10 Tips on Presenting

I attend a lot of seminars – and give a lot of talks. Here’s 10 tips on how to make it.


When used well, Power Point is amazing. A lot of people need visual triggering to get what you are saying. But approximately 90 percent of presentations I see break the rules below. Which makes it a torture for the audience. Some of the 90 percent are mine.

  1. Audience. Ask from the organisers about the audience. The most common mistake I see is people underestimating the competence of the audience. The first question you should be asking is what does the audience benefit from listening to me. And no, hearing about your project is not an acceptable answer.
  2. Argument. Write your argument on paper in one sentence. Your main argument should fit into one sentence easily. If it doesn’t, do some more thinking. After having a concise argument, make a flowchart of your presentation. Make sure your presentation has a logical structure. Only after these, open Power Point.
  3. Style. If you’re not an aesthetic, don’t stress about it. Fancy slides would not save you if you have nothing to say. And the other way round, a good argument saves you – always. I am not against text on slides, some things just are easier to communicate that way. Same goes for graphs. When doing your slides, font size 18 is minimum. If you use a smaller font, you have too much information on the slide. In images, one person is better than many. Tell about a group through one person. If you need photos, Flickr has amazing Creative Commons -licensed photos to use. Remember to credit the person behind the photo.
  4. Start and Finish. Prepare the beginning well. Anecdotes work well. Get a smile during the first minute. It is like in a movie: the audience must find the protagonist worth watching and it needs to happen fast. You need to throw in some new information right in the beginning.
  5. Eye Contact. Talk to the audience, not to your slides. Surprisingly many speakers read from their slides rather than talk to the audience. Prepare so well that you know your stuff. And if not, take a print of uour slides and hold it in your hand. If you are nervous when speaking, find a friendly face in the audience.
  6. Structure. Explain your structure. There’s a reason why Finland’s prime minister often says he has three points: it creates a pattern in the listener’s head and the information provided falls into place.
  7. Cliché. If you don’t have new information, don’t refer to the following: globalisation, internet, multiculturalism. Avoid the following:
    Internet changes our lives.
    Immigration changes our society.
    Due to globalisation, things are a lot closer than they used to be.
  8. Depth. If you have to choose, go deep rather than wide. Give new knowledge, don’t focus on proving you are smart. Tell what should by done and by whom rather than list things that are important.
  9. Confidence. Don’t put yourself down. If you’re replacing someone, don’t apologize for it. By saying it, you have lost the audience already. If you don’t know much about the subject, pretend. If you did not have time to prepare, pretend. If you cannot pretend, don’t go and give a presentation.
  10. Quantity. Maximum number of slides is the number of your minutes. That is maximum, not the norm.