The typical business presentation has three elements: the presenter, slides and handouts. Unfortunately, most presenters read their slides word for word.

The audience will read the slides rather than listen to the presenter.

A high-impact presenter understands that each element has a purpose. He allows each to do what it is meant for:


You, the presenter, are the most important of the three elements. Your job is to distil your message to its essence. Your points should be few, simple and clear.

Look the part of a presenter — professional, competent and friendly. Dress well and smile.

Be prepared on the subject matter. This will help you sound like the confident and knowledgeable expert your audience is expecting.

Speak with a clear and pleasant voice. Use a microphone if necessary.

Speak at an appropriate pace. Too fast and you sound rushed or nervous. Too slow and you bore them. While monotone is hard to follow, so is a constant level of high intensity. Mix it up.

Do not try to memorise your entire presentation or read it from a script. Refer to an outline or note cards and discuss your points according to a meaningful structure.

Choose powerful, descriptive words to make your message vivid and memorable. A relevant story or two can add interest and touch emotions.

Above all, you want to sound authentic and engaging rather than slick or polished.  

Your slides

Your slides have a supporting role. You are the star. Do not let your slides take centrestage while you stand aside and read them. Design your slides to support what you have to say. Use quality images that support your message and are easy to look at, rather than including lots of distracting data.

Understand that every time you show a new slide, the audience will look at it. When they are looking at the slide, they are not listening to you. Make sure they can get the meaning within three to five seconds. Once they process the information, they can return their attention to you and your explanation of the idea.

Limit each slide to a single idea or topic. When it comes to designing slides, less is more.

Do not put too much information on any one slide. Use lots of white space. Densely packed slides difficult to read.

Make sure each slide is clear, legible and relevant. Every component of every slide should support your message.

Highlight key information. If you must show a slide with a long passage of text or a dense table or chart, highlight the most important information. You can do this by shading, circling, or enlarging the key text passage or portion of your table. This lets your audience focus on the key points and disregard the rest.

Slides can introduce an idea, set a mood, touch emotions, and add visual interest.

What if you have a lot of important information to convey? Put it in a handout rather than on slides.

Your handouts

Handouts provide more detail than your words and slides possibly can. Ideally, handouts are for future reference and analysis.

Begin with an executive summary or overview. Use clear headings and meaningful charts and graphs.

Distribute the handouts after you have made your important points, not at the beginning of your presentation. Let the audience know they will be receiving it later so they will not be distracted with taking detailed notes while you are presenting.

Your presentation need not be a jumble of words, poorly designed slides and unorganised data. Let your words, slides and handouts do what they do best. Together, they will make your presentation persuasive and compelling.