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Become a presentation sensation


PRESENTATIONTerence Mauri hones in on the preparation and delivery skills that turn a lacklustre lecture into a sensational session.

"The mind is a wonderful thing. It starts working the minute you are born and never stops until you stand up and speak in public."
Roscoe Drummond

The fear of speaking to a group of people - technically known as 'glossophobia' - is up there with rats, spiders and even death. But presentations play a huge role in today’s training world, whether you're a coaching manager or leading a major change initiative. According to a survey on leadership skills by the Chartered Management Institute, presenting ranked top alongside strategy and problem solving.

Photo of TERENCE MAURI"The fear of speaking to a group of people - technically known as 'glossophobia' - is up there with rats, spiders and even death"

So what are the keys to making presentations sensational?

Plan and prepare

What are the secrets for influencing your group to achieve the training results you want? Rarely, if ever, will a presentation exceed the quality of the planning process that precedes it. According to research by presentationhelper, for most audiences 25% of a presentation will be forgotten in 24 hours, 50% in 48 hours and 80% in four days.

So, be extra critical of what you decide to use when you prepare your next training session. What you leave out of the presentation will be as important as what you keep in. A training presentation should always address one important question: what will be the change in skill, knowledge or behaviour as a result of this training? The ability to answer this question with clarity ensures that the presentation will be relevant and engaging.


The rule of three should apply to your presentation. First, tell them what you're going to tell them. Second, tell them. Third, tell them what you've told them. This increases retention and enables your audience to own key actions you wish them to take away from the session.

Every presentation requires flexibility and a needs-driven approach for it to be effective. However, there are some timeless lessons to be aware of:

  • Make eye contact with all your audience at all times. Sweep the room like a lighthouse, staying only two to three seconds on each person. This will give each participant the impression that you are speaking to him/her personally and ensure that you keep his or her attention
  • Avoid looking at one person in particular (usually the friendly face!) or some non-threatening point on the floor or wall
  • Don’t read your notes
  • Exaggerate body movements and verbal emphasis. Keep your gestures big and bold and make them visible to your whole audience
  • "First, tell them what you're going to tell them. Second, tell them. Third, tell them what you’ve told them"

  • Pause often: silence allows points to sink in and your audience to catch up
  • Use intelligent humour
  • Be enthusiastic: if you're not, why should your audience be?
  • Don’t drop your voice, project it
  • Avoid jargon: use simple language
  • Rehearse your presentation, planning inflection of important areas
  • Use visual aids: outlines, pictures, graphs

Presentations, especially in the training world, often depend too heavily on PowerPoint, so remember that if you press the B key, the screen will go black and allow you to keep audience attention during key stages. Hit the B key again for the screen to re-appear. Use case studies, testimonials, expert quotes, facts, stories and statistics and images so that the audience can accelerate their learning.

Using the delivery tips above and inviting regular feedback on your presentation style will ensure you never stop improving.

Terence Mauri is a business speaker and consultant at Reed Learning, one of the UK's largest providers of business training courses


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