Wee Graduate Gossip

How to give a great presentation (part 2)

If you haven’t read part one of my “How to give a great presentation” series, I’d encourage you to have a read here.

My previous blog focused on the importance of knowing the purpose of your presentation and in this article, I’ll talk about the importance of giving it a good structure.

Structure helps you be clear and stay clear whilst engaging an audience. You can be clever with how you use structure as it’s not always about what you say. HOW you say something can be just as key.

Open with confidence

The opening of your presentation is where you can really make an impression. It’s also where you can engage the audience by giving them a preview of what you’re going to tell them. I like to start my presentations with an agenda. It might be verbal and sometimes I also include it as a slide, if appropriate. I’ll walk the audience through the agenda, introducing the topics and objectives and also dropping in nuggets like “I’ll go into more detail about this later” if I notice myself starting to talk too much around a certain agenda item.

As you move into the content of your presentation, it’s good practice to know the first three minutes of the speech off by heart. This helps establish credibility as you’ll be more eloquent and much more confident.

The 90/90 rule dictates that 90% of the mind is made up in the first 90 seconds of a presentation, so make sure you don’t lose your audience before the presentation properly begins.

Once you’ve shown the audience that you know what you’re talking about, deliver your content with confidence.

Position your content with passion

I touched on this briefly in my last blog when I highlighted the importance of knowing your audience but positioning and communicating your “big bang” is just as important.

Humour (or an attempt at humour) can be unhelpful and distracting if not delivered well so instead think of other means of keeping the audience engaged. Some examples could be:

  • sharing an unknown fact
  • referencing the news or current events (or linking them to the presentation topic)
  • posing a question
  • quoting someone wise
  • sharing something witty
  • sharing a story or anecdote
  • “research has shown that…”
  • creating curiosity using a phrase like “there’s a reason I haven’t brought any slides with me…”

Verbal signposts

Keeping a structure throughout a presentation can be difficult but there are some verbal signposts you can use to keep you on track and keep the audience’s attention.

Earlier I mentioned highlighting something you’ll talk about later and using these “back and forth” references can be really useful. The agenda provides a preview and you can hint at other topics you might discuss to create curiosity or preview content to keep the audience engaged. Emphasising words can be used to stress a key point and transition words can be used to move the presentation on. I’m also a fan of a frequent summary but like to keep these punchy. An example could be:

“Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of reading this specific blog – education, recreation and connecting with the author – let’s look at the benefits of reading blogs in general. Lauren is going to introduce you to this topic..”

The example above summarises, hints at the topic to come and also creates a smooth transition as the presenter passes to a colleague.

Each part of a presentation should compliment the rest and demonstrating that you understand this adds authenticity to your presentation. These summaries and signposts help remind the audience just now much they are learning from you! I find that it’s really clear when a group haven’t prepared a presentation together. You can always tell if it’s been prepared individually and then stuck together, so make sure you avoid this trap when presenting as a team.

Visual signposts

If you’re using slides, these can help remind the audience what you’re talking about. Consistent headings and sub-headings are also useful and it’s important to keep the same format (colours, font, font size) throughout all of the slides.

It’s ok to repeat the agenda slide throughout the presentation or you may opt for a tracker running along the top or bottom of the slide to pinpoint where you are on the agenda instead.


When preparing a presentation, to ensure it has a clear structure I’d recommend asking yourself some key questions:

  • Am I clear on what this presentation is aiming to do?
  • Is there a clear beginning, middle and end?
  • Does my presentation flow between sections?
  • Am I keeping to time

In my next blog I’ll discus body language and why this is just as important as the content you’re presenting.


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