Five top tips for better presentations

I’m going to share my top five tips for better presentations and speeches. These tips actually come from a White Paper I wrote about presentation skills. The White Paper offers ten tips, including the essentials of body language, the importance of storytelling and the power of the pause as a communication tool.

But here’s a taste of five tips that will help you ace that next presentation.

1 Be Yourself

Be who you are – not who you think you should be.

Sometimes, because we are nervous about speaking in public, we hide. We hide behind big words and convoluted sentences. Or we hide behind a persona we believe the audience wants. 

The last thing we want to do is be ourselves.

Yet being yourself is your most valuable asset. There is nobody else on earth who thinks like you, walks like you… or talks like you.

A key ingredient to being a great speaker – and a success in life – is to be authentic, to be who you truly are. 

2  Be Passionate

Believe in what you say – and show it.

Be comfortable showing your passion. Passion is the secret sauce that transforms speeches and presentations.

Passion, combined with your authentic voice, is the foundation upon which great speeches – and great speakers – are made.

Your passion will engage your audience, and inspire them.

By your tone and your body language, as well as your words, you must demonstrate that you believe in, and care about, what you’re saying.

3 Be focused   

Define your message. Many speakers never make an impact because of one simple thing – focus. 

They cram speeches and presentations with information without clearly defining and signposting the one critical message they want the audience to take away at the end.

Every speech or presentation needs clarity. You get this by developing the focus, the controlling idea. It’s the heart, the main idea, of your presentation. 

Before you rush to write, or prepare your slides, spend time thinking about the clearest, shortest, boldest expression of the main idea you want to plant in the audience’s mind.

4  Be Prepared

Have a plan; do your research. It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it. But in my experience many speeches and presentations fail because the author didn’t spend enough time planning.

I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has told me: “I’m up against the clock… I know my stuff… I’m going to wing it.”

The more you plan, the easier it will be to prepare your speech or presentation. And, by the way,  planning does not mean busying yourself creating slides.

5  Be Clear

Use simple words in simple, active sentences. The simpler you are, the more powerful you are. Simple words guarantee clarity and understanding. Simple words ensure your message sticks.

In a complex world, simplicity cuts through the babble like a hot blade through butter. You are heard, and you are remembered.

So use simple, powerful words. And avoid jargon. Jargon is code. It works if everyone understands the code. But outsiders are left scratching their heads. If your audience is puzzling over one unfamiliar word, they’ve probably missed your next ten words.

So those are five of the ten tips in my White Paper. If you are interested in learning more about these five, or discovering the other five, there’s a link to the White Paper on this page. 

open book of top tips

“Don’t keep your passion buttoned inside your vest.”

That’s just one of our Top Ten Tips for speakers. Discover the other nine in our free White Paper.

Halina St James, founder of Podium Coaching and creator of TalkitOut

Halina St James takes the worry out of presentations with her Present Like a Pro video training course. It’s available now from the Podium Coaching online store, together with her popular TalkitOut: From Fears to Cheers e-book and workbook.