Presentation Perfection

May 24, 2013 1 Comment by

Change Agents are often asked to make the case for their change in public settings.fear of public speaking

Launch events, employee meetings, town hall discussions and educational sessions all rely heavily on the art of public presentation. 

Building your skills in this area can be one of the best investments you will make in yourself as a Change Agent.


theBigRocks Fear of Public Speaking

Speaking in public can make some people downright nervous. But communicating with large groups of stakeholders is such an important skill for effective Change Agents to have that we should address that concern head-on.

Public speaking is commonly listed as one of our greatest fears. But it doesn’t have to stay that way!

A while back I wrote an article entitled: ‘Seven Tips for Delivering Great Presentations”. 

Over time, that article has become one of the top ten posts on with thousands of hits. Today I’d like to revisit that topic and add a couple more suggestions to the list.

Click here to read the original post which has a lot more detail, but for now, here’s a quick summary of the 7 Tips for Delivering a Great Presentation:

1. Know Your Material. Speakers speak. Readers read. Avoid over-scripting your presentation.

fear-of-public-speaking2. Know Your Audience.  Take the time to research the audience you will be addressing. Take into account their frame of reference, their priorities and their background – then tailor your material and delivery to match.

3. Be Interesting. Keep your material focused on the topic at hand. Peer Review your content with others and ask them for candid feedback. Just because we find our stories and messages interesting doesn’t mean others will, so ask your reviewers to point out any “flat spots” or potentially confusing messages in your material.

4. Pace Yourself and Vary your Tone. Like most of us, I tend to speed up my delivery under pressure, so watch out for this trend. I offer a few ways you can learn to pace yourself in the full article.

5. Go Gadgetless:  It’s tempting to use clickers, pointers and other tech gizmos, but sometimes people find them distracting. I once had a client say this about her boss after he used a red laser dot to point at each slide as he read to the team:

“If the material was interesting, I wouldn’t need him to point.”

authentic-conversation6. Move Around. It keeps you engaged and it’s a good way to keep your audience from falling asleep or drifting into checking email on their smart phones!

7. Engage People. Look at your audience – but don’t stare them down.

Those 7 ideas were part of my original article.

Here are 3 more suggestions that I’ve also found useful:

8. Brutally Edit: Make sure everything in your presentation actually needs to be there. If your initial attempt to create material resulted in 20 slides, try cutting that number in half. If each of your slides is packed with 20 bullets in a size-12 font, cut it back.  Remember, you’re not writing a novel to be read, you’re creating an outline so folks can follow along as you speak with them.

Also, be aware of how the material fits together. Sometimes it’s tempting to re-use a great slide that worked in another setting – just make sure it applies to your topic. Resist the urge to include stuff that isn’t germane to the subject at hand. Your peer review should catch this mistake.

5-minutes on the clock9. Try the 5-Minute Rule: When I build presentations, whether they’re designed for a half-hour-long meeting or a 2-day training course, I use a simple rule of thumb:

Allow five minutes for each slide.

This might seem like a long time for one slide, but I’ve found it’s easier to add time to the discussion than it is to rush through a presentation that I’ve overloaded with too much content.

If you absolutely cannot survive without “the crutch of too much” – consider holding a few extra slides off to the side in a separate presentation that’s queued up in the background just in case the discussion gets drawn in that direction.

10. Practice Makes Perfect: Finally, going through your material alone – or better yet with someone else as an audience – can help you become more familiar with your message and less likely to freeze up in front of an audience.

public speaking empty chairsTry to make the practice sessions as realistic as possible.  If the room where you will present is available beforehand, go check it out. Stand in the spot where you will deliver your talk and look out over the space. Take a few deep breaths and give your material a dry run. 

In the more likely case that you cannot practice in the actual room you will use, consider finding another room that mimics the size and layout of the one you will present in. It can really help to practice several things in this environment:

   – Walk as you talk while scanning the entire room from left-to-right and front-to-back.

   – Look at the people (or empty chairs) and build confidence in your ability to connect with your audience.

   – Pausing for effect and experience how that potentially awkward silence feels.

   – Work with or without notes and see how familiar you truly are with the content.

Shouting up megaphoneThere’s no substitute for practice when it comes to building your skills and comfort level as a public speaker. Even veteran presenters are more effective when they invest in practicing the delivery of their message.

Summary: Many Change Agents struggle with delivering public presentations. But public speaking is too important to the job to let that fear stop us from improving this vital capability.

Start with the list of suggestions I’ve provided here and seek out opportunities to speak in public.Start with small groups of people that you are already comfortable with and grow from there.

Instead of retreating into a shell and letting others deliver key messages, volunteer to be the spokesperson for your change.

I assure you, with solid preparation and diligent practice, you will build this important skill very quickly.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What other public speaking tips have you found useful?
  2. Who is you favorite public speaker? What did he or she do particularly well to be so effective?




Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

One Response to “Presentation Perfection”

  1. Alessio Bresciani says:

    As someone who is always working on developing their presentation skills, I appreciate this post and found it very useful. Thanks Steve.

Leave a Reply to Alessio Bresciani

Cancel Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.