Tips for giving presentations


  1. Ask someone else to listen to your presentation and comment on your slides.
  2. Ask someone else to proofread all of your documentation. This will alert you to anything that is confusing and pick up spelling errors you might not have noticed. You know what you mean. Other people might not.
  3. Run your document through a spelling checker. Be careful of the grammar checker though – do not automatically change anything you are not sure of, just because the grammar checker tells you to!
  4. Close your door and give your presentation (aloud). This will alert you to words you have difficulty pronouncing and sentences that are badly structured.
  5. Keep your sentences short and simple. This will keep you in control of them.
  6. When giving your presentation, do not read word for word from your script. If you find this is a problem, rather have cards with keywords on them.
  7. If you do have ‘problem words’ that you absolutely cannot pronounce, find a suitable synonym – but make sure you know what it means!
  8. has pronunciation help if you have seen a word but never heard it pronounced.
  9. Time yourself to make sure your presentation is not too long or too short. It is not polite to ignore time constraints.
  10. Allow time for questions.
  11. Practise the English required to deal with difficult questions, questions you are unable to answer and keeping things on track, time wise.
  12. If you know you might run out of time, decide which slides or which section of your presentation you can leave out.
  13. Have alternate plans in case there is technical failure – back up onto disk and print out your presentation for example.
  14. If you are not familiar with the venue (lokal), carry spare whiteboard markers or a folding pointer if necessary.
  15. Ask someone to stand at the back of the room and see if your slides and voice are clear all the way to the back of the room.
  16. Make it clear from the beginning what the rules regarding mobile phones and questions are and state them before you begin.
  17. Signpost clearly (let people know at all times where you are in your presentation). This means that your presentation has to be well structured, with a clear introduction, a body and a conclusion.
  18. If you have problems with nerves, make sure you have a glass of water handy and something to do with your hands.
  19. Try not to hold papers if nervousness makes you shake. This will make it more obvious.
  20. If the room does not have a clock, have a way of checking the time that does not involve looking at your watch. This makes people nervous.
  21. Number your overhead slides to make them easier to refer to and also to find if you need to go back to one you have already shown.
  22. If you have a problem mixing up papers, have two sets so that you can turn to a second set in the event of an emergency.
  23. Use graphics and colours in PowerPoint presentations to make them more interesting.
  24. Do not have too much text on your slides and make sure the font is big enough for people at the back of the room to read.
  25. If you know that you tend to speak too quickly or too quietly, arrange with someone to give you hand signals if this starts to happen. It will take pressure off of you.
  26. If nerves get the better of you, stop and take a sip of water.
  27. Be aware that jokes and idioms usually do not go down well with multicultural audiences. For example, do not talk about ‘the snowball effect’ to an African audience as they have probably never seen snow.
  28. If it helps, ask a member of your audience to help you with your slides, handing out papers etc.
  29. If you find it calms your nerves and makes you feel more comfortable, sit down if possible.
  30. If you are not used to writing on a board, practise! Common problems are bad handwriting, writing too small and going crooked.
  31. Load up all computer programs you need beforehand. This will save time and stress and you will see that everything is working.
  32. Fetch people after coffee breaks if you find that they tend to come back late after each break.
  33. If someone in your audience asks you a question, repeat it to everyone before answering it, as the rest of the audience may not have heard it.
  34. Arrive early to prepare everything and check equipment.
  35. If you are giving your presentation in a venue you are not familiar with, find out who the technical contact person in the building is, in the event you might need them. Get a telephone number!
  36. If you reach a complicated part of your presentation and you see a few puzzled faces, repeat and rephrase things until you are sure everyone understands.
  37. If your audience is sitting at computers and you have problems with them reading email and looking at the internet while you speak, ask them to turn off their monitors while you talk.
  38. Make sure that people leave for breaks on time, so that they can be back on time.
  39. Remember that your audience might not know your topic as well as you do – this you will need to gauge as you go along.
  40. Adapt the presentation to the average level of the participants. As much as you would like to, if you have one or two members of a large group that are struggling to keep up, you will have to pitch your level to the majority and try to help stragglers out during breaks or afterwards.
  41. Arrive early to check everything and also to make personal contact with your audience.
  42. Remember that although it might not seem that way, listening to presentations is tiring for your audience, particularly if they have several to attend in a day. Take an extra break if your entire audience is restless and tired. That minute or two it takes for them to freshen up and stretch their legs will be worth it in the added concentration it will provide.
  43. If you get all mixed up in what you are saying and lose your thread, apologise and start over. A quick. ‘I’m sorry, let me start that again’ will suffice.
  44. If you do allow questions during the presentation, make sure that they do not take you-off topic or take up too much of your allotted time. If necessary, an ‘I am afraid that is outside of the scope of this presentation but I will be happy to discuss this with you afterwards’ will do.
  45. Sound interested in your own topic. You would be surprised how many people don’t!
  46. Opinion is divided on whether to hand out material (handouts, copies of your slides, brochures) before or after the presentation. What do you think?

Author: Janet Carr

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. Excellent advice! I leave handouts till the end, or people spend their time getting distracted by them and not following the presentation. It also depends who the presentation is to. I won’t give my journalism students copies of slides – if they want to be journalists, they need to learn selective note-taking!

      1. A former colleague has a neat idea – he prepares partial handouts and gets them to fill in the gaps, which means they have to think and interact!

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