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Professional Presentation Skills (Why you suck at presenting, and why you shouldn't!) Part Three

Here is Part One

Here is Part Two

Part Three

In the last installment I finished with my personal mantra:

So, what do I do?

  • I try to really know my material.
  • Any hesitation is misconstrued as fright.
  • I try to prepare as mch as practicable..
  • Write down the key phrases.
  • Get enough sleep and be alert.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Let's say you are faced with a situation that prevents the above. It happens.

I believe we can all do ad-lib, spur of the moment speeches and presentations. It does take a bit of understanding but here's my theory.

We are all awful at this.
We are all the best at this.

This difference is what you personally believe. And all it takes is for someone to walk up to you and say.
"You are really good at this."

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed-man is king.

It's all relevant.

This brings me to confidence. The key element of getting up in front of a group is confidence and perception. That, coupled with a view that "Hey I am not bad at this!" or, "I enjoy this!" or, "Hey, somebody thinks I do this OK!" is what this theory is all about.

It all helps. Everything that contributes to a positive experience and effective communications helps.

In my case, it was a very, kind teacher in Grade 5. I was no-doubt awful as a presenter, but a teacher – Mrs. Wells – told me I was wonderful. That, and hours and hours of prep work, helped me to win an all-Toronto debating contest when I was 10. I know looking back, I was no different than the other kids. I know I was certainly not as smart. (Duh!) But that confidence level allowed me to keep my composure in front of 1,000 people and at least seem to be relaxed.

So what I aim to do is break down those barriers and learn some skills to overcome that nagging fear of getting up in front of a group – whether large or small – and simply be yourself and have a good time.


The first step you need to do is ask …

"What do I want to accomplish?"

Will I be:

  • Sharing information?
  • Identifying a problem?
  • Teaching a new skill?
  • Selling or persuading?
  • Entertaining a group?

No matter what your subject material is, one of your highest priorities that you must consider during the
objective planning stage are:

  • does this make sense
  • does it flow logically.
  • Can I reach my objectives realistically,
  • and finally will they understand it and can they accomplish it?

Determining your objectives is much more than just a simple task of writing them down on paper. It
requires much thought and planning on your part to decide what is or is not accomplishable to reach
your objectives?

Simplistically, it a means of gauging how well one learns a given task, or the steps required to reach a
predetermined goal, or produce the desired effects you want or you want your audience to achieve. I have always said when you start preparing a presentation start at "The End". That is the audience. Know your audience!

Bonus Tips

Technical Talks

  • Gear your talk to the level of sophistication of your audience. Regardless of the level of expertise, you'll do well to eliminate or de-emphasize jargon.
  • Keep presentation visuals simple. Save details for handouts.
  • Even though the subject matter is technical, you are still talking to human beings – people who get bored, daydream and react irrationally, even during serious presentations. Keep your talk upbeat, fast-paced, simple.
  • Accept the fact that technical talks are not the same as technical papers. You can speak at a maximum rate of 160 words per minute; therefore it is impossible to dwell upon detail. Hit the key points.



  1. Kevin Kieller
    Kevin Kieller March 26, 2011

    A very good and practical set of suggestions.
    I really do love presenting and have tried to assist others at least make their presentations slightly above terrible 🙂
    If using PowerPoint, I always encourage presenters to write one sentence in the slide notes that explains what the key message of each slide is. If they don’t know then take the slide out.
    I also further encourage presenters to use the slide notes to detail and refine their script.
    I can now point these people to your three part article series! Well done.

  2. mose
    mose March 26, 2011

    Thanks Kevin – this is starting out with the basics – I will ramp it up over the course of the installments.
    Your suggestion is solid! It points to editing, which not a lot of people do. I sat through a half dozen presentations of 40 – 50 slides each last week. The 20 minute presentations could have been done in 5 slides.
    Not that what was on any of the slides were unimportant, they were simply not required. Too many people “Talk to the slides” which in turn turns into read-along with me sessions. Not effective.
    One guy did a great session very technical but I had a hunch. He told a quick anecdote half way through about being scared to bring a laser pointer in his carry-on across the border.
    I asked three people who I knew who were in his presentation what was their take away – they all mentioned the pointer incident – no one could remember what he said. 20 minutes 50 slides.
    Thanks again!

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