Speech or Presentation: 11 Tips for Delivering a Strong One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 17, 2022 | Published November 5, 2020

Updated August 17, 2022

Published November 5, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A profile view of a group of employees sitting in chairs in an office, facing a presenter standing and facing the group.

Perhaps nothing can stir up anxiety more than the thought of giving a presentation in front of an audience. Whether you're scheduled to speak during a working meeting, a professional conference or a gathering of hobbyists, your speech or presentation will go more smoothly if you properly prepared.

In this article, we share tips you can use to deliver a presentation that educates, motivates, sells or inspires.

Presentation tips for success

Whether you're delivering a presentation to your manager or a group of people with a similar interest, it's important to captivate your audience. These presentation tips will help you connect with your audience and hold their attention.

1. Consider your audience

How you prepare and present your speech should depend on the type of audience you expect to draw. For example, if your audience is mostly students who are attending to fulfill a class requirement, then you may want to use humor and compelling stories or data to capture their attention.

However, if your audience is filled with professionals and your topic is technical, you may want to gear your information toward unique industry insights and information that isn’t widely available.

Related: How To Start a Presentation: Steps for a Winning Presentation

2. Use descriptive words

No matter your audience, you should make your presentation dynamic by using descriptive words. Be selective with the words you use, when you use them and how often. While you want to invoke a certain reaction in your audience, you don't want to alienate them by using descriptive words that are either beyond their comprehension or words that they wouldn't use in everyday speech.

Related: How To Memorize a Speech in 5 Steps (Plus Tips)

3. Storyboard your presentation

A key part of delivering an effective presentation is to approach it as though you were telling a story. Creating a storyboard will help you see your presentation as something with a beginning, middle and end, and help you determine how your gestures and other nonverbal cues can complement your words. For example, you may want to change the inflection of your voice during a particularly impactful part of your presentation.

A storyboard also offers you a chance to see where you may have inconsistencies or disruptions in the flow of your presentation. Pay particular attention to how you start and end a presentation, as these tend to be the parts of a speech that an audience remembers the most.

Related: 5 Presentation Topic Ideas for a Powerful Speech

4. Use the 10-20-30 rule for slideshows

The 10-20-30 rule is a highly adopted slideshow presentation tactic developed by Guy Kawasaki, an entrepreneur and marketing specialist. Use the following rules for your slideshow presentation:

  • Include 10 slides or less.

  • Take no more than 20 minutes to deliver.

  • Use a font size of 30 or above.

Don’t forget that you, and not your slideshow, are the one giving the presentation. Your slideshow should help illustrate your main points but it shouldn’t contain so much information that it competes with what you’re saying. Your oral presentation should include information that isn’t on your slides so that the spotlight remains on you.

If you find yourself unable to consolidate your information so you don't exceed 10 slides or the presentation just won’t clock in 20 minutes or less, then consider bringing a handout or sending a follow-up email to attendees with additional information.

Related: How To Do a Presentation About Yourself (With Tips)

5. Get feedback beforehand

Depending on how you're delivering your presentation and who you're presenting to, you may have the opportunity to get feedback from your audience before your speech. One way is to email a survey to participants asking for feedback on topics or questions they’d like to have covered. The more you're aware of your audience's needs, the more you can engage with them during your presentation.

Related: 12 Strategies for Developing Your Oratory Skills

6. Create a comfortable environment

You’ll want your audience to feel comfortable during your presentation so they’ll be attentive. To minimize any environmental distractions, keep the following things in mind before your presentation:

  • Set an appropriate temperature in the meeting room or auditorium

  • Offer water, coffee and snacks, especially if it's a long presentation

  • Test the microphone beforehand so you can avoid loud feedback during your presentation

  • Know how to adjust the lighting in the room

Related: How To Prepare for Public Speaking and Different Types of Events

7. Calm your nerves with visualization

Visualizing a successful presentation beforehand can help boost your confidence and calm your nerves. Think about what it will feel like to get praise from your manager or applause from your audience. . Visualize how your great presentation can help you get that promotion or help establish you as an expert in your field.

Read more: Tips on How to Get Rid of Nerves and Feel More Confident

8. Stick to the main topic

While stories are effective in a presentation and humor is usually welcome, be sure to keep from veering too far off-topic so you don’t confuse your audience. You want your audience to focus on the main themes of your speech—and remember them afterward—so limit the number of distractions in your presentation.

Related: How To Create an Outstanding PowerPoint Presentation

9. Remember to pause

There are a couple of good reasons to pause during your presentation. First, a pause allows you to take a breath so you can separate one thought from the next. A pause can help you slow down and take a deep breath if you feel nervous. And pausing can also help to emphasize a point you’re trying to make, either through speech or through a slideshow.

10. Practice doesn’t have to make perfect

Preparation is key to a great presentation but over-preparing could take some spontaneity out of your delivery, and could also make you even more nervous. Ask a trusted friend or coworker to listen to your presentation and give you key takeaways about your performance or material. You might not even be aware of a nervous habit that a friend could point out to you beforehand.

If you have the chance to rehearse your speech in the room where you’ll be delivering it, that’s a great way to run through the set-up for your slides and where you’ll stand. If not, do a practice run at home but don’t overdo it. Everyone is nervous when they give presentations. No one expects perfection.

Related: The Key To Successful Speech Writing

11. Arrive early

If at all possible, arrive early for your presentation. This not only allows you to test your technology and assess the layout of the room but also gives you a chance to gather your thoughts and quiet your mind for a few moments before the attendees arrive.

If you're rushing into the room from another meeting or obligation it can cause you to feel flustered and that could set the opening tone for your presentation. Plus, an early arrival will give you a chance to make small talk and connect with attendees in a no-stress way as they filter into the room.

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