Presentation Skills Matter: Here’s How to Avoid Being That Speaker

(4 min read)

How many times have you attended a meeting or conference only to find the speaker reading from slides, cramming content, and repeating information that anyone with even a year of experience in your industry already knows?  You don't want to be that speaker. The presentation you offer and the overall presence you give off will all make a difference when it comes to whether the people in your audience can relate to you or not. 

Being an expert does not equate with being a good speaker. Even if you’re passionate and well-intentioned, rushed, boring, overly technical, canned and unprepared programs always fail to connect with audiences. The same is true if you're offering a motivational program without substance.

Remember, the people who came to hear you speak are busy, and they want valuable information quickly. If they ask you what time it is, they don't want to be told how to build a clock. They don't have time to build it, and at the end of your instructions they still don't have an answer to their question. Being passionate about your field is important, but make sure you're passionate about what your audience needs from you, as well.

Really, it doesn't matter what you're presenting, either. You could be meeting with your boss, going to a job interview, running a staff meeting, or presenting a keynote speech for your industry – the concepts you'll want to consider are the same. Here's what to think about.

Connect Compellingly

Conferences are generally much more successful when speakers are dynamic. Those same speakers will also want to request a commitment from the participants before they leave. Asking them what one thing they will do when they get back to work is a great way to keep them engaged and get them focused on thinking about actions they can take.

Skip the Sales Pitch and Lecture

Presenters are rated more highly by conference participants when they avoid selling and spend less time lecturing. What should they be doing the rest of the time? Engaging the audience. Talking with an audience instead of at them can make a big difference in how effective a speaker is. This can be a tough bar for a speaker, but group facilitation, asking and listening always makes a program better.

Stay On Time, and Keep Your Agenda Focused

Timing really is everything. Plan your agenda and timing carefully, and don't run late. No one ever complains about a meeting being too short. Take a look at your slides. Trim them down, and then trim them down again. Make sure you build in time for processing, discussion, and engagement. That's what participants are looking for, not someone who's hurrying through slides without active audience engagement.

Create Your Slides for Your Audience, Not Yourself

The slides you create for your presentation should be for your audience, not for you. Think about what your audience wants and needs from the information you're giving them. A lot of speakers create slides based on the cues they want, but that doesn't help them engage with the audience. Don't read from the slides, and don't mention things that everyone says or knows. The audience is expecting something new and different. They're expecting to gain knowledge, and they don't need rehashed information that could have been sent in an email.

Hold Your Audience's Interest

To be an effective speaker, you have to know your audience. After all, Dale Carnegie once said, “talk to someone about themselves and they'll listen for hours.” If you aren't sure who you're talking to, how will you know what they need to hear? Oftentimes it's not just the messages that matters, it's also the way the message is delivered. When you give your audience something relatable, they're far more likely to respond to what you're offering them.

Here are a few of the takeaways you may want to think about, when you're planning your presentation:

  • For a more engaging presentation, tell stories, facilitate dialogue, and pause to let your audience process information.
  • Be ready with a few takeaway points your audience can take action on right away.
  • Celebrate your audience and help elevate them and their credentials.
  • Interview the client before the program and customize the program to their objectives. 
  • Plan your presentation, and remember that a longer presentation isn't always a better one.

When you focus on what you can give your audience, and you tell a story that mixes logic and emotion, you're much more likely to make a lasting impact. Participants won’t remember your words but will remember your stories and their impact.  

Rehearse so you can improve your content and timing. That's especially important with your into, main points, and conclusion. When you're done rehearsing, rehearse again. Actor Michael Caine said, “Rehearsal is the work; performance is the relaxation.”  You want to be natural and not stilted, to help ensure that your audience can connect with you and your message. And don't forget the famous words of Albert Einstein: “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”


Scott Foster is CEO of Wellco. Scott is a frequently-invited expert and speaker regarding well-being, engagement, & leadership.  Wellco provides award-winning solutions to measurably improve health experiences & outcomes. For more information, contact Wellco. 

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5 Secrets to Engage Your Audience - Proven Presentation Skills Workshop

Whether a keynote program or a client meeting, the difference between a mediocre and a fantastic presentation are just as important.  Scott Foster’s new workshop Is all about presentation secrets gleaned from hundreds of his keynote and training programs. You and can experience this workshop virtually or onsite, and in a variety of formats from one hour to multiple days and additional coaching. 

Rave Reviews

Scott was the closing speaker at the NBCH Annual Conference. His presentation exceeded all expectations with his interactive, engaging and knowledgeable style. I would highly recommend him for both large and small meetings/conferences.

Susan Dorsey Vice President of Education, National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions

Scott Foster was the keynote speaker for the Michigan HR Day conference, which had a sold-out crowd of over 800 participants. If you are searching for a remarkable speaker who is also a pleasure to do business with, I highly recommend Scott Foster.

Jeremy Stephens CEO, Michigan HR

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