How To Become A Good Presenter

August 6, 2015

by Ravi Raman

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with public speaking. I am shy but also love getting out of my comfort zone and speaking.  I know how important it is to communicate effectively.

I had my first taste of public speaking competing in Oratorical Contests during high school (where I won a regional competition in New York State my senior year). Throughout my corporate career, speaking in front of groups large and small was a daily occurrence. I learned how to face my fears and just do it.

A few months ago, I presented a talk to 300+ people at the Ignite Denver 20 event.  Then, a few days ago I hosted a webinar teaching how to apply a simple technique to improve any part of their career or life overall.

I’m always working on my presentation skills and this morning I ran across a course on Skillshare created by Simon Sinek called, “How to Become A Good Presenter.” Sinek is renowned for his insights on how to communicate clearly and efficiently using “The Power Of Why.”

I just finished the course and thought I would share my notes as they illustrate his key points you can apply to become a good presenter. I’ll be practicing his method and will share a recording of the assignment Sinek requests as part of the class soon. It is a 4-minute “TED Talk” pitch video.


How to begin

The beginning of your presentation is crucial. You have less than a minute to earn the attention of your audience.

Do this effectively by paying close attention to the structure of your talk. Present with a clear goal in mind. People need to have a clear end goal in mind to stick with your talk if things get slow/boring.

Imagine if you sat down in a meeting, and people hung on every word you said, and they never reached for their phone to check Facebook or their email! That is your goal. Your presentation should be that interesting!

Show up with a very strong desire to give value to your audience, and you will present with power. People will be more receptive when you focus on giving not receiving validation from the audience. When you show up wanting nothing in return, people become curious and become fans.

You want to build trust and cooperation above all else in your presentation.

Think credentials matter? It is best not to start with credentials. That is not helpful. Where you went to college or your accolades are the least important things! Your topic and what you are providing to your audience is the most important thing!

Don’t start with facts and figures that get people in their logical brain. Instead, begin with a story that is emblematic of the goal of your presentation! Make it a personal story. If you can’t do that, tell another story that is meaningful to you.

Personal stories are best, though!

Design your talk

To design a successful presentation, start with the end in mind, and then deconstruct it! Don’t leave the audience guessing at where you are going, tell them where you are taking them – then share the details.

Zig Ziglar says, “people don’t buy drills, they buy holes.”

Start with articulating the “hole.”

For example, create an image of the future first, starting with a depiction of a better world/state/outcome in the future that could happen if people did what you are going to say. Articulate the value of your desired outcome. Focus on a key word or phrase that reinforces your point.

This entices people to envision a better future. With this vision, they will hang on your every word.  e.g. Tell people “imagine….XYZ” where you paint a picture of the future.

As a next step, articulate the “cost” or “pain” caused by not addressing the problem you are solving. Many people are motivated more by pain than by potential gain. Illustrating the pain will draw even more people into your presentation.

Lastly, articulate some potential solutions. “What if we did…..XYZ…wouldn’t that be great?”

If you are into facts and figure, share them! If not, don’t!

Above all else, be natural and let your originality shine through.

Bring it all together in 6 steps

  1. Start with the end in mind.
  2. Choose the story you want to share – your story or someone else’s. True stories are best.
  3. Make an outline.
  4. Practice out loud. Repeat and refine.
  5. Prepare to present – don’t read from notes or use dense slides.
  6. Record and watch your final presentation to learn what works or what doesn’t.

Tips for presenting

  • Be yourself. Let people see what kind of person you are.
  • Give. Show up with an attitude to give and offer people new perspectives.
  • Own the room. You are the one in the limelight, use it to your advantage.
  • Wait until you get the microphone before speaking, wait a few seconds in silence before starting to speak. It’s OK not to talk and take silent pauses.
  • Watch for pacing, the volume of voice, a length of pauses = all can be used for dramatic effect.
  • Speak to individuals, even if you are in a big audience!
  • The manner in which you give your speech is important – use all those methods to your advantage.
  • Accept applause with gratitude, don’t just rush off the stage. Say thank you!
  • Walk off the stage with confidence.
  • Q&A = remember that you don’t need to know all the answers. If you don’t know something, just say you don’t know the answer!
  • Don’t read your stuff, know your stuff.
  • Keep your words off your slides, use slides sparingly.
  • Always thank your audience before leaving the stage!

Q&A From Students To Simon Sinek

Why is consistency important in delivering a message?

  • Be consistent regarding what you believe in and what you stand for.
  • Know your underlying “cause and values” and what you are drawn to as a person, and make sure your talk is consistent with your values.
  • For example, Richard Branson is all about “making things more fun” across all his businesses – banking, trains or airlines. Where this wasn’t the case (e.g. his soda business, soda can’t be more or less fun right?) – he didn’t succeed.
  • For example, The Pope is all about “taking care of people who are forgotten.”
  • No matter what you do and where you do it, make sure that you are consistent with your values and underlying motivations.

How to find the best topic to present about?

The best topics are one of two things:
1. Personal problem you have found a solution for.
2. Personal problem you have NOT found a solution for, but are very passionate about!

Resources for How To Be A Good Presenter

How Great Leaders Inspire Action, by Simon Sinek

Skillshare course with Simon Sinek: How To Be A Good Presenter

Watch Pixar’s Andrew Stanton’s TED talk “The Clues to a Great Story” for more on story structure

Read How to Give a Killer Presentation on Harvard Business Review

Explore Start With Why, by Simon Sinek


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