Principles of Effective Presentations
To better help you inform, educate, influence and persuade


Woman giving thumbs up after a successful presentation
Every time you stand in front of a group, you must achieve two basic goals. First, you need to communicate a message. Second, you need to communicate your personality — who you are as a professional and an individual. If "the medium is the message," your personality is the window through which the message must travel to be received, understood and acted upon by the audience.

You convey your message and your personality every day of your life in relaxed conversation. Relaxed conversation is therefore your best possible communication style. Conversing with your audience, as opposed to presenting to them, provides the best possible chance to inform, educate, influence or persuade any audience that’s important to your personal and professional success.

By listening to the following principles, and understanding how they apply to any presentations you deliver in the future, you can sharpen the skills you've acquired one-on-one and transfer those skills to group presentations, thereby increasing your effectiveness in both.

Principle #1
Your best style is relaxed conversation

Single microphine in front of an audience waiting for a speaker.
Every day of your life, you convey your messages and your personality while engaged in conversation. You should therefore emulate conversation in your presentations. You're not there to "download" information. You are there to create understanding that is based on a two-way exchange, and to facilitate an environment in which people can apply what you tell them to their personal or professional life.

If you see a puzzled expression, don't wait until the end of your presentation to allow your audience to ask questions. Encourage questions throughout. Or, better yet, handle it the same way you would in a conversation. If you see a puzzled expression, ask if there is something you can explain more effectively.

But be brief with your answers. Questions are an opportunity to create milestones of mutual understanding. But remember, you pass milestones. You don't camp at them.

Principle #2
Be yourself

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You are unique. You have your own way of speaking and your own mannerisms — how you talk, how you stand, how you hold your hands. To convey your personality to a group, you must express yourself in a manner similar to the ways in which you express yourself one-on-one. If you are expressive with your hands one-on-one, it's OK to be expressive with your hands when talking to a group. In fact, it's essential.

You know it's important to be on your best behavior. You know there are certain standards that you must meet. You must dress appropriately. You must be attentive when someone asks a question. You must answer the question.

But worry less about how you "present" yourself than how you communicate with the members of the group. Your body language must be natural. And what is natural for you is probably not natural for someone else, or vice-versa, which is why we hesitate in setting rules for gestures you should use or the body language you should attempt to convey.

To understand this, think of the gestures you make when you are enthusiastically explaining a concept to a friend over the telephone. Who are these gestures for? The person on the other end? Understand that these gestures are part of who you are as an individual. Bring them to your presentations and let them happen naturally.

Principle #3
Relaxed conversation is two-way

Model of two-way communication
To be effective, relaxed conversation must be two-way. Indeed, by definition, all communication must be two-way.

Even if one person does most of the talking in a conversation, he or she is looking for the nods, listening for the "uh-huhs," and stopping to answer questions. The sender quickly recognizes that a blank look means the receiver is not listening. He or she will respond by changing tactics — pausing to let the listener catch up or asking if there is a question.

Your presentations, like your conversations, must be two-way. If you treat people with respect, and create a two-way process in which their questions are answered clearly and concisely, you stand a better chance of having them use or act on the information you present.

Principle #4
Relaxed conversation is receiver-driven

Two way model of communication with the receiver highlighted to denote that conversations must be receiver-driven.
In a relaxed conversation, the speed at which information goes from sender to receiver is driven by the receiver's needs, not the sender's. During a conversation, if the person listening doesn't signal that he or she understands — with a "nod" or by saying "uh-huh" — the sender stops to create a milestone of mutual understanding before moving on. If the sender doesn't do this, the receiver will stop listening.

The same applies to your presentations. If you talk nonstop, you will quickly lose your audience. Instead, make sure the information you're sending is driven by the audience's needs, not yours. If you throw out an idea that creates puzzled expressions, it's probably a good time to stop and ask: "Are there any questions?"

The speed at which information goes from you to your audience should be driven by their need to understand, not your need to get through your content in time. After all, if you get through your content, but they don’t understand, what is the point?

Principle #5
Less is more

People applauding at the conclusion of a successful presentation.
The less you say, the more your audience remembers. If you try to cram too much information into your presentations, you will not create a two-way exchange. And you certainly won't be receiver-driven. How can you be? The speed at which information travels from you to the audience is not driven by their need for understanding, but your need to get through it all in time.

If you have one hour for your presentation, bring 30 minutes of information. This leaves plenty of time for questions, enables you to finish on time or a bit early, and allows you time for networking at the end.

Content that nails it!

Presentations that inform, educate, influence and persuade

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The Presenter’s Toolbox provides a series of models to help you develop clear, compelling content for any presentation challenge you'll face.

You’ll shift your resources—your time—from spending hours putting slides together to focusing on audience needs and strengthening your strategic focus.

Whether goal is to inform or to motivate—to educate or to sell—you’ll have a framework for success. You’ll be more focused—not on what you think you need to tell your audiences, but what they really need to understand. This may seem like a small point, but it’s not.

The Presenter’s Toolbox will save you time. You’ll deliver better value to your audiences. And you’ll achieve better results for the time and energy you invest.

Get your copy of The Presenter’s Toolbox today, and set yourself on the path to improving every presentation you’ll deliver in all the tomorrows to come!


Principle #6
Your audience can listen, or they can think

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As human beings, we can listen or we can think. But none of us can listen and think at the same time. By definition, this means that you must pause when delivering your presentations. And those pauses must be as full and as frequent in your presentations as they are in your conversations.

You want your ideas to be thought-provoking. You want people to think about what you're saying and apply it to their personal situation. If they think, they will remember your ideas long after they have left the room. But while they're thinking, if you're talking, they won't hear a word you say.

If you talk nonstop, members of the audience will miss large portions of what you say. They'll rush to catch up once or twice. After that, they'll give up. And when they do, not if, the chances of your ideas achieving success decreases proportionately.

Principle #7
Your audience won't remember what you say

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Participants at your presentations will not remember your exact words. Instead, they will remember what they thought about what you said — how they took your information and applied it to their frame of reference.

But this process can only occur in silence, whether you give them that silence, or they take it for themselves. And remember, if they take that silence while you're talking, they won't hear a word you say.

Principle #8
Be conversational

A model of the conversational pattern
If you've ever read the transcript of an interview or conversation, you've probably noticed that people rarely talk in complete sentences. And if you participated in the conversation from which the transcript was drawn, you were probably shocked at what you saw written down.

There is a basic pattern in relaxed conversation. In the first step, which we refer to as the first pause, the sender thinks about what he or she is going to say. Once the idea is formed, the sender expresses it. If the sender is enthusiastic, the words come tumbling out at a rapid rate of word delivery.

Once the idea is delivered, the sender stops talking and allows the listener to absorb the idea and relate it to a meaningful frame of reference. During this second pause, the sender watches and listens for the receiver's reaction. Once there is a nod or "uh-huh," the sender forms the next idea. And so on.

Principle #9
Think before you speak

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In a conversation, you take time to form each thought before you say it. Attempt to do the same with your presentations, although that can be much more difficult because of the impact of adrenaline. But recognize that any pause seems infinitely longer to you than it ever did to them, and stop talking. Think before you speak, which is always a good idea, especially during any presentation. Once you have the idea, say it. Then let them absorb it.

This is where a good set of notes is invaluable. And this is where bullet points can be put to good use, but only as long as you never show your bullet points to your audience. Multiple research studies have confirmed that you will be up to 30 per cent more effective by not showing your bullet points to the audience than if you do. In other words, by not attempting to read and listen at the same time, the audience will easily remember 30 per cent more of what say, and will be better able to share your ideas with others.

If you can’t wean yourself off slides, show your headings to the audience (a maximum of five or six words), but put the bullet points in the “notes” section and learn to deliver your presentations from there. Your audience will thank you, and so will your success rate at sharing your ideas, regardless of what type of presentation you’re delivering.

As for nervousness, encourage questions to overcome it. By encouraging questions, you take the emphasis off delivering a presentation and switch it to having an extended conversation with your audience.

And, remember, relaxed conversation is your best possible communication style.

Principle #10
Silence is essential

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There are two types of silence. The first is for you to think. This is the first pause. This is where you think before you talk.

The second pause occurs after you express your idea (which should rarely, if ever, exceed 20 words at a time). In a conversation, you look to see whether the other person is processing what you’ve just said and whether they’ve "gotten it." The first pause is for you to think. The second is for them to think.

During your presentations, remember that you're not there to prove that you can talk nonstop. You're there to provide information that people can think about and apply to their own personal circumstances. But remember, they can only think in silence — whether you provide that silence or they take it for themselves.
If you lose your place or your audience, pause. If you're lost, the pause allows you to think about where you are, where you're going, and what you need to say. If they're lost, the pause will help them find their way back so they can listen to your ideas again, and relate those ideas to their personal frame of reference.

Turn standard presentations ...

Into meaningful, memorable conversations
Cover of the book One Bucket at a Time.
One Bucket at a Time is uniquely designed to help you turn standard presentations into meaningful, memorable conversations with audiences.

With this single resource, you’ll gain insight into how audiences listen. You’ll learn how you can get more of what you say into the long-term memory of those in attendance, whether in the room or via Zoom.

You’ll learn to create presentations that tell a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. You’ll understand how to tell that story in a memorable way, delivering your ideas to the audience one idea at a time. And you’ll gain insight into why answering questions is the magical topping to having ideas understood and retained, long after your audience has left the room or signed off Zoom.

John Sweller, PhD, one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists, writes:

“The central theme of this book that a presentation should be a conversation is ingenious. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to communicate by conversation. We are mentally structured to do so.

“For anyone seeking to set themselves and their ideas apart, this book is well worth the read. Eric Bergman’s techniques are a window to the future of this important human activity.”

One Bucket at a Time is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.

Content that nails it!

Presentations that inform, educate, influence and persuade

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The Presenter’s Toolbox provides a series of models to help you develop clear, compelling content for any presentation challenge you'll face.

You’ll shift your resources—your time—from spending hours putting slides together to focusing on audience needs and strengthening your strategic focus.

Whether goal is to inform or to motivate—to educate or to sell—you’ll have a framework for success. You’ll be more focused—not on what you think you need to tell your audiences, but what they really need to understand. This may seem like a small point, but it’s not.

The Presenter’s Toolbox will save you time. You’ll deliver better value to your audiences. And you’ll achieve better results for the time and energy you invest.

Get your copy of The Presenter’s Toolbox today, and set yourself on the path to improving every presentation you’ll deliver in all the tomorrows to come!




Content that nails it!