front of your pets, in an empty room. Practice! Don't speak too fast. If you are typically an animated or fast speaker, or your speed increases when you get nervous, practice speaking a pace slower than your normal speaking speed. Practice speaking with a timer. Smartphones and other devices like iPod Touch have free Presentation Timer apps that will show you how long you've been talking, and give you up to 3 warnings at specific times that you set. Utilize tools like this, or simply have a friend keep their eye on a clock and give you visual cues.

Use good eye contact. If you need to refer to notes, use outlines or reminder cards when possible and talk out to your audience, not down to your notes. Only use a script if you have good presentation skills and can read while looking and connecting to your audience, whether you have a paper script, a script on your laptop, or access to a teleprompter or confidence monitor. Don't read what's on the slide if you're using PowerPoint, just know what's on the slide.

Learn how to add dramatic pauses for emphasis and effect. You can also ask your audience questions to get them engaged in your presentation. It can be a tricky thing to tell how long a pause should be. You want it long enough to grab their attention but not so long that you lose it again.

Do not apologize. Do not apologize for the state of your presentation, for your appearance, for your data, for technical difficulties, for tripping, do not apologize unless you actually said something offensive and someone calls you on it. Do not preempt your presentation by apologizing for the quality of images or visual aids, your speaking voice, etc. You lose credibility and confidence by apologizing for these sorts of things.  Apologies for being wrong or offensive, however, add credibility so save your apologies for when it matters.

Arrive early and well-prepared. Make a checklist if necessary and have everything already laid out and prepared before you leave, and schedule your departure so that you arrive early enough to be completely set up and relaxed and waiting before your presentation's start time.

Here is a short video on How To Give A Presentation:

About PowerPoint Presentations

Some presenters do not approve of PowerPoint or slide presentations, but the fact is that they are the most dynamic medium available to your average presenter. Anyone who does not have the knowledge or capital to produce exciting video or audio aids can create a PowerPoint. But, because anyone can do it, everyone does, and usually poorly. So here are some tips to make your PowerPoint assist in your presentation, rather than detract from it or become the presentation instead of you.

DO NOT USE TEXT. I cannot stress this enough. If there is any way possible to avoid using text, do it. Scour the internet for images. Use graphs and charts. Whatever you do, stay away from paragraphs, blocks of text, and pages of bulleted lists.

Sometimes text is absolutely necessary. In those cases, use only a single word or phrase to illustrate or emphasize your point. If you have to use a bullet list, again, use only a single word or phrase. For example, if you want to define a term, you can put the term on the screen for spelling and reference, but do not include the definition. That is for you as the speaker to say. When you do use text, use a REALLY BIG but easy to read font.

There are a couple of reasons why text in a PowerPoint presentation is bad. The first was mentioned above, where having text on the screen and verbally speaking resulted in the audience not remembering either the text or the audio, even if they were the same thing, but especially when they're not. Another reason is that text on a slide is really hard to resist reading from. Presenters fall into the trap of reading straight off of their slides, and that has two negative results: 1) the slide becomes full of text, making it difficult to read and boring to watch, and 2) if the presenter is simply reading the text, the presenter becomes unnecessary and he could have just printed out the presentation and stayed home.


As for graphics and images, spend the time and the money if necessary, to get good quality graphics and clipart. Grainy or pixelated images, graphics with a watermark, and snapshot photos look amateurish. Also be wary of charts that require legends and labels. These are often too small to read from the audience and if the chart doesn't explain itself, or doesn't make sense after you explain it in your speech, it's not a good chart to use.  

Also make sure to always cite the copyright information on your images.  If you found them anywhere for free, those images are copyrighted, so locate the owners' information and include that on your slide.  All images are automatically copyrighted the moment they exist, according to U.S. law even if there is no copyright notice stamped on the image.  Downloading from Google Images or Flickr or any other site is actually illegal without permission, but if you at least include the owner's information on your slide, you may avoid legal action and you look much more credible and trustworthy for giving credit where credit is due.  If you purchased stock images from a stock website, then you own the copyright for the use of that image in this presentation and a copyright notice is not necessary in your presentation.  If you use the clipart provided in PowerPoint itself, those are royalty-free and you may use them without copyright notice.

Use the templates. PowerPoint offers several templates and this will help you to avoid "creative" use of layout and color, also called "eye-bleeding". For some reason, left to our own devices, new presenters want to use neon and fluorescent colors, colors without enough contrast, cluttered, chaotic, or busy layouts, and lots of flashing, spinning, glittering, popping, whizzing, and otherwise annoying effects. Go for SIMPLE and BASIC, unless you have a background in public speaking or advertising, in which case, why are you reading this tutorial? But you also don't want to do boring black text on a white background with nothing to catch the viewer's attention, so use the templates available.

Avoid using audio or video clips in PowerPoint unless you are really familiar with PowerPoint and how to create good quality audio and video files. A video or audio should either be embedded in the PowerPoint seamlessly and set to full-screen, or it should be an entirely separate source, like a DVD or a CD, and have a switcher that allows you to switch between multiple sources. Having to escape out of your PowerPoint to start up Windows Media Player is distracting and looks unprofessional. But so does adding a "sound effect" just for the sake of having a sound effect, like canned applause or whooshing when a bullet point flies in from off-screen.

Here are a few videos to illustrate some of these points. The first video is What Not To Do. Watch this first, even before you attempt a PowerPoint yourself and even before the basic PowerPoint tutorial afterwards, and keep this in mind when you are creating your PowerPoints for the first time. The second video is a very basic, how-to for PowerPoint that just discusses the technical aspects of how to use the program. If you are already familiar with the program or are good at feeling your way through a program, you can skip the second video. The third one addresses how-to tips for dynamic PowerPoint presentations.

Doctor Don - Powerpoint Therapist

see the stand-up act Life After Death By Powerpoint from which this video was derived.

How To Use PowerPoint

7 Important Tips for Powerpoint Presentations

And finally, to see one one of the most engaging public speakers does it ...

How To Present Like A Pro

Now that you've got all that mastered, remember to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!  The reason the pros are as professional as they are is because they rehearse.  Start on your presentation early and finish early, so that you're not still working on the plane or in the hotel room, or even worse, in the ballroom or meeting room.  Give yourself time to practice, preferably with an audience like a family member or friend who can offer you pointers.  Then go rehearse some more!

© PMA 2008