Why bother giving a presentation?

June 21, 2017

For many people just the idea of having to give a presentation is a nerve wracking idea. The thought of having to stand up in front of a room full of people fills them with dread. Even for the more experienced presenter there is a lot of work and effort that has to go into creating a presentation.

You need to structure your thoughts, work out what will be relevant and of interest to your specific audience, possibly create some visuals, rehearse it a few times, write cue cards, in case the nerves take over and you forget what it was you decided to say, arrange the venue, invite people to attend and chase them up to make sure they attend on time. Even a short presentation can take many hours, days or weeks to prepare.

So why bother? Why not just send out an email and hope that people read it?

In my humble opinion there are a few reasons why presentations are worth the effort.

1. Firstly, it is very difficult to convey emotion in an email and in the main it is the passion and emotion that you put into a presentation which makes the difference. No matter how many facts and figures you quote in your presentation, it is your enthusiasm that will generate the emotional buy-in which in turn will sway an audience.

2. By giving a relevant, entertaining and interesting presentation you can hold an audience’s attention for far longer then it would take them to skim through an email. This means they will give more thought to what it is you are saying and are more likely to remember the salient points.

3. Presentations should be about more than knowledge transfer. If all you are doing in a presentation is relating facts and figures, you are wasting a great opportunity. Effective presentations should be designed to influence people. Designed and delivered in such a way as to make your audience think or do something, which they would not have done had it not been for the presentation.

4. Giving presentations is good for your career prospects. Everyone remembers the person standing at the front of the room not the people sitting at the back. Welcome any opportunity to present in front of your colleagues and managers, it will raise your status in your organisation and you will be more likely to gain promotion.

Of course, the validity of the points above depends on the effectiveness of your presentation. Standing nervously and reading the bullet points from a series of slides is never likely to have a positive outcome.

Why on earth am I saying this in a blog? When I have stated that a presentation is a far more effective method of communication, particularly when you need to influence your audience.

Well, needs must, but what I recommend is that you take time out from your daily routine to attend one of my presentation skills courses where you can experience the passion I have for creating and delivering effective presentations. You will learn how to create and deliver presentations that are targeted, memorable and will influence your audience to your way of thinking.

Public Courses are running in:

Basingstoke on 5th July 2017
Camberley on 9th August 2017
Reading on 6th September 2017

I can also arrange dedicated in-house training and/or coaching at your convenience.

Please call on 01276 502257 or email graham.young@youngmarkets.co.uk to arrange a session.

Presentation Myths and Folklore – Part 3

July 7, 2015

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series are already up on my blog. In this article I tackle five more common presentation myths:

“My slides help me to remember what I am supposed to say”

 “Communication is 55% visual, 38% vocal and only 7% the words that you use”

“Adding a picture or clip art to your slides makes them better ”

 “There is an optimum number of slides for a presentation”

“Our presentations are very technical so you won’t be able to teach us anything about how to give them”

1. “My slides help me to remember what I am supposed to say”

At first glance this may seem fairly innocuous, but I think is is one of the most common and damning mistakes a presenter can make. Relying on your slides to remind you what to talk about next perverts the whole process of giving a presentation.

When giving a presentation, the presenter should lead the presentation supported by their visual aids. When you rely on your slides you inevitably bring each slide up before you start talking about that sub-topic. This means the slides are now leading the presentation and the presenter has been relegated to the role of describing what the slides say.  The audience will read the slide quite quickly, and then, depending on the content of the slide, they will probably have a good idea of what it is your are about to say. This makes the presenter redundant.

In general, the best way to use slides is to start talking about a topic and then bring up the visual aid to support your statements.

2. “Communication is 55% visual, 38% vocal and only 7% the words that you use”

These statistics come from two separate studies carried out in the 1960’s by Alfred Merhabian, who was investigating how people communicate their emotions and attitudes. As with most statistics, these figures have been used to “prove” a wide range of different assertions about how you give a presentation and the relative importance of the three different aspects of a presentation.

What they don’t mean is that the words of your presentation are not important but as Mehrabian says, “when actions contradict words, people rely more heavily on actions to infer another’s feelings.”

For my part the important lesson to be learnt from these statistics is that all three aspects of your presentation, the words you say, how you say those words, and what the audience see while you say the words, have to be in-sync and giving a consistent message. If they are not consistent, the visual message will outweigh the aural message, which in turn outweighs the words spoken.

3. “Adding a picture or clip art to your slides makes them better ”

Over the last ten or fifteen years, there is a general trend in presentation skills training to promote the use of images and pictures in visual aids. Statements like “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” and “every picture tells a story” are fairly commonplace. This started with the introduction of clip art and has since expanded to include high resolution photographic images as computer processing power has increased to support the media.

While I won’t argue with the sentiment that a picture is worth 1,000 words, I do question whether adding a picture to the right of a set of bullet points is actually adding any value to a slide. A similar fate has tended to befall blogs. Often, at the start of a blog article is a picture which in some way relates to the content of the blog. The number of blogs about presentation myths, which I researched prior to writing this article, that have a picture of a unicorn  at the start is quite remarkable.

Of course an appropriate image is far better than a list of bullet points, which should be avoided at all costs.


4. “There is an optimum number of slides for a presentation”

Over the years I have heard an enormous variety in terms of the number of slides that should be used in a presentation. Anything from zero to one every 10 seconds.

The slides should be the last part of developing a presentation. Once you have worked out what you are going to say and how you are going to structure the presentation, then you can start thinking about the slides. The slides should be considered as an additional layer in your presentation which will help to make it an interesting and memorable experience for your audience. Your slides are not your presentation!

As such there is no right number.

5. “Our presentations are very technical so you won’t be able to teach us anything about how to give them”

This myth is something I come across when I am promoting my presentation skills training, but I thought it would be worth including. This view is often held by engineers, scientists and technology leaders. They believe that their technology is so specialized that anybody who has not worked in their industry, or in some cases in their company, would be unable view to help them improve their presentations.

I think this is akin to someone saying that only a sports coach who can run faster than Usain Bolt could coach Usain into running faster.

A good trainer or coach does not need a deep understanding of the topic of a presentation to help people create and deliver such a presentation. What they do need is a knowledge and understanding of both the art and science of presenting.

I wish you every success with your future presentations

All the Best




Presentation Myths and Folklore – Part 2

June 10, 2015

This is the second in a series of blogs which examines the truth behind a number of presentation myths. Part 1 is here.

In this article I examine:

“People remember more if they see it as well as hear it”

“What you have to say is so interesting it is worth over running for”

“If you don’t like looking people in the eye, look over their heads or at a point on the back wall”

“You need an ice breaker like a joke at the start of a presentation”

“If your mouth is dry, drink some water”

1. “People remember more if they see it as well as hear it”

While this is basically true, it depends on what it is people are seeing while they hear your words. Far too often people display text heavy slides in the belief that putting the text on the slide will help their audience remember what it is they have said. It won’t!

Displaying a slide full of text acts as a distraction to your presentation. Your audience will stop listening to you while they read your text. If you then say the same thing as the text on the slide, you will be accused of reading the slides, which is a serious faux pas and leads to the dreaded “death by PowerPoint”.

Alternatively if you say something different from what is displayed on your slide you will just confuse your audience.

In my humble opinion, bullet points should be banned from presentations. If you are not convinced please read the article “Ban the Bullets“.

That said, the visual aspects of your presentation are very important, and in many cases will take precedence over the spoken word. To make people remember your presentation you may want to use some pictures and diagrams that conjure up strong mental images or even better get your audience to do something, as recommended by Confucius in his saying “I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand”


2. “What you have to say is so interesting it is worth over running for”

This particular myth is one I still have a problem with. I know I should always finish a presentation with in my allotted time, but knowing it and doing it are two different things.

For many people, like myself, time flies by when you are giving a presentation. You find that you know more about your subject than you thought you did, you come up with new analogies and descriptions to clarify the points you are making and all of a sudden you are at the end of your allotted time but with lots more still to say.

Your audience show no signs of boredom, but should you go on or should you shut up and sit down? In every single case the answer has to be to shut up. It doesn’t matter how well you think your presentation is going or how important the points you have yet to make are, there can be no good reason for over running.

In the extreme example, when you are one of the later speakers in a series of presentations, and the speakers before you have overrun, meaning you are late starting your presentation, my advice would be to cut your presentation short so that you still finish on the original schedule. Although you get to say less, you will be the hero of the event. Both the audience and the event organizers will appreciate your concise delivery and you will be invited back another time.

3. “If you don’t like looking people in the eye, look over their heads or at a point on the back wall”

Eye contact is very important when you are giving a presentation but for many novice presenters establishing eye contact with your audience can be daunting. The advice that is often given is to give the presentation looking at a point on the back wall, or looking at the tops of people’s heads rather than into their eyes. I think this is terrible advice. People can tell that you are not looking at them. You need to look your audience in there eyes as you give the presentation. Start by looking at the people who are giving nice “facial echoes”. The ones that are smiling back and clearly enjoying what you are saying. Then look at the others, a different person for each phrase or sentence.

4. “You need an ice breaker like a joke at the start of a presentation”

“What makes a good ice-breaker?” is a question which is often posed on on-line forums. In my view jokes and ice-breakers are the worst ways to start a business presentation. Most business audiences are not expecting a joke and are not in the right mood to laugh at it, so it will often fall flat.

The best ways to open a presentation are discussed here.

5. “If your mouth is dry, drink some water”

Having a dry mouth is one of the normal signs of nervous tension, but if you drink the water, you will find that your mouth tends to get dryer and then you will want to drink more and more. You are better to leave it to your body’s natural reaction to a dry mouth, which is to generate more saliva than to wash any saliva that is there, by drinking the water.

Sucking a mint before your presentation will help generate the saliva you need to avoid a dry mouth, and is far more effective than drinking the water. Alternatively, you can gently bite the inside of your cheeks, which will also make you salivate.

It is of course wise to have a drink to hand in case you start coughing or to act as a temporary diversion while you gather your thoughts to answer a question.


So there go another few presentation myths. In the next article in the series I will look at:

“My slides help me to remember what I am supposed to say”

 “Communication is 55% visual, 38% vocal and only 7% the words that you use”

“Adding a picture or clip art to you slides makes then better ”

 “There is an optimum number of slides for a presentation”

“Our presentations are very technical so you won’t be able to teach us anything about how to give them”

If you have any favourite myths about giving a presentation, please let me know by adding a comment below.

All the Best


Presentation Folklore and Myths – Part 1

May 19, 2015

Ask most people how to give a good presentation and the response is likely to include a few common myths that are often regurgitated. Rather than help you to give a great presentation these snippets of presentation folklore will often be a hindrance and not a help.

This is the first in a series of articles that will highlight the myths and point you in the right direction to make sure your next presentation is effective.

Common myths include:

“Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”

“You shouldn’t wave you hands around when you talk”

“To reduce the nervous tension imagine that your audience is in the nude, or sitting on a toilet”

“Your slides make a good handout”

“Always ask if anyone has any questions at the end to make sure that they have understood you.”

 Unfortunately, while these things are said with the best of intentions, they are often open to being misunderstood.

  1. Tell them, tell them, tell them

The advice to “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them” is one of the most misconstrued pieces of advice for a presentation. I’ve also heard this referred to as “Tell then how you are going to bore them. Bore them. Tell them how you bored them”.

You definitely do not want to tell people everything three times!

The first part of this statement “the tell them what you are going to tell them” does not mean put up an agenda slide, by doing so you run the risk of people thinking they know what you are going to say and assuming it will be a boring presentation which is not of interest to them.

A better approach is to start your presentation by making the audience want to listen. To engage your audience’s curiosity about the topic on which you are presenting. Not just tell them what you are going to talk about.

The last part of the statement, “tell them what you told them” means end with a summary. This is okay if you the objective of your presentation is purely information transfer but if you are trying to motivate or persuade your audience you need to end with a call to action, which tells them what you think they should do next.

The majority of presentations in business are not just about transferring information, they are about influencing, motivating and persuading people to do something. As such a summary of the information is a particularly weak ending. Your call to action is the reason you are giving your presentation so make that call to action the last thing you say before you sit down.

  1. Keep your hands still

When I was younger I went on a presentation course and was told not to wave my hands about. I was told to keep them at my side or if I found that too difficult to hold them behind my back. I think this was very bad advice. Some people, me included, naturally talk with their hands. The hand gestures emphasising and re-iterating the spoken word.  Hand gestures can convey enthusiasm and energy and make the presentation far more lively and interesting.

As long as your hand gestures are natural, don’t waste your effort trying to control them, let them emphasize the points you are making.

  1. “To reduce the nervous tension imagine that your audience is in the nude, or sitting on a toilet”

This is a tactic for combating your nerves which has no place in modern business presentations. I agree with the sentiment that your audience are just people like you or me, no more and no less and as such are nothing to be scared of. But I think there are far more successful ways of reducing any nervous anxiety. I have written about this recently in my article Handling Presentation Nerves.

  1. “Your slides make a good handout”

Slides and handouts are two different things which fulfill different purposes. If your slides make a good handout which can be easily understood and digested without your presence then they are not good slides.  Everyone is likely to be reading your slides and not listening to you.

Slides are also known as visual aids, and the clue here is in their name. Visual aids are meant to be pictures which help your audience to understand the message that you are saying. They should create strong mental images that help people to understand and remember what is you said. Handouts need to have far more information in them to replicate the spoken part of your presentation when you are no longer there.

My advice is to prepare a separate document as a handout and then hand it out after you have finished your presentation. See my article on Visual Aids

 5. “End with a Question and Answer Session”

Ending with “Has anyone got any questions?” is definitely the wrong ending for any type of presentation. You want to leave the audience with your summary or call to action ringing in their ears, not with them thinking about your answer to the last question that was asked, or even worse an embarrassing silence because nobody has any questions.

Now I’m not saying you should never ask if anyone has any questions, I always like to encourage audience participation throughout a presentation, but a Q&A session is not the best way to finish a presentation. The end of your presentation should be a call to action that encourages your audience to fulfill the objective of your presentation.


That’s all the myths I’m busting this time but in future articles I’ll tackle a few more prominent presentation myths and folklore including:

“People remember more if they see it as well as hear it”

“That what you have to say is so interesting it is worth over running for”

“If you don’t like looking people in the eye, look over their heads or at a point on the back wall”

“You need an ice breaker like a joke at the start of a presentation”

“If your mouth is dry, drink some water”

Follow my blog to get an email when the next installment is published.

All the Best

Graham Young

Handling Presentation Nerves

May 11, 2015

Being nervous when giving a presentation is perfectly normal. There are two main reasons people feel confidentnervous when giving a presentation. The first is because we are basically pack animals, we like to do what everyone around us is doing. When you are giving a presentation you are not doing what everyone else is doing. This is deeply ingrained into our psyche and there is nothing much you can do about it. The second reason is because we become conscious that people are judging us. Again it is common to become nervous when you realize people are judging you.

Many people start to worry about being nervous which makes it worse. The best approach when you realize that you are feeling nervous is to re-frame the anxiety by congratulating yourself. Tell yourself you are supposed to be nervous and that is okay because it means that you are doing it right. Don’t start worrying about being nervous just get on with the presentation.

Most people will not look as nervous as they feel. Like a duck swimming, under the water its legs are paddling furiously but all the onlooker sees is the duck gliding gracefully across the water.

Knowing your material well and having practiced it, by saying the presentation out loud beforehand, will help counter the second reason for being nervous. In particular try to memorize the first two or three opening sentences which will help you to get going when your nerves are at their worst.

Pumping up your self-confidence, creating a positive attitude to giving the presentation will also help. I have two sayings that I repeat to myself before I go into the room.  “I am Poised, Prepared, Persuasive, Positive and Powerful. I feel Composed, Confident, Convincing, Commanding and Compelling“. Repeating these phrases out loud makes me feel more positive and in control, I stand up straighter and my shoulders go back and I feel more confident.

An alternative is to Power Pose as recommended by Amy Cuddy, see her TED talk below:


Finally my last piece of advice on handling your presentation nerves is to make sure that you breathe properly. By breathing properly what I mean is taking a few deep breaths using the diaphragm before you stand up to speak. To check if you are breathing properly place your hand on your stomach and breathe in, your stomach should move outwards not inwards. If it moves inwards you are taking what is known as a chesty breath and only filling the top part of your lungs with air. A few good deep breaths will help oxygenate your blood, let your brain work better, it also has a calming effect in its own right.

So don’t let nerves get in the way of giving a great presentation, the time to start worrying is when you are not nervous before a presentation as it probably means you haven’t given enough thought to what you are about to do.

Anchoring Ideas in Your Presentation

April 9, 2015

How to get the points you make in a presentation to stick.


All too often the points people make in their presentations are forgotten. They waft away like flotsam on the ocean waves. Seen but never remembered. To make them memorable you need to anchor them. Give your audience something to hold on to, make them more permanent and make them more memorable.

How do you anchor an important point or message?

There are a number of different ways to anchor a point, luckily the majority all start with the letter A (as in Anchor). You can use any of the following to anchor a point:

  • Anecdote
  • Analogy
  • Acronym
  • Article
  • Activity
  • Alliteration
  • Aid (Visual)


  • A Quotation

Let’s take each of these in turn so that I can explain in more detail.


A relevant anecdote or story is a great way to enliven a point and makes it far more memorable. People listen to stories using a different part of their brain than when listening to facts and figures. It can also help put the point you are making into perspective. Customer case studies and personal examples are a great way to gain buy in to your presentation and the points that you are making.


When explaining a complex or abstract concept it can be useful to come up with a simple analogy. One that I use when discussing good presentation structure is the analogy that a good presentation is like a well designed motorway, (see here for the explanation http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Is-An-Effective-Business-Presentation-Like-A-Motorway-(Or-A-Freeway-Or-Autobahn)?&id=1010032 )


When you have a number of related points to make thinking up an acronym will make them more memorable. I use the acronym OSRAM, which stands for the 5 most important aspects of a presentation, Objective, Speaker, Room, Audience and Message. OSRAM is also the brand name for a make of light bulb, so by using OSRAM you can light up the room with your presentation.


More commonly refer to as a prop; an article can be a great visual aid. Something the audience can see and feel. On my presentation training, I invariably have a light bulb as a prop to help reinforce my OSRAM acronym.


Confucius once said, “I hear – I forget, I see – I remember, I do – I understand”. By having an activity which the audience can participate in, that is relevant to your point, your audience will not only remember it for longer, they will also gain a better understanding. When a practical activity is impractical due to the size of your audience or nature of your talk, come up with an activity they can do in their heads. Make your audience think, rather than just sitting listening.


Alliterations work in a similar way to acronyms. The make it easier for people to remember. For example the key to a good presentation is preparation, practice and performance.

Aid (Visual)

Okay so I’m starting to cheat on the rule that Anchors always starting with an “A”. However a good visual aid will help make your point and make it more memorable. Now, I’m not referring to a slide full of bullet point text here, rather a high quality image which will implant a strong mental image, relevant to your topic, in the minds of your audience.

A Quotation

Finally, a quotation can be used to anchor what you are saying. It adds weight to your argument because it is no longer just you who is saying it but some other respected individual has said the same thing.

No doubt there are other ways in which you can anchor the points that you make. Let me know of any you have used.


The most important thing to take away is that if you want your presentation to remain in the conscious thoughts of your audience, you need to anchor the points that you make, otherwise the will quickly drift away over the horizon, to be lost for ever.

Never let an audience get ahead of you

January 27, 2015

Letting the audience get ahead of you is one of the most common ways of killing a good presentation.

Once your audience know what you are going to say next, or even just think that they know what you are going to say next, there is a strong tendency for them to switch off and start thinking about other things. They will get bored waiting for you to say it and get on to the next point.

But how can an audience get ahead of you?

There are many ways for an audience can get ahead of you, if you let them. One of the most common ways is when you put up a slide with several bullet points on it and start working your way down the list. Before you are even through the first sentence describing the first bullet point, your audience will have read the slide. If the bullets are self explanatory, then they will get ahead of you. They will have caught the gist of what you are going to say and then have to wait for you to say it. While they are waiting, their minds will wander and you will have to work much harder to recapture their attention.

Using the line by line reveal facility in PowerPoint, will reduce the scale of the problem but still does not cure it. If you bring up the bullet point first and then start talking about it, you have still let the audience get ahead of you, and you will be telling them “old news”, as they have already read the headline. If you have to use bullet points, bring them up after you have talked about the topic to reinforce what it is you have said. Better still uses some pictures or even some physical props to help get your message across and leave the bullet points on your speaker notes.

Of course, handing out printed copies of the whole presentation before the event is another classic way of allowing the audience to get ahead of you. Have you ever looked at the audience during the first key note speech at a conference? Most of them will still be scanning through the handouts working out which presentations they think will be worth listening to, not paying the slightest attention to what the key note speaker is saying.

In the same vain, putting up an agenda slide at the start of a presentation is another way for your audience to “get ahead”. I know it is fairly common practise to have an agenda slide at the start of a presentation but I think this is done more out of habit than for the benefit to your audience. How many feature films do you know that start with an agenda? Agenda or contents pages are only relevant to printed documents so that the reader can skip to the part they are most interested in. Do you want your audience to skip to the part of your presentation they are most interested in, and ignore the rest?

Presentations need to have a structure, so that your audience can understand how you have taken them to where they are now. But this structure does not need to be broadcast in advance in can be revealed as you go along.

To keep an audience listening you need to build in some suspense and tension just like in a television drama or a play. Don’t give the game away by letting them see a précis of your talk before you have a chance to speak.

All the very best for your future presentations





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