12 Presentation Tips That Will Help You Wow Your Audience

Speaking to targeted groups is a great way to build awareness, showcase thought leadership and get in front of potential clients and customers.

However, speaking only works well if you know how to deliver a powerful and engaging presentation.

Earlier this week, I sat on a panel for Nashville’s PodCamp SpeakerUp. The gathering was intended to encourage people to speak and offer tips to rock their presentation. I was thrilled to join some friends and smart colleagues – John Ellis, Luke Stokes and Mitch Canter – to talk about how to make the most of your presentation.

How to Give a Killer Presentation

Whether you’re interested in speaking at PodCamp or your own industry conference, here are some of the tips we shared to help you deliver a powerful presentation:

1. Don’t lean on slides.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever sat through a presentation where someone reads from the PowerPoint. It sucks, doesn’t it?

Slides are intended to augment your presentation, not serve as a script. In other words, slides should play the supporting actor, not the lead role.

Use visuals and images that complement what you’re talking about. And, if you use words on the slides, only emphasize one key point at a time.

2. Practice!

Only people that are regulars on the speaking circuit can get up on and skillfully wing a presentation. Don’t get on stage without practicing your talk first.

You don’t have to memorize it word for word, but build an outline and get a good feel for what you’re going to talk about with each point. This will also help you nail down the timing so you don’t go too long.

3. Eliminate “ums” and nervous habits. 

When you practice, it can help to record yourself. When you do, you might notice that you say “um” quite a bit or that you constantly fidgeting.

Becoming aware of these habits will help you eliminate them. Also, don’t forget to slow down and breathe!

4. Use stories and examples.

Storytelling is powerful. Some of the best presenters I’ve seen know how to weave together a story and provide examples to make their point. That’s way more interesting than simply telling people what they should do and how to do it.

5. Give a peak behind the curtain.

People love getting access to secrets that only the masters know. What can you show people that they’ve never seen? What is something you’ve never shared before?

Show how you’ve been able to accomplish something amazing and your audience will love you for it.

6. Give actionable insights.

At SpeakerUp, Mitch Canter said one of the biggest compliments he can receive is if someone feels so compelled by one of his tips that he or she immediately starts implementing those ideas during his talk.

Think about what you want people to take away from your talk. Are there any action items that people can implement right away?

7. Make people think.

In addition to giving people actionable insights, presentations can also be a fantastic way to change the way people think.

What new ideas can you introduce? How can you change a perception of a commonly held belief?

8. Be passionate.

Marcus Sheridan is perhaps one of the most passionate speakers I’ve seen. He exudes enthusiasm for his topic and his energy is contagious.Even though he has mastery of the topic, it’s his passion that people remember.

There is no substitute for passion. Talk about something that excites you and you’ll win your audience over.

9. Engage with the audience.

Oftentimes, when I give a talk, I like to encourage audience participation. For instance, sometimes I’ll play a quick game where I ask everyone to stand up and as I ask a series of questions, you sit down if the answer doesn’t apply to you. It’s fun to see who’s left standing at the end and declare a “winner”.

This is especially works well if you’ve been blessed (ahem, or cursed) with an afternoon time slot. Here are some additional ideas for engaging with your audience.

10. Don’t sell from the stage.

No one likes to sit through a sales presentation, so don’t make your talk a one massive pitch for your product or service.

Focus on sharing your expertise and knowledge. If you give the audience something of value, they will naturally want to know more about what you do.

11. Leave room for questions.

Sometimes, the Q&A at the end of a talk can be the most valuable aspect for the audience. Leave a few minutes for questions at the end – or take them throughout the presentation as Luke Stokes does.

Either way, give the audience a way to interact with you and get their questions answered.

12. Have fun!

Don’t be a robot on stage. If you laugh and have fun, your audience will be more likely to follow suit.

Tell a joke, share a funny story, show a silly video and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you mess up.

That makes the entire experience more fun for you and your audience.

What presentation tips would you add? What presentation styles have you seen work really well?

Image credit: This is an awesome photo from SpeakerUp from 

About Laura Click

Laura Click is founder and CEO of Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based integrated marketing firm. In addition to being the lead blogger on the Blue Kite blog, Laura is a proud Mizzou alum, avid runner and dog lover. You can connect with Laura on Twitter at @lauraclick, on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

  • http://www.ltc-associates.com/ LTCA INC

    Great tips– I was just about to share one of my own before reading the blog you linked to “slides are not intended to augment your presentation.” That post is certainly brazen– if not contentious– but you know me, I’ve never had a problem with non-conformists : )

    I do appreciate the sentiment behind being able to deliver when the slides fail: that means the content comes from the presenter, not the .ppt. And after all, why fly in your presenter if you could’ve emailed everyone the .ppt and the speaker could’ve stayed home? Your presentation is the distillation of the content: I like that.

    Having said that, I’ll move on to my tip: having hosted many an event, seminar or conference where speakers from our sponsors attended, we now ask for something we didn’t in the past: pre-review of the presentation.

    I’m sorry, but our reputation is on the line, and everyone’s time is too short. Conversely, all of our speakers appreciate the feedback we give so they can put on the best “show” and cover topics they know will be of interest. Just my two cents…

    Stephen D. Forman, CLTC
    @ltcassociates:disqus

    • http://flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Stephen – Thanks to your comment, I realized a typo. I meant to say that slides ARE intended to augment the presentation. The problem is that too many people rely on the slides to tell the story.

      I think the best presentations only use slides to make a visual cue that goes along with their point. Otherwise, it gets boring real fast. After all, why speak if your audience can just read the slides in their own time?!