How to 'WOW' with your Presentations

Presenting in front of a large audience or a group of senior people can be extremely daunting.    It’s very normal to be nervous and most people wish they could be anywhere else in the world.   Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be like this.  

Here are our top 5 tips to help you become a great presenter: 

1. Know the profile of your audience and what they want


“Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener.” ― Michel de Montaigne

It’s really important to understand who the people are in the ‘room,’ be that virtual or face to face.  Consider level, age, gender, culture, knowledge of the topic, etc.   Determine who the key players and decision makers are.    Ask yourself what problems they need you to help solve.    Where possible, connect with a few of your audience beforehand to understand those needs better and what might resonate most.    You can use this information to tailor your content.  It’s all about informing and engaging them to get to your desired outcome.     Where you have a mixed audience, you need to consider what result you require.   If you’re pitching for funding for a program, it’s most important to win over the decision makers so they will need to be your primary target.   If you need to get information to a larger group then you focus on what the majority of people want and maybe offer links to additional content that others can access afterwards.

2. Make the content uncomplicated but unforgettable


“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” ― Leo Burnett

Depending on the type of presentation, it’s likely you will have to create slides that you can refer to throughout.    Think of these as a way to make your key messages ‘hit home’ rather than to communicate all the information.  Making it memorable takes effort but it makes the difference between a good presentation and a great one.  Ideas could be finding some clever graphics, telling a personal story that relates to a key point, using famous quotes that reinforce what you are saying, playing a short video clip.   Vary things up as this keeps the room with you and engaged throughout.   Ideally the most memorable moments link to the most significant points you want to make.   Plan out how many slides you need for the time allotted.   2 minutes per slide isn’t a bad assumption but if you have to share significant amounts of data or know that your audience is going to be asking lots of questions, you may even need to push that out to 5 minutes per slide.   I recommend using a white board or even just a notepad, to map out, at a very high level, what each slide should cover.  This helps you to think through the presentation and really shortens the time spent on the design.  Too often I’ve seen people create far more slides than they need and then have to cut out 70% of them.  This is a big wasted effort and takes time away from other prep that you need to be doing.   People often see slide content as a way to remember all the points they want to communicate.   This can lead to information overload and a tendency for the presenter to look at the slides, read them out and completely ignore the audience.   It’s true that ‘pictures say 1000 words’ so choose photos and graphics and maybe a few key words to supplement them.   When you’re sharing data, highlight the key numbers or information you want the audience to take away.   Be aware that it’s very fair for your audience to ask a question about anything on your slide so watch out for too much data and try not to put anything in there that you don’t want to ‘rat hole’ on.   Don’t forget to think about how you are going to make the presentation memorable!!

3. Weave a storyline through the presentation

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

Once you’ve got your 1st draft of slides created (or if you don’t have slides), work on the story that accompanies them.   Too many people spend 95% of their time on the slide creation and then struggle during the presentation as they haven’t thought through the verbal element.    They haven’t considered how to kickoff or how they will link from one item to the next seamlessly or how they will ensure they get across their key message on each slide.   Remember the point about making the presentation memorable.   Your storyline is a big part of this too.    As you build your ‘talk track,’ you will find yourself modifying the slides and your wording.  This is a great sign you’re on the right path.  The whole presentation is coming together as one, connected narrative.    Depending on what works for you, writing down notes (for yourself) to accompany the slides will help you when you get to the next stage of rehearsal.  Some presenters like to write the whole thing out, others like to use bullet points or even just key words that trigger the point they want to make.    Be conscious of the language you use and that each phrase is important.   Once you have the content and story finalized, it can be really good to pre-wire a few key people in the audience/senior team.    They will give you feedback on what’s working and what might need to change.   It also enables them to digest the content and think about how they will act in the meeting.   Often, they will feel they are on show in front of their Boss as much as you are and this gives them a chance to make a good impression too.   They will tend to be more positive and supportive during the meeting which will help it go even better.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse


“The more I practice, the luckier I get” ― Gary Player

Now that you’ve got your content and story, the next stage is to make sure you can deliver it at a high level consistently.    Practice until you get totally comfortable with the material.  You should also spend time trying to predict questions that you might get and either address them in your presentation or have your answer prepared.    As you rehearse, it’s best to present out loud and even imagine you are speaking to a person on the other side of a closed door.  This will enable you to come across strong and confident.   It also helps replicate as closely to the conditions you will face at the event or meeting.    As you visualise yourself presenting, consider what clothes you will be wearing, where you will be standing in the room and even where the key people in the audience might be sitting.   This visualisation will help you to feel less nervous on the day as you will almost feel like you’ve done it all before and that it went well.   Finally, timing is really important.   Work out how much time you need for presenting and for Q&A.   As you practice, make sure you can keep to that time but also work on a version of the presentation that can be done in about 25% of the time.   Often, your time can be cut at the very last minute and you could be asked to come in and just hit the core messages.  If you’ve prepped for this, it won’t phase you on the day.  It’s also a brilliant exercise in helping you strip out the key points that you must get across.  Don’t fall into the trap of just trying to present everything by speaking faster, it won’t work.  Prioritise your messages and focus on getting those across in a calm manner.

5. Believe in yourself & deliver with confidence


“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” ―  Theodore Roosevelt

Now you’re ready to present.   Take some deep breaths and give yourself credit for all the preparation you’ve put in.   Due to your hard work, the chances of your presentation going well are far higher.   Now it’s all about believing and telling yourself to just “go for it!!”   Work on the 1st minute of your presentation because if this goes well, you will automatically relax and your audience will be with you.   Depending on the situation, it could be a light hearted start or hitting the audience with a key, memorable message up front that grabs their attention.    Preparing the last minute is also worth doing so that you leave them on a high with the critical call to action or most important take away.   During the presentation, try not to look at the slides too often.  Focus on eye contact and engaging everyone in the room, especially the critical decision makers you identified beforehand.   Try to read the room.  If it looks like you are losing them, you may have to skip forward to the next point or topic.   At other times, you may see them craving more detail so spend that extra time there and quickly consider how you will catch up later on in the presentation.   If you lose control of the room where people are talking about your presentation but are excluding you or they ‘rat hole’ into a discussion about something that isn’t that important, you’ve got to step in and take control back.   It could be that you suggest setting up another meeting to follow-up on that topic or that you are capturing an action to go investigate the item further or even that you will take that subject offline with the individual afterwards.   Doing this can allow you to keep on track with your presentation but just make sure you are still giving the audience what they want.     After you’ve successfully presented, seek out feedback from some trusted attendees and reflect on what went well and what didn’t so you can correct anything for the next time.   Then all you need to do is to give yourself a ‘pat on the back’ and go celebrate – you will have earned it.   The more presentations you do, the easier they will get and the better you will be, so … embrace each opportunity and have fun with it.  Good luck!!

I hope you found this helpful.     If you’d like us to assist you in any way, feel free to email us at or sign up for a free introductory session on the homepage of the website