How to Take Your Presentations From Good to Great

Great! When was the last time you attended a conference and came out absolutely buzzing with ideas and inspiration? That’s what happened to me following the Professional Speaking Association 3 Day Mega Conference at the Cumberland Hotel in London this month.

There were so many highlights and just over a week later and I’m still buzzing so I wanted to share some of the nuggets I learned. I had the privilege of hearing and speaking with dozens of speakers but one in particular spoke on both Friday and Saturday and provided loads of helpful tips for presenting. Patricia Fripp is an award-winning keynote speaker, business presentation expert, sales presentation skills trainer and in-demand speech coach. She has been named by Meetings & Conventions magazine as "One of the 10 most electrifying speakers in North America." During the event Fripp (as she likes to be called) put presentations under the microscope and offered advice for how to make a good presentation great.

So here is an overview of Fripp’s top tips:

  • You get paid for what you know; you get paid well for what you know if you speak about it. Speaking is the number one skill that is guaranteed to position you ahead of the competition. It’s in your interest to get good at it!
  • Record every speech you do then have it transcribed so that you can hear exactly what is coming out of your mouth and refine it each time.
  • Putting together a good presentation is not magic; it’s technique. You have to master technique before you can abandon it. Don’t rely on inspiration; learn how and practice to get good at it so that you are great every time you speak.
  • The creative process is messy (PowerPoint is too tidy!); it is difficult to be creative in isolation so get input from others as to how you can make your presentation great.
  • The first 30 seconds and the last 30 seconds have the most impact; work on these and learn them so that you have a powerful start and finish.
  • If you want to own the room, don’t talk to the room, talk to one person one hundred times.
  • Be aware of self-deprecating humour – don’t knock yourself too much!
  • Instead of opening with ‘Did you know…?’ try something like ‘Would it surprise/shock/horrify/amaze you to know…?’ This brings more emotion into the question.
  • Instead of opening with ‘Have you ever…?’ try ‘How often have you…?’ The first question indicates the past; the second question indicates that it is an ongoing problem.
  • Instead of saying ‘I’m going to talk about…’ try ‘You are about to learn…’ This will make it audience focused.
  • Speak in short phrases; when drafting your speech write them down the page rather than across.
  • How you stand represents the stability of your ideas and the stability of what you represent; therefore, stand solid in your centre rather than moving about. Standing still is verbally underlining what you’ve said.
  • When you pause; freeze your gesture as well for more impact. If you drop your gesture you lose the power out of the words you just said.
  • Be specific with your word choice; non-specific words dilute the impact of your credibility.
  • Orchestrate the presentation; don’t wear your audience out by starting at 100% energy; try starting at 80% and add variety as you go.
  • When telling a story rather than report on it, tell it in dialogue as the character; it will make it more real and add interest.
  • Make friends with the stage; get to know the space you’ll be presenting in before the event.
  • Be your own warm up act; meet people beforehand so you can get to know them and build rapport before your presentation as well as glean information to help make your presentation more relevant to your audience.

The tips above are just some of the many I noted during Fripp’s sessions, and there were loads more that I didn’t manage to write down. Many of them won’t be new to you but I found that Fripp has an incredible way of explaining and illustrating her points that helped me see things in a new light. I witnessed her transform the opening lines of people’s presentations with a simple tweak of the words or phrasing. I also admired her delivery style; her powerful use of pause has the audience hanging on her every word!

One of the events during the annual PSA Mega Conference is the Speaker Factor contest where speakers from around UK and Ireland compete. This year Patricia Fripp was a judge and I was delighted to be selected as a finalist to speak on a stage in front of 200 of my fellow professional speakers (a scary audience if ever there was one!)

Given the great advice Fripp had provided during her sessions, following the contest I asked her for some feedback and guidance as to what I could do to improve my speech. Her answer was ‘Don’t change a thing. You were fabulous!’ So out of all the highlights of the conference that one comment has to be mine!

I hope these tips get you thinking about how you can take your presentations from good to great. What do you think? Do you agree with Fripp’s suggestions? If you’ve got some tips that have taken your presentation from good to great I’d love to hear them – just add them in the comments section.

Mel Sherwood is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success. Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer.

Specialising in helping others transform their life and their business through clear, confident and credible communication, Mel empowers business people to clarify their message, engage their audience and use their body, voice, mind and heart to enthusiastically and authentically express their ‘inner oomph’. To find out more go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential