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Presentation Tips

More "we" than "me". If you are truly focused on the audience, you will use more inclusive language. Rather than saying "I did this" and "Look at me," you will inherently talk more about them, using either the words "you" or "we". Which would you rather hear: "My client is..." or "You might have a client like this..."? It is a subtle difference, yet it invites participation rather than making it all about you, the presenter.

How to start a speech:

Preempt Objections. You know what the objections will be, so address them up front. For example, if you want audience members to share ideas with their neighbors, you can say, "I know what you are thinking, 'I don't know that person.' Well, now is a good time to meet a new face, so say hello and share your idea!" By voicing their objections, it gives them permission to act.

Create the perfect title using the half-and-half technique. On a fresh piece of paper, draw a vertical line down the center. Now start describing your topic, "It's half this and half this," placing some words on the left and some on the right. Now, start mixing and matching words, blending the first half of a word with the last half of another word until something clicks. Example: a mom and a manager = MOMager.

Engage as they enter. As the participants walk into the meeting room, send a clear signal that your presentation is going to be engaging and interactive. Greet them, play music, have a live feed, show a slide show as they walk in, have an index card at their seat or table that poses an intriguing question and then collect the cards and quote them.

Dealing with cell phones. Use some throwaway lines to lighten the tension when a cell phone goes off:

Get the laughs started by interviewing an audience member. One way to transition into an interview of an audience member is to just point to an individual in the audience and just start asking questions.

What to do when humor bombs. A saver line is something you can use, such as "It's a good thing that wasn't supposed to be funny." Don't explain the joke or blame the audience for not getting it. You could even fake running away!

Statistics tips:

Obey the ten-minute rule. Your audience checks out after ten minutes. Not in eleven minutes, but ten. Research shows that our brain starts to get bored and look for distractions after ten minutes. But that doesn't mean that you can't do a presentation that's longer than ten minutes. It just means that you need to provide intermission. That could be in the form of a brief Q&A session or a video clip, something that breaks up the lesson and gives the audience a break.

No more pencils. From Seth Godin: We've been trained since youth to replace paying attention with taking notes. That's a shame. Your actions should demand attention (hint: bullets demand note-taking. The minute you put bullets on the screen, you are announcing, "write this down, but don't really pay attention now.") People don't take notes when they go to the opera.

In many ways, a formal presentation creates a barrier. Just because it ends with "Any questions?" does not mean it promotes conversation. A less formal presentation with honest debate is the way to strengthen your relationships and get better results. [Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success by Ken Segall, page 134]

Don't give a presentation. Tell a story. Stories help us understand, relate, and remember. Craft a great story by beginning with the end in mind. What do you want them to think, what do you want them to feel, and what do you want them to do? The 3-part formula (from Ace the Pitch):

Reframe anxiety into excitement [video]

Five principles of good slideshow design:

  1. Your message: focused and clear
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Cool fonts: look beyond the basic ones
  4. Stunning images: look at the free sources
  5. Awesome colors: create a consistent palette


Jeff Bezos, the founder of, has accomplished a great deal. He's reshaped the retail business. He's become one of the wealthiest people on the planet. And, with far less fanfare, he's come up with one of the best attunement practices I've encountered.

Amazon, like most organizations, has lots of meetings. But at the important ones, alongside the chairs in which his executives, marketing mavens, and software jockeys take their places, Bezos includes one more chair that remains empty. It's there to remind those assembled who's really the most important person in the room: the customer.

The empty chair has become legendary in Amazon's Seattle headquarters. Seeing it encourages meeting attendees to take the perspective of that invisible but essential person. What's going through her mind? What are her desires and concerns? What would she think of the ideas we're putting forward?

Try this in your own world. If you're crafting a presentation, the empty chair can represent the audience and its interests. If you're gathering material for a sales call, it can help generate possible objections and questions the other party might raise. If you're preparing a lesson plan, an empty chair can remind you to see things from your students' perspective.

Attuning yourself to others — exiting your own perspective and entering theirs — is essential to moving others. One smart, easy, and effective way to get inside people's heads is to climb into their chairs.

18 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking: