Presentation 101: How to Be An Amazing Presenter

I have had the great privilege of teaching presentation skills to many sales people and interns. Teaching presentation skills has always been a great challenge for me.  I mean, you have to be really good at presenting to teach presentation skills. And what’s great is the more I teach it, the better I get, but I’m still not perfect. In a past podcast, Emmy and I talk about the dos and don’ts of great presentations. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, do it here. 

It is vitally important that we keep the tradition of formal presentation skills training alive and continue to help our new employees (and old ones too) practice and perfect the skill of giving a great presentation Skills are perfected over time, with practice and persistence. It also helps to have a great coach or mentor along the way for feedback and input.

Why are we even talking about presentation skills? Doesn’t everybody know how to give a good presentation? I think in this digital age, it’s even more important to be able to get your thoughts out of your head into effective words and communicate your ideas to others.   

Read on for some time-tested tips and tricks for giving a great presentation. Enhancing your skills in developing and delivering presentations will allow you to create a positive and lasting image in your audience’s mind while meeting the challenges of a variety of audiences.

A great presentation really boils down to three elements:  Image, Content, and Delivery. We used to refer to it as the “Three-legged Stool”.  Because without all three legs, the stool will collapse and you’ll be awkwardly sitting on the ground.   Without a great result.

Let’s unpack each one of these elements in a little more detail:


You know the old saying – “First impressions count” (or something like that) When you get up to give a presentation, the first thing people see is YOU. The image you project through your attire, actions, and language will affect your “credibility rating.”

To make sure you are representing the best image possible, here are a list of image builders and distractors that I think are important:  

  • Confidence – look like you want to be there. If you’re prepared and ready for the presentation, it will show to your audience.  

  • Body language – Good posture is key here. Stand tall, hold your head up and be aware of your facial expression. Smile at the audience. If you say you’re excited to be there, make sure your face says that too. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a presenter dead-pan the words “I’m so excited to be here” without really showing it.  

  • Appearance – Dress for success, and appropriately for the audience and setting. It’s never a mistake to dress up for the occasion. A good friend of mine always gave the advice to buy a new shirt if it’s a really important presentation. And please. Use your iron. Don’t show up for a presentation looking rumpled. Because that’s distracting.

  • Correct use of language – Make sure not to use industry jargon or a bunch of acronyms that your audience doesn’t understand. Cleary articulate the information to your audience.

  • Distracting habits – You know the ones ... filler words (ummmmmm…) jingling change, clicking a pen, and ladies, some of you are hair twirlers. The best way to identify these habits is to turn on your video camera and record yourself presenting. The camera doesn’t lie.


I know that most of you have sat through countless presentations where the speaker could not be any more dry or boring if he or she tried! If you can’t make your topic sound interesting, why should anyone in the audience be interested? Your level of enthusiasm can make or break a presentation, so be sure to monitor it through your voice, gestures, body positioning, and audience involvement.

It’s really important that you know your audience. Do some research ahead of time to make sure you know who will be in the room. Once you’re presenting, you’ll need to gauge their reactions and adjust your style accordingly. The best presentations are those that truly address the needs of the audience.

Active listening and asking good questions to involve your audience is also an important part of presenting. Pay attention to your audience’s questions, answers to your questions and comments. Show that you are really listening, provide feedback, defer judgment and respond appropriately. Don’t blow off a question or give an inaccurate answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and formulate a follow-up plan.


Long before you’re up in front of the group for your presentation, you need to ask yourself the following questions in order to be most prepared. It is probably a given that you need to know your topic inside and out when presenting to a high-level audience.

1. Who is my audience for this presentation?

2. What are the personal success factors for the audience?

3. What does the audience already know about my topic?

4. What does the audience need to know or be able to do at the end of the presentation?

5. What information does the audience need from me to achieve my goal?

6. How will I position my message against competing messages?

Once you’ve completed your research and compiled your presentation, don’t leave the first two minutes to chance. I feel this is the most important part of any presentation. A great start leads to a great presentation.

Begin presentations with a bang! Break audience preoccupation immediately. Plan and practice a strong opener. I’ve heard it called the tug, I like to refer to it as the “hook.” How will you gain the attention of your audience in the first two minutes? Use an attention-grabbing statistic, a great rhetorical question, or a short, compelling story.

Just because they are in your presence physically does not mean they are with you mentally. When developing a presentation ask yourself, “In what way can I bring everyone’s minds into the room immediately?”

A few additional tips:

  • Test your knowledge by brainstorming all of the questions that could arise in the presentation; then practice answering them. Just as important as researching the topic, find out as much as you can about the audience—their positions, issues, personalities, and “hot buttons.”

  • Don’t claim to be an expert if you’re not. Have you ever had to sit through a presentation by a self-proclaimed “expert” who was very obviously not an expert on the given subject? Never claim to be an expert when you aren’t because you run the risk of having an audience member who really is! (And then you have lost all credibility with that person and quite likely other audience members as well). If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to say, “I do not know, but I am happy to look into that and get back to you.”

  • Use great visuals. Large images that get your point across are best. Avoid charts and graphs and if those are needed, make sure and provide printed copies. How many of you have heard a speaker say, “I know most of you cannot read this, but...” Speakers who do this are not only discrediting their own presentation but also showing a lack of respect for their audience.

  • End on time and make sure you leave ample time for questions. A good rule of thumb is to practice your presentation and make it fit into 80% of the time you have. And don’t ask if there are any questions. A better way to start the Q&A is to ask, “Who has the first question?”

  • Don’t wing it and don’t memorize.  

  • Practice, Practice, Practice. Have you ever experienced a situation where the presenter was so unprepared that the message was lost in delivery? Giving a smooth presentation takes lots of practice, even for experienced presenters. Turn the video camera on and record yourself. Then watch it (that’s the hard part). Practice your opening and closing. Practice transitions, the use of visual aids, your gestures and voice variations, and how to integrate all of these elements into one smooth presentation. You will become more confident with practice, and it will show!

My hope for you is this list of tips and tricks helps you on your very next presentation.

For more information or answers to your presentation skills questions, feel free to contact me, Lynne Hayes at

Emmy Hayes