How Anyone Can Give a Great Presentation

Everyone can give a fantastic presentation.

Not so, you may think. You’ve seen plenty of horrible ones, and may even believe that it’s something you’re only so-so at doing. (If you’re being completely honest, you may even admit your last presentation sucked.)

That’s OK, right? Everyone has their gifts, and for some people, presenting an idea to a bunch of strangers or co-workers isn’t one of them.

But that’s the wrong attitude to take, especially since effective presentations are so critical when it comes to moving up the career ladder, no matter your job.

Dan Roam, author of “Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations,” may be finally able to break you free from presentation jitters and propel you into the world of great speakers and presenters.

The first key, he says, is telling the truth. 

“There are a lot of people who are like snake-oil salesmen or deliver such crappy presentations we don’t believe a word they say,” Roam says.

But if you speak the truth as you know it – without spinning it or lying – then two-thirds of your worry over a presentation will evaporate, he says.

Another key is to simply tell a story, he says.

“It’s in our genetic code to tell stories,” he says. “It’s just like anyone can run or introduce themselves. A clear storyline is our best defense against confusion.”

Those storylines, he explains, may come in different forms.  For example:

  • A report. This conveys facts, but “just giving a boring report never got anyone a raise,” which is why you need to pep it up with facts conveyed in an insightful or memorable way, he says.
  • An explanation. This aims to teach new insights or abilities, and if done correctly will take the audience to a new level. “A great explanation makes it effortless,” he says.
  • The pitch. This storyline recommends a new action and is supposed to give the audience a solution to a problem. “A great pitch makes that solution undeniable,” he says.
  • Drama. We want to inspire a belief or a way of looking at the world and will make the audience “feel someone’s struggle,” he says. “A great drama makes us feel the struggle is our own.”

Roam’s book is peppered with illustrations, mostly stick people and simple geographic shapes with some photos and graphics thrown in. He says he used such illustrations to demonstrate how simple – and more effective it is – to make a presentation compelling if you offer visual messages.

“There is no such thing as a non-visual person, because visual processing takes up nearly one-half of our entire brain’s activity,” he says.

Roam explains that any presentation – especially one that uses data – can be improved with charts, graphs, trend lines or other illustrations that help deliver the message. Even if you only master stick figures, your presentation can be enhanced, he says.

As for those reports that rely on statistics or data? They can still be more compelling if each presentation slide includes a picture as well as information, he advises.

Finally, Roam offers advice on how to ease your presentation worries. If you work on your storylines, plan what pictures to use and how you will deliver the message, then “worry  dissolves instantly”  he says.

What do you believe are the elements critical to an effective presentation?














Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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  • Scott Burday

    Effective presentations; don’t read the slides (boring and your audience can read) and be enthusiastic about what you are presenting. You’re up there for a reason, let them know you are passionate about it.
    And something I learned many years ago that very few people do; stand at the front of the room right next to the screen. I like standing to the right of the screen from the audience’s point of view. Many presenters sit in their seat. If you want them focused to the front get up there and get their attention. They’ll hear a lot more of what you are saying.

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    Anita Bruzzese Reply:

    Great suggestions…I hate it when someone reads the slides!

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