9 Gems on making a great presentation

You never get a second chance, to make a first impression! The same rings true for presentations. As a leader, you have to deliver your messages with laser guided precision. So how do you ensure that you ace that presentation? Well, for starters, you leave nothing to chance. But, that’s perhaps, easier said than done. Here are a few key pointers that could help you make that brilliant presentation.

Open with something completely unexpected

The first 30 seconds to one minute, are crucial in a presentation. That’s when your audience is sizing you up and you set expectations. If you are unable to capture the attention of the audience during that critical time, you have an uphill task of redeeming your presentation.

Here is how Steve Jobs, started at the 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University:

Truth be told, I never graduated from college, and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it, no big deal—just three stories. The first story is about connecting the dots. I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another eighteen months or so before I really quit. So why’d I drop out? It started before I was born.”

Please see link to the video of the speech- http://vimeo.com/7976699

Create a strong story line and use pictures to tell your story

A picture is worth a thousand words.

The human brain has remarkable abilities to craft stories out of personal experiences and relate it to visual cues.

That’s why when you have a story to share, audiences can relate to it, instantly.

The picture here says it all. You don’t have to describe ‘Loyalty‘; the image does it for you.

Less is More

There is a term in the corporate world called- ‘Death by Slides’. It refers to a surfeit of slides that were unnecessary in the first place.

Nothing dampens a presentation, as much as unending slides.

When in doubt, keep your presentation shorter than you would, otherwise.

De-clutter your slides

Nothing kills a slide, as much as clutter. If you try and cram all that you can fit into it, you will lose the audience instantly. People use fonts as small as 10 or 11 on their slides.

Try projecting it. You will need to walk up to the screen and then use a magnifying glass to see what’s on the screen. Remember, you are not there to antagonize the audience! A font size of over 20 usually works, depending on the size of the room.

Engage your audience

Sharing information alone is not enough. You need to engage the audience. If you have people asking you questions, responding to what you say, your impact would be significantly higher than if they were sitting with deadpan expressions and not saying anything.

Ask questions, show pictures, engage the audience, in your own way.

Your objective is not to say your piece and exit. It is to achieve the purpose of making the presentation, in the first place.

Appeal to emotions

Emotions get our attention and audiences tend to retain emotionally charged content long after the presentation. Audiences seldom identify with a presentation devoid of emotional appeal. Find the right emotion to appeal to and make your pitch accordingly.

Don’t let the means become the end

No matter how slick your presentation slides are and how attractive you have made them, sometimes participants just won’t buy in.

So what do you do then? Change what you have to say on the spot to quickly address what key participants are looking for and minimize reliance on the slides.

Maintain eye contact

A great presentation is like a one on one conversation where each participant feels that the speaker is directly talking to him. And, the only way this can happen, is with continuous eye contact.

A good presentation is all about preparation and inspiration

As Thomas Edison once said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration‘. In a presentation, inspiration gives you the perspective while preparation gives you the edge. But, no matter how good you are at presentations, there is no substitute for rigorous preparation and multiple rehearsals.


Many of you would have made some brilliant presentations yourself. It would be interesting to know your experiences and what worked for you. Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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Picture courtesy: Stanford University;Walter Isaacson

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