Presentation Tips For Newbies

By Kimberly McCall

Even those of us who excel at scintillating party banter and one-on-one communications might clench up a bit at the prospect of making a presentation. Jerry Weissman (, author of Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story (Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2003), offers these pointers for neophyte presenters.

  • Develop a strong, brief, opening using a human-interest story about a satisfied customer. Former president Ronald Reagan, known as the Great Communicator, rarely made a speech without a human-interest story referencing a brave young soldier, dedicated student or kindly senior citizen. Because people respond to people, short illustrative stories can help you develop an immediate connection with your audience. Be sure to choose a story that is relevant to your message and your audience.
  • Define your product or service clearly and succinctly within your opening. Presenters often fail to clearly describe what their product, service or company does. They simply state that they have a solution, which sounds like magic pixie dust. Describe your solution briefly, but put some meat on the bone.
  • Be brief. However long your presentation is, make it shorter. Most presenters take up far too much time. In today’s rapidly moving world, audience members don’t have the patience to sit still for long. It’s better to finish your brief presentation and ask if there are questions than to be interrupted and told your time is up.
  • Use PowerPoint only to provide supportive material and have one purpose for each slide. Trying to make your presentation slides serve multiple purposes dilutes each purpose. If you want to provide handouts, do so only after the presentation.