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Effective Presentation Skills: The Ultimate Guide

pskillsIt’s no secret that effective presentation skills can skyrocket your success – a new contract, a boost for your business, or even fund raising for your startup. But building great presentations isn’t easy.
Why? Because there are many different things you should master like copywriting, design and public speaking in order to get your message across and compel people to take action. So how do you get good at all these?
Today, you’re in for a treat because I’ve put together a complete guide of tips, resources and examples to help you craft powerful slide decks and most importantly, get better at presenting than anyone else in your industry. From understanding your audience to designing great presentation slides, this guide has you covered.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
Why Presentations Skills Are More Important Than People Think
How to Understand Your Audience
How to Craft a Message That Gets Across
How to Perfectly Structure Your Deck
How Design Beautiful Slides That Stand out
How to Deliver an Irresistible Presentation

Feel free to jump to a specific section to grab the meaty details.


ultimate guide-Lay the foundations-
1. Start with the who
2. Follow with the why
3. End with the what
-Craft your message-
4. Build your core message and squeeze it into a powerful hook
5. Breakdown your message into small bits
6. One slide = one message
7. Use headlines to introduce each slide
8. Use these 7 attention-grabbing headline starters
9. Use words effectively
10. Don’t say more than you need to
-Structure your deck-
11. Tell a story using the story framework
12. Use the 1-7-7 rule to arrange slide elements effectively
-Design your presentation-
13. Customize your presentation size
14. Create an attention-grabbing cover slide
15. Keep a swipe file to save time
16. Build a unified color themepresentation skills checklist
17. Chose the right typography
18. Use the C.R.A.P. principles
19. Start your presentation with the hook
20. Use a conversational tone
21. Make it about them
21. Use sensory phrases
22. Use the Show, Don’t Tell principle
23. Use eye contact
24. Use these body language postures
25. Don’t use filler words

–25 Effective Presentation Skills Tips You Can Use Right Now–


presentation skills meaning
70% of employees Americans who give presentations say presentation skills are critical to their success at work (what is an effective presentation Source). That’s HUGE.
But, what exactly are presentation skills and why are they important?
I’d like to start with a statement that perfectly summarizes what effective presentations are:
A great Presentation consists of two important parts: well-structured content that empowers the idea that you’re trying to convey and an eloquent style of delivery that keeps your audience’s attention on your content. Edmond Lau, Engineer at Quip.

Now, there are two reasons why strong presentation skills are important:
Reason 1: Poor Presentation Skills have hidden costs
You might think presentation skills only matter for graphic designers and TED speakers, but they’re absolutely crucial in business, too. They can be the difference between getting a client, a raise, or nothing at all.
Here’s an example:
One of my friends, let’s call him Joe, is running a tech business. He was willing to work with an agency to help boost his online sales. He met with a firm that had good credentials and was presented a 58-slide deck (that he had already received by email). The agency guys spent 30 minutes bragging about how good they were at online marketing, all the things they knew, the clients they worked with, and so on. My friend thought:poor presentation skills
Uhm, OK, what about me?
How do I benefit from what you are telling me?
And of course, Joe eventually left, and never contacted that agency again.
They lost a 5-figure contract.
Because none of the things Joe heard during this presentation benefited HIS business. That is what having poor presentation skills means. If you can’t deal with people the right way, opportunities will keep passing you by. Are they passing you by?

Reason 2: If your presentation skills are missing the mark, nobody will tell you
Imagine you’re about to go on a date. You don’t know it, but there’s a piece of salad stuck in your teeth, and even though everyone sees it, nobody tells you about it!
poor presentation skills
The same thing happens with your presentations. If you suck at presenting, put people to sleep, bore your clients or lose business because of it, no one will tell you !


You see my friend, presentations are not about you. They are about the folks you’re trying to connect with.
It’s about getting THEM to engage with you, giving THEM something of value,  getting THEM to want to buy from you.
This section will show you how to pin-point your audience needs and wants, so you’ll be on the right track to build a message that addresses them.
1. Start with the who (your audience) 
Here is the ONE single question you want to answer:draw-real-people-5
  • Who are they?
Use qualifiers like industry, location, business type, to help you be ultra specific. For example:
  • Who = Shanghai-based financial consultants
2. Follow with the why (why are you here, why should they care)
Why do you need / want to talk to your audience? Why would they want to hear from you? For example:
  • Why = These Shanghai-based consultants are having a hard time generating new leads for their business
3. End with the what (what do you want to tell them)
If we look back to our previous example, here would be a good “what”:
  • What = I want to show these Shanghai-based consultants how my company can help them get more leads
If you’re new to presentations – or looking to brush up on the basics – these resources will help you get your decks off on the right foot. You’ll learn how to build a persuasive presentation that is laser-focused on providing value to your audience. 
  • 9 Presentation Steps to Get You Started (start with this infographic)
  • How To Pin-point Your Audience Problems & Aspirations (read this in 3 minutes)
  • The 8 Burning Desires Common to Everyone (need 30 seconds)
  • The Complete Guide to Knowing Your Audience (save 20 minutes to read)

craft your message


Okay. You’ve done the research on your audience.
You know exactly what you want to tell them, and why they should care.
Next up? Build your message.
4. Build your core Message and squeeze it into a powerful hook
The point of this step is to help you build a presentation that is hell-bent on distilling your message to your audience, slide after slide.
Wrap up your message using the 3W technique:
Action verb +who + what + why
Motivate/help/persuade/show + your audience + message + reason
For example:
‘I’m gonna show these Shanghai-based consultants how my company can help them get more leads“.
Action verb: show
Who: Shanghai-based consultants
What: get more leads
Why: more $$$
5. Break down your message into small bits (sub-messages)
Now it’s time to break down  your core message into small bits.
Let’s say that your core message is:
Show  Shanghai-based consultants that our online marketing services can help them make more $$$.
How would you break this down into small bits  in order TO SHOW your clients that your services can help them more $?
# provide info about your core marketing services and TIE it to the results you can get for your clients
# provide testimonials that PROVE the previous point
# provide key facts to make you look like an authority figure in your field (e.g. awards, clients, results…)
Look, I won’t lie to you. You’re not going to get it right the first time.
But if you’re systematically trying to break down your core message into small parts each time you make a presentation, you’ll get ahead of 90% of people.
6. One Slide = one message
One slide = one idea, one message, one core point
To help you be laser-focused on  your message,  use this formula every time you’re building a slide:
The purpose of this slide is to [ FILL THE BLANK ]
For example:
The purpose of this slide is to [ show one happy customer testimonials ]
The purpose of this slide is to [ show that our sales grew by 16% this year ]
The purpose of this slide is to [ demonstrate that our app features are the best in the market ]
See where I’m going?
7. Use headlines to introduce each slide
Headlines have two purposes:  grab your audience’s attention + motivate them keep them reading (or listening).
Catchy headlines have usually four qualities:
1) Self-interest
2) News
3) Curiosity
4) Quick-easy way to do things
For example:
Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 4.49.10 PM
If possible, I advise to use 1/3 of the slide space for your headline.


For instance:


8. Use these 7 attention-grabbing headline starters
Look !
For example:
Our powerful new seminar teaches marketers the power of persuasion to drive people into a buying frenzy
Now you can stop worrying about your traffic
Announcing the hottest new lobster roll from Cali
Presenting the easiest way to engage your customers
Here’s why our digital marketing services are a great fit for you
Look! It’s that easy

9. Use words effectively
Write to the chimpanzee brain. Simply. Directly. Eugene Schwartz
To build persuasive presentations, you need to use words effectively. That means write so your audience understands what you’re saying. To do that, use short, simple words and sentences. 
How does writing good copy looks like? 
We confess. It’s a problem. This is important.
You’ll make up to 20% additional revenue every week
Do you want a rippling, rock-hard stomach?
Would you like to get customers 24/7?
10 . Don’t say more than you need to (get to the point)
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.Albert Enstein
Rule of thumb: express only one thought in a sentence, not more.
Use your next sentence to say the next thing.
Because it’s muuuuuch easier for your audience to process and understand just one thought at a time.
  • How to Break Down Your Message Into Small Bits (infographic)
  • The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Powerful Headlines (highly actionable)
  • The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You (terrific piece)
  • Title Generator, Portent and Internet Marketing Course (headline generators)



For many people, the most challenging part of making presentations is how to organize the content. I know it, because I’ve been there too. In this section, we will check together a basic, easy-to-use, story frame that’ll help you structure your presentations more effectively.
11. Tell a story using the story framework
A story is a series of actions that overcome obstacles in order to achieve a goal.Geoffrey James, Professional speaker
The most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers again and again. They remind people of the status quo (i.e. your audience’s pain points) and then reveal the path to a better way. Simply said, they set up a conflict that needs to be resolved.
A good story is usually broken down as below:
Status quo (pain point / problem)
Rupture (it could change)
Change (what the change looks like)
So, what does it look like in real life, you might ask?
Let’s take a look at one of my favorite stories, the speech of Frank Underwood.

all rights reserved House of Cards

Go check out the video.
You’re done? Great. Let’s take a closer look at Frank Underwood’s speech structure:
For too long, we, in Washington, have been lying to you…
That ends tonight.Tonight, I give you the truth.
10 million of you can’t even get a job even though you desperately want one.
Let me be clear: you are entitled to nothing The only way to serve you is to give you the means to serve yourself.
That’s exactly what I intend to do… Not handout. Jobs.
In the next few weeks… We’ll introduce a program called America Works to put the 10 million Americans who are unemployed to work. All of them.
If YOU want a job, you get one .We can’t maintain the welfare state as we know it
Of course, there are various models you can use to build your presentation’s story. To be honest with you, I’d rather have you get this one right than giving you dozens of models you won’t know what to do with.
If you want to dig more on this story building topic,  check out these resources:
  • Download this template to help you structure great presentation slides.
  • Tell Your Brand’s Story (The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing)
  • 6 Ways To Make Your Story Interesting (love those specific examples)
  • The Clues to a Great Story (what a show!)
12. Use the 1-7-7 rule to arrange slide elements effectively
1 idea per slide
7 lines of text
7 words per line
Of course, this is a general concept but it gives you a good guideline to work on your slide’s content.

how to make a good powerpoint presentation designdesign presentation

Many folks tend to do a “little bit everything” when it comes to designing their slides. Which really means they can’t focus on anything important. If you want to start building good presentation slides fast, you have to get started with the basics. I won’t lie to you: great slide design isn’t easy. This section provides you simple, professional slide design tips so you too can build beautiful decks like a pro.
13. Customize your presentation size
PowerPoint and Keynote slides are usually sized 10 inches (width) * 7.5 inches (height).
Resize them to at least 12*7.5. You’ll have more horizontal space:

professional slide design

14. Create an attention-grabbing cover slide
To create attention-grabbing cover slides, you have two major options:
# Light / plain background, with your title on top:
design presentations

# Beautiful photography, with your title on top:
catch attention
But why should I use visuals, you may ask? Here are two facts I want to you to remember:

40% of people respond better to visual information than to plain text
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Source 1

People who use visuals are 43% more persuasive than those who don’t.
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Source 2
Images are a natural way for humans to communicate and people remember visuals better than bullet points. Make sure to check out these breathtaking, free-to-use photography resources:
Gratisography (crisp, fun, humorous visuals)
Death to the stock photo (as the first one)
Startup stock photos (genuine looking pics)
Pexels (lots of themes, beautiful photo)
Unsplash (stunning nature related visuals)
Little visuals (as Unsplash)
Pic jumbo (urban-related pictures)
15. Keep a Swipe file of your favorite’s visuals to save time
What’s a Swipe file? It’s a folder I keep on my Mac desktop. Whenever I bump into great visuals online, I put them in the Swipe folder. Keep your own library of free photos to save time on image searches. Here’s my personal free photo Swipe file:

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 6.27.36 PM

16. Build a unified color theme (three colors)
I recommend to use not more than three core colors for design consistency purpose.
If you want to make sure the colors you pick match well together, go check Kuler. This color palette generator is free and you can chose from thousands of pre-built themes. If you want to pick three colors and don’t know which ones fit well together, do this:



17. Choose the right typography
I recommend to either go with Helvetica or Calibri. These are safe options that’ll help you look good, and most importantly, professional. Helvetica is Apple’s official font and here’s how it looks in the real life:

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 7.35.47 PM

Looks great, doesn’t it?
For free and creative font options, go check out Font Squirrel.
18. Use the C.R.A.P. principles
There are not a hundred but four principles of design that I want you to get under your belt.
C. is for Contrast
Contrast is all about making things stand out. It can be achieved using three major tactics:
  • Manipulation of space (near / far, empty / filled)
  • Color choices (dark vs. light / cool vs. warm)
  • Text (typography style / bold vs. narrow)
For instance:

business presentation slides

R. is for Repetition
Repetition, for instance making a headline and a sub-message the same color, makes scanning your deck much easier. Repetition helps you create a cohesive look to your presentation.

slide design

A. is for Alignment
Newspapers use this to great effect. Aligning a whole bunch of elements with one another makes them scan faster. Alignment makes things easier to read.

slide design

P. is for Proximity
Proximity means that things are associated with one another. Let me explain that for you: the closer things are, the more they are associated The farther they are away from one another, the less they are associated.
      • 8 Tips For An Awesome Presentation
      • Three Steps To Design Kickass Slides Without Experience
      • 7 Rules For Creating Effective Slides
      • Kuler (awesome color palette to build perfect color combinations)
      • Slideshare (one the best places to get your creative juices flowing)
      • Fontsquirrel (free, high-quality, designer-friendly fonts)

prepare for public speaking


“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right?” Jerry Seinfeld
19. Start your presentation with a bang


Learning how to start a presentation is just as important as knowing how to finish it. It is the beginning of the conversation that can make or break it in capturing your audience’s attention.So you have to grab your audience’s attention from the very first second.
Use this great intro to grab the audience by the throat and get their undivided attention:
Today, I’m going to show you [ statement that benefits your audience ].
For instance:
Today, I’m going to show you how ACBD company can help you make more money through online marketing.
Today, I’m gonna show you the exact strategy we’ve put in place to grow our hotel business in Boston.
20. Use a conversational tone
Verbal presentation skills are crucial to your success and there are two things you should do to increase engagement with your audience:
First, use the words “you” and “I”  so your audience relates with what you’re telling them.
For example:
Have you ever felt / been in a situation where….[CLIENT PROBLEM]. Well, I‘ve been here too
Do you remember the last time you….[CLIENT PROBLEM]. I understand that.
You know that feeling when… [BAD SITUATION]. I think it’s crazy, don’t you?
You’re stuck in [BAD SITUATION], you’re dealing with… [PROBLEM]… I feel your pain.
Let me be honest with you, if you’re serious about [BENEFIT THEY WANT]…
Second, you can also use rhetorical questions:
Pretty sneaky, isn’t it?
You guys know what I’m talking about, right?
21. Use sensory phrases
Using sensory phrases while you’re presenting will help you get your audience to feel something:
Does it feel like….
Can you imagine…
Let me show you…
Let me tell you…
You don’t need to…
If you’re like me you’ll love to get your brain juice going with concrete examples. Check out these great lists of sensory words and phrases:
  • List 1
  • List 2
  • List 3
21. Make it about THEM, not you
Let me tell you something you wont’ like: nobody cares about you.
Said differently, people care about what you can do for them. Your audience should always be at the center of your conversation. And everything about you, your company, your products, your results shall be benefiting to your audience at some point.
Never forget that it’s about them, and not you.
 22. Use the Show, Don’t Tell principle (SDT)
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.Anton Chekhov
The SDT principle has one purpose: enable your audience to experience the story through action, words, senses, and feelings. Here are a few formulas you can use to build up stories that will help you connect with your audience:
We had once a client…
A few months ago, Brian was hardly struggling with attracting fresh traffic to his site…
We started this business because there was this one day, we….
So what’s the key difference between TELLING and SHOWING, you might ask?
Let’s use the example of a pizza slice.showing vs tellingYummy, no? But what’s the difference between telling and showing Clemence?
The pizza was delicious.
Mushrooms and pepperoni sausage formed thick layers on top of one another while the white mozzarella cheese bubbled over the bright red tomato sauce. Each time I took a bite I planned it so that I got a taste of every luscious ingredient. My taste buds celebrated every single time! Oooh, so good. Source.
Guess which one these descriptions appeals better?

23. Use eye contact
Eye contact is crucial in keeping you and your audience connected. Here are two things you should do to keep them engaged:
  • Spend a few seconds with each person you look at
  • For bigger lecture halls, use an M or a W pattern to spread eye contact throughout (source).
 24. Use these body languages postures
Don’t use defensive postures such as arms crossed, hands in pockets, hands clasped behind or in front of your body. These postures limit your gestural ability and will make your audience close off as well. Instead:

How to improve your presentation skills using body language

25. Don’t use filler words
Since being kids, we’ve been conditioned to answer questions immediately. That’s why we’re using filler words such as “uh”, “um”, “well”, “like”. Great public speakers work hard to eliminate these words from their vocabulary so that their listeners can focus solely on their message. Here’s how you can do it too:
The next time you are asked a question, take a couple seconds to think about what you want to say. This pause serves two important purposes: it will help you begin powerfully, and it will help you avoid using a filler word. Pause, think, answer.
 Great resources on body language techniques:
  • Your Hand Gestures Are Speaking For You (with pictures)
  • The Secrets of Body Language: Why You Should Never Cross Your Arms Again (backed by science and super actionable)
  • Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (TED talk)

— > It’s time to put your new presentation skills into action! <—

You’ve learnt how to understand your audience, build messages that are relevant to their needs and empower them.
I can’t recommend you enough to look for new opportunities to test what you’ve learnt. Remember, effective presentation skills require practice, and it gets easier with time. So put yourself in situations where you can try to identify a client’s pain points, build messages, break them down and confidently ship them to people. The more you practice, the easier it will get.
Hope you’ve enjoyed and learnt !

The Ultimate Guide to Effective Presentation Skills
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The post Effective Presentation Skills: The Ultimate Guide appeared first on PPTPOP – Actionable Persuasion Advice.

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