How to turn a good presentation into a great one.

MikeTempleMikeTemple Member Posts: 13
As a retired Development Training Facilitator and now a UK Volunteer Speaker,  I thought I would write a piece on how to give a great presentation.  Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough

A BBC presenter once sat next to Winston Churchill as he gave a speech in which he kept his audience hanging on every word. The presenter noticed that what appeared to be notes in his hand was in fact just a laundry slip. 

Later he mentioned this to Churchill. "Yes", said Churchill "It gave confidence to my audience."

So here are some of the tips I used to give to my students
  • Dress smartly: don't let your appearance distract from what you are saying.
  • Smile. Don't hunch up and shuffle your feet. Have an upright posture. Try to appear confident and enthusiastic.
  • Say hello and smile when you greet the audience: your audience will probably look at you and smile back: an instinctive reaction.
  • Speak clearly, firmly and confidently as this makes you sound in control. Don't speak too quickly: you are likely to speed up and raise the pitch of your voice when nervous. Give the audience time to absorb each point. Don't talk in a monotone the whole time. Lift your head up and address your words to someone near the back of audience. If you think people at the back can't hear, ask them. 
  • Use silence to emphasise points. Before you make a key point pause: this tells the audience that something important is coming. It's also the hallmark of a confident speaker as only these are happy with silences. Nervous speakers tend to gabble on trying to fill every little gap.
  • Keep within the allotted time for your talk.
  • Eye contact is crucial to holding the attention of your audience. Look at everyone in the audience from time to time, not just at your notes or at the PowerPoint slides. Try to involve everyone, not just those directly in front of you.
  • Walk around a little and gesture with your hands. Bad presenters keep their hands on the podium or in their pockets! Don't stand in one place glued to the spot hiding behind the podium! Good presenters will walk from side to side and look at different parts of the audience.
  • You could try to involve your audience by asking them a question.
  • Don't read out your talk, as this sounds boring and stilted, but refer to brief notes jotted down on small (postcard sized) pieces of card. Don't look at your notes too much as this suggests insecurity and will prevent you making eye contact with the audience.
  • It’s OK to use humour, in moderation, but better to use anecdotes than to rattle off a string of jokes.
  • Take along a wristwatch to help you keep track of time.
  • It can be very helpful to practise at home in front of a mirror. You can also record your presentation and play it back to yourself: don't judge yourself harshly when you replay this - we always notice our bad points and not the good when hearing or seeing a recording or ourselves! Time how long your talk takes. Run through the talk a few times with a friend.
  • It's normal to be a little nervous. This is a good thing as it will make you more energised. Many people have a fear of speaking in public. Practising will make sure that you are not too anxious. In your mind, visualise yourself giving a confident successful performance. Take a few deep slow breaths before your talk starts and make a conscious effort to speak slowly and clearly. Research by T Gilovich (Cornell University) found that people who feel embarrassed are convinced their mistakes are much more noticeable than they really are: we focus on our own behaviour more than other people do and so overestimate it's impact. This is called the spotlight effect. If you make a mistake, don't apologise too much, just briefly acknowledge the mistake and continue on.
  • Build variety into the talk and break it up into sections: apparently, the average person has a three minute attention span!
For the UK Speakers the new Powerpoint presentation created by the MSUK office is excellent as it moves seamlessly from the Need, to Capacity building, to the Crew and finally "Give, Go and Pray/Get involved.

As my confidence as a presenter has gown over the years, I've also found I rely less on props. My early presentations were jammed full of slides as I was afraid that I would run out of content, and invariably I talked far too quickly to get though all the slides. I was talking AT my audiences, not TO them. Now I've learned to have as few slides as possible, to slow down, to question the audience and involve them in discussion: to treat them as individuals rather than objects to be afraid of. Surprisingly, the most successful presentations I have made have been when the technology has failed. If for some reason the projector hasn't worked, you are thrown back to basics and forced to communicate directly with the audience, to interact with them and set up a dialogue without the barrier of PowerPoint. It takes more courage, but is ultimately more successful.

Hope this helps.


  • HannahMulvihillHannahMulvihill Crew Support Coordinator Member Posts: 82 - Current Staff
    Its such a blessing to have you and Margaret as part of the UK team, Mike. Speaking engagements are incredibly important and we really value your support in this area! If anyone in the UK is interested in becoming a Speaker for us then please do contact us here in the office to register your interest.

    Phone 01438 727800!
  • Jeremy BrewerJeremy Brewer Member Posts: 82
    Mike Temple‍   Thank you for sharing these great tips and advice on public speaking.  A great idea!  I hope people take advantage of the wisdom and instruction you shared here to further spread the message and mission of Mercy Ships.   

    Grace and peace to you, sir.

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