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10 Keys To Brilliant Presentations

Let’s face it – many business presentations are as stimulating as a freshman accounting class lecture without the incentive of seeing the material on a test. Or it sounds like a late-night infomercial.

I’ve spent lots of time in the audience, in front of the room, and behind the scenes prepping presenters for events; I find these 10 key elements are common to outstanding bright-star presentations. They are:

  1. 4Ps – Plan what you want to accomplish; Prep based on that goal; Practice content, flow, and timing; Present Brilliantly – be there and fully engaged

  2. Integrity – Descriptions and teasers about the program and what you present must match; promoting one thing and presenting something different lacks integrity

  3. Me – Your bio, profile, Google+ Page, and the MC’s introduction tells all about you – only talk about you IF the point makes you more memorable

  4. Visuals – If you have to say “you probably can’t read this…” you are in the weeds! Less is better; cartoons & caricatures create more impact than facts – numbers – charts. Anything complex or useful as a resource is best given as a reference or URL in an handout – with only a concise abstract of pertinent items shown on the screen

  5. Talk – Presenting is a form of conversation – talk with the audience; try not to read to them or from the screen; after all, if you read them your book from the stage, they won’t buy it

  6. Interactive – If possible, make the session interactive to get thoughts and experiences from the audience – have them be an active part of the program instead of just observers

  7. Lily Pads – Robin Williams used an analogy about frogs jumping between lily pads to describe comic delivery – same applies presentations: don’t spoon feed the audience; give the audience the concepts that require a mental leap to follow, but don’t have the gap so wide they miss the next lily pad

  8. Stories – Reference your experts sparingly – people came to hear your thoughts; share them through your stories of experiences and results

  9. End Promptly – End on time – not when your material runs out – an hour session is about 40 minutes of presenter time; the balance is for questions and the unexpected

  10. Continue the Conversation – Give your audience a place to offer comments about the presentation – “the best thing they learned.” Sharing extends the reach of the program and your visibility (also adds to legend of the event – Meet-up, an event managing social media tool, uses a comment board system to let attendees rate the event and give highlights & comments – which helps validate the better programs).

A live event is always unique and often a bit unpredictable. These elements help manage the unexpected and are a key to giving a shining-star, memorable performance.

Any others you want to add?

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Laurie S. Moison

Great post, Jack. I would just add: Know Your Audience. What are the tasks that keep them up at night and how is the information you’re sharing relevant to those tasks? What are the obstacles that might get in the way of them being able to implement whatever brilliant thing you are sharing with them (e.g. what do they have to be, do, and know to make what you’re saying really happen for them)? What is their authority level–can they take the ball you’re handing them and run with it or do they have to get “permission” from a higher authority–if so, who would that be and how can they get buy in? Cuz, at the end of the day, the whole point of a brilliant presentation is so your audience can walk away with a useful nugget that makes their work/life better.

Jack Gates


Absolutely correct. Best example ever of this was by a friend addressing a conference about communicating – for the first minute he spoke in German and the folks got more and more restless as the time went on. He stopped and did a reset – spoke the same presentation in English (it was about connecting with your audience).

Thanks for the comment.