Newsletter #532 – Giving Killer Presentations

Last month I gave a talk that I wanted to be especially good. It wasn’t!

microphone 2It is easy for a perfectionist like me to be self-critical and the speech may not have been as bad as I concluded. But it fell short of what a Harvard Business Review (June 2013) article calls “killer presentations.” Good coaches, counselors and leaders need to be good communicators. Chris Anderson, the HBR author, coaches TED speakers for their presentations. Here are some of his recommendations that can apply to the rest of us:

  • There is no way to give a compelling talk unless you have something fresh and worth saying. If there is no central theme and clear purpose for your talk it is better to not speak. “Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the ideas” as well as the passion of the speaker.
  • Frame your talk as a journey. Quickly introduce your topic, explain why you care deeply about it, and convince audience members that they should too. “If a talk fails, it’s almost always because the speaker didn’t frame it correctly, misjudged the audience’s level of interest, or neglected to tell a story.”
  • Limit the scope of your talk. Don’t try to include too much.
  • Plan your delivery and rehearse your talk.
  • If you use slides, avoid reading what is on the screen.
  • Remember that people don’t care much about your organization, books, awards or accomplishments.
  • Don’t get lost in jargon or overly intellectual language.
  • Make eye contact, at least with a few people.
  • Steer clear of the following ways to ruin a presentation:

–       Taking a long time to explain what the talk is about.

–       Speaking dramatically like an orator.

–       Subtly letting everybody know how important you are.

–       Referring repeatedly to your book or (worse) reading from it.

–       Cramming your slides with numerous bullet points, multiple fonts, and flashy movements.

–       Never rehearsing your presentation or checking the timing.

–       Using unexplained jargon to make yourself look intellectual or informed.

–       Filling your talk with facts but no stories.

Could these guidelines apply to academic talks or to sermons? What would you add or subtract? Please comment.


  1. Best advice I’d gleaned from Oliver Wendell Holmes –

    The mediocre teacher tells…
    The good teacher explains…
    The superior teacher demonstrates…
    The great teacher INSPIRES!


  2. I’d go one better than merely making eye contact with the audience. One of my early teaching mentors once told me, “The most amazing communications device ever created is the human face. When you talk to people, speak to them with your face.” One of the benefits of talking in front of a mirror is that you see … what your audience will see. Would YOU buy the ideas the guy in the mirror was selling?


  3. Nice post!
    These are some real cool tips on how to give killer presentations. I agree on that it is not good to read from the slides for the presenter. If a presenter is not confident and wants to know if the slides are working well he can use monitors. And these monitors can be placed in front of presenter in such a way that his audience doesn’t get to see it.
    Thanks Gary, for sharing these useful tips
    authorSTREAM Team


    1. Arpit, Ken, Edmund in Singapore, Phil, Zach and Carrie. These are great comments. I don’t know all of you but those I do know are great communicators so your comments are especially relevant.


  4. I’m no longer positive where you’re getting your info, but
    good topic. I must spend some time studying much more or figuring out more.
    Thanks for wonderful info I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.


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