Nail your next presentation in 5 steps

Updated: Apr 19



Your presentation is just weeks away. Don’t panic: This is the perfect time to take care of a few tasks that will set you up for success. These five steps will prime your mind, body and deck for the big day.


STEP 1: Create a killer deck.

During a presentation, you’re not the only one on stage; your deck is equally in the spotlight. To make sure it shines, ask yourself: Does my color palette feel fresh? Do my slides flow together? Does my design feel varied? Am I giving my audience the right visual cues on every page? These might seem like insignificant details, but they’re important for making your presentation pop.


STEP 2: Play with body language.

What will you do with your hands during your presentation? Rest them on your hips? Clasp them in front of you? Let them hang by your side? If you’re not sure, get on your feet and play around with different gestures and postures while reciting your presentation. Try to make your movements natural (architect Vishaan Chakrabarti is a pro at this); otherwise, your audience will feel uneasy. Tip: Big, dramatic gestures work well in large settings like auditoriums, while subtler gestures work better in settings like conference rooms.


STEP 3: Get in front of people.

Practicing in front of people seems like an obvious thing to do, but a lot of people skip this step. Don’t. Hearing your script out loud will flag issues that you might not otherwise notice. Presenting in front of others will also invariably lead to valuable feedback. If possible, try to perform your dry runs in a setting that’s similar to the one where you’ll actually present.


STEP 4: Hit the right tempo.

Mark Twain once said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Translation: Your presentation needs dramatic pauses. To find them, work on striking an even tempo while you’re practicing out loud; your ear will pick up on the spots where a pause would be worthwhile. If you tend to talk too fast, use your deck to pace yourself. Limiting one main idea to every page will force you to slow down.


STEP 5: Strike a power pose.

In 2012, social psychologist Amy Cuddy made headlines when she shared research indicating that holding a powerful stance can make a person feel more powerful. (Her study was initially challenged by some academics, but Cuddy published additional research to support her findings.) In short, if you hold a high-power pose — one with expansive posture — for at least two minutes, you will feel more powerful and perform better than if you didn’t hold the pose.


Then, it’s showtime. You’re ready. Go get ’em.

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