How To Give A Good Presentation

To some people, presenting comes as second nature but for others, it’s a minefield. However, in both cases, there are some easy-to-follow tips that are bound to result in a well-received presentation.

The first thing to consider is that people enjoy stories. When setting out your presentation, it’s tempting to list a series of well-structured points in a logical order, but the audience is much more engaged when there is a narrative with an element of storytelling.

To prepare well for your presentation (like writing a thesis or an essay), always start with a plan. The Harvard Business Review agrees, ‘Nicely designed slides cannot compensate for a poorly structured story’ and suggests these 3 steps:

  • Firstly, write down your idea as if you were telling a story
  • Next, storyboard. Sketch your thoughts and ideas to bring the visuals to life
  • Lastly, find videos, animations, graphics, photos or any other visuals that will bring life and colour to your presentation

Constantly think visuals, visuals, visuals. This cannot be emphasised enough. According to recent research, an audience will recall 65% of the information given if they both hear and see visuals, but if only listening, the figure can go down to 10%. This is due to what is known as the picture superiority effect.

Chris Hadfield, a retired astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space, back in 2013 illustrated what it’s like to be in orbit (in other words made a sort of presentation) by playing a guitar and singing David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, whilst floating around. This visual naturally attracted many viewers, going viral on social media.

He then gave a TED Talk presentation when he was back on Earth, which included 35 slides – none of them contained any text at all. 11 million people enjoyed his talk.

Some other ways to improve a presentation, if you are not musically inclined guitarist(!) include:

Humanize facts

Even if the audience doesn’t remember everything they hear in a presentation, what they will certainly remember is the impression it left. A series of data/numbers/facts aren’t gripping for most people but putting them in context – giving them a story or narrative of their own – makes them more striking and memorable.

Surprise the audience or make them laugh

Don’t be too predictable. A series of bullet points and sensible PowerPoint slides is not likely to grip listeners. On introducing the first ever iPod at a conference, Steve Jobs pulled it out of his pocket claiming that no other device that could store so many songs could neatly fit into your pocket, resulting in what quickly became a very famous tagline, “One thousand songs in your pocket.”

This is the fun part of making a presentation: be creative. ‘The human brain pays attention to novelty – twists and turns and unexpected events.’ Surprising your audience will be well-received.


This seems obvious, but we mean rehearse - we don’t mean practise. To rehearse is to carry out the presentation exactly as you would if it were the real thing. This is vital for a successful delivery.

Lastly, you must consider when making a presentation that you are also performing. All the best facts in the world will not achieve the desired effect when presented, if there is no performance element to it.

Suggested Links:

What the Best Presenters Do Differently (

Brain Science & the Future of Work | Dr John Media (

BBC Two - Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? - Commander Chris Hadfield

Effective Oral Presentations | Learn Science at Scitable (