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Upgrade your next presentation

Improve your next presentation by identifying what is essential for the audience to learn and project confidence as you speak, Paul Thornton writes.

3 min read



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Thoughtful preparation and dedicated practice will elevate your performance during your next presentation. 

Focus on two things — your message and your delivery.         

Preparing your message

Clear thinking is a prerequisite to preparing a compelling message.  

  • Start by answering these questions: What is the problem or opportunity you are addressing? Why is it essential to the audience? Write out your answers and discuss them with a trusted advisor. Keep revising your answers until they are precise and clear.   
  • Create a provocative title. Use it to arouse the audience’s curiosity about your subject.  
  • Prepare a strong opening. Describe the problem or opportunity and explain why it is relevant and meaningful to them. Also, provide an overview or a simple road map of the points you will cover. 
  • Present your big idea. Use the most appropriate facts, examples, stories and analogies to explain your ideas. Use the most compelling numbers, statistics and emotional appeals to convince the audience to support your plan. Always include “what’s in it for them.” 
  • State your summary and request. Restate your big idea, the payoff for the audience and what you want them to do next.    

Delivering your message

Start by making a good first impression — project confidence by being prepared. Look professional with your dress, posture and commanding presence.  

  • Eye contact — Connect with people in all parts of the room. Maintain eye contact with the same person until you complete your sentence.     
  • Gestures — When you feel strongly about an idea, you automatically use gestures. Increase the impact of your gestures by making them bigger and holding them for several seconds. 
  • Voice level — Increase your voice level to demonstrate your passion and conviction. Lower your volume to command attention.  
  • Use pauses — Give the audience a chance to digest and assimilate what you have said. Pauses also build suspense for what you will say next.  
  • Transitions — Let the audience know when you are moving on to a new point. 
  • Signal words — No matter how great your delivery, people’s attention does wander. Use signal words to motivate the audience to pay attention: “This next point is very important.” “If you don’t remember anything else, remember this…”

Finally, practice your delivery. Actors, singers and athletes all spend many hours practicing before giving a live performance. Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor rehearsed her highly successful TED talk 200 times before presenting it. 

Every presentation provides an opportunity to produce captivating content supported by an inspirational delivery. Elevate your next presentation to a 5-star performance!   

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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