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How to Give a Winning Presentation


Children in grade school are giving presentations. High school students are doing them with PowerPoint. In every company, organization, social gathering, and team meeting, there are more opportunities and expectations to speak in front of a group. Some fear presentations. Others just need help in how to give a presentation that engages the audience and achieves its goal.

It’s not that hard, but there are many steps. Write a clear key message. Develop the outline. Generate the content of your presentation, create your visuals, carefully consider your conclusion, rehearse your opening, then edit and practice.


Develop a clear key message

As a Presentation Skills consultant, I listen to many client presentations. I evaluate the content and delivery and make suggestions for improvement. One of my most frequent comments is this: What are you really trying to say? I’m not sure I’m getting it. The volume of data and information often fogs the real message.

An average person’s attention span is typically 7 minutes before the mind wanders off. Listening and processing what we hear requires a lot of cognitive energy. Listening is hard — even harder if it’s later in the day, if other priorities are clouding your brain, if you’re hungry, have a backache, or need to use the washroom. Obstacles like a noisy room or not being able to clearly see the presenter can whittle those potential 7 minutes of attention down to 3.5 minutes.

Ask yourself, if someone surveyed the people who were in your presentation with the question, what was the speaker’s main message? Would you get an 80% consensus? If 80% of your audience can’t repeat it, then your key message wasn’t clear enough. So with that in mind, develop a clear and succinct message. Repeat it more than once.

Help your audience hear your key message. You can preface your remarks by saying something like: I want you to take away an important key message and this is it…



Make your opening remarks memorable

You want your opening remarks to hook the audience and engage them immediately. You can do this in many ways: highlight their need to hear what you have to say; share a surprising statistic/number/dollar figure; deliver a short anecdote; tell a human interest story. These are just a few ideas for making your opening dynamic.

I often advise my clients to develop their opening remarks at the end of writing the presentation. These first moments are so important and they’re easier to write after everything else is finished.

Practice your opening remarks many times, out loud and standing up. You should be entirely fluent without reading or looking at notes. If your opening goes well the rest of the presentation will follow in the same way.



Engage the audience

If your audience isn’t engaged, who are you talking to? They may look like they’re listening, but their minds could be on the golf course. Keep focusing on how to engage them. Make your delivery impactful, your slides simple and clean, and your stories amusing or dramatic. Your eye contact and voice should reach out and bring them in.

Here are a few strategies that will help: get them to ask or answer questions; praise them; reference current events; show strong visuals; talk about the competition; move; use a louder voice; and use humour carefully. Always be politically correct or you may disengage the audience.



Persuade them with forethought & strategy

If your goal is to persuade your listeners into accepting an idea, buying a product or service, or changing their mind, focus on how to persuade them rather than the benefits of what you’re selling.

Here are some strategies that help persuade people: think about them first and how you’ll address their needs; appeal to emotion; begin your presentation with their most pressing issues; sell solutions to their problems; describe what might happen if they don’t buy into your idea; be excited.



Deliver with impact

How do we demonstrate as well as inspire confidence in our audience? We do it through strong body language. We all know that body language speaks louder than words. So to answer the question: how do I deliver a strong presentation? The answer must include a focus on body language. Think about developing your best interpersonal skills.

Body language, also called non-verbal communication, is comprised of five main elements: Voice, gesture, posture, eye contact, and distance. After that comes grooming, dress, and hygiene. All of these elements are critically important to the success of the presentation. As in any interpersonal skills training, our goal is to communicate effectively with our verbal and non verbal messages.

Think about using: a louder than average voice; speech that has lots of inflection; natural hand gestures and facial animation; posture that is grounded and purposeful whether standing still or moving; and meaningful eye contact. Ask your friends for honest feedback. Drive your body language to inspire confidence in your audience.



Conclude with conviction

Plan your concluding remarks. Don’t wing it. Make your conclusion distinct from the body of your presentation by announcing, In conclusion… This alerts the listener to refocus. Likely you will repeat your key message at this time. If they didn’t get it before, they will catch it now.

Consider what you want the audience to do after your presentation. Ask them directly. Outline the next steps and attach a timeline. This lends some urgency to a persuasive presentation.

End with conviction. Avoid phrases that sound hesitant or tentative, such as:

I hope I… Unfortunately we’re out of time… Possibly… Maybe you learned something today…

Instead use strong, concluding phrases, such as:

Just imagine when… I know we can achieve… I’m confident that… Let’s focus on…

The answer to how to give a winning presentation is a long and complex one. The strategies I’ve shared will help you achieve success when standing in front of an audience. You’ll feel the incredible rush that comes when they are listening, nodding, and smiling. That’s one of the perks that come with a mastery of presentation skills.



Bina Feldman is a corporate training consultant and communication skills expert specializing in personal & professional development.