How to Build a Powerful Presentation from Scratch

In this two-part series, we’ll explore the finer points of crafting a powerful presentation. During part one, we cover the basics – but don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these tips! All the best presentations have these characteristics in common.


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    Know that less is more. Let’s face it – we live in the age of Twitter communication, where anything longer than a sentence starts to lose our interest. We’re constantly being bombarded with information at every turn, so it pays to keep things brief. Sound bites rule! Of course you’ll want to have supporting information to back up any bold declarations you make, but there is something to be said for brevity.
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    Keep it relevant. The lecture format is passé. Keep the mood fresh and engaging, invite questions and audience participation, and if you have a longer presentation, incorporate an activity or exercise that gets people involved while driving home a key point. Use current references and analogies, don’t be afraid to weave in pop culture references if you can make it relate to your key point (assuming this is a match for your audience).
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    Be enthusiastic. Odds are, you can fondly remember a teacher from your grade school days and you may remember things that he or she taught you – even if you didn’t particularly like the subject itself! Likeable people keep us interested and engaged, and enthusiasm is contagious.
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    Know when to hold ‘em. It is positively baffling how many speakers and presenters don’t know how to simply and effectively use audiovisuals. Used properly, these tools can enhance a presentation, drive home key points, and keep the focus where it belongs: on the speaker. Anything else becomes a distraction that leads to boredom.
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    Meat and potatoes. Be sure to structure your presentation so that it has plenty of meat (valuable subject matter, new information, useful tips, etc.) as well as potatoes (such as supporting explanations, demonstrations, hands-on experiences, and exercises or material designed to reinforce the key points).
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    The Takeaway. Here on this blog, you can find entire articles that explain how to master the takeaway, which refers to the key point or points you want your audience members to remember (and possibly take action on) long after your talk is complete and you take a bow. Speakers who master the art of the takeaway are the ones who tend to have the most lasting impact on their audiences – sometimes for years to come.
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    To thine own self be true. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best, and his wisdom still rings true after all these years. If it’s one thing an audience can spot a mile away, it’s a phony. Be authentically you and you will win your audience over every time – even if the “real you” isn’t witty, funny, or outgoing. Additionally, when you are being yourself, you will find that presenting becomes easier and more natural, since trying to be anything else can only serve to increase your nervousness.
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    Effective use of humor. As mentioned in the prior paragraph, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. If you’re not a funny guy, don’t feel as though you need to pepper your presentation with jokes and humor, if merely one powerful joke -- that you can tell masterfully -- would suffice. If you have a wry, or dry sense of humor, work that angle. Humor should enhance your talk and engage your audience.
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    Breathe. Take several deep breaths while working on creating and polishing your presentation – it will keep your head clear and ensure a true focus.


  • Don’t be afraid to end early...nail this presentation and you just might get invited back to speak in more detail on your chosen topic!
  • Bring your own passion into your presentation and your audience will sit up and take notice -- even if the very same material would have bored them on paper.
  • Be sure to stop back by for the next installment, when we’ll explore some specific tips for keeping your presentation interesting and impactful.
  • Use audiovisuals appropriately for maximum impact
  • A presentation that’s “all-meat” often gives too much new material without allowing for integration, which may result in a much lower retention of the information by the audience.
  • Similarly, an “all-potato” presentation lets the participant walk away feeling as though they learned nothing new or useful. As a presenter, it’s up to you to strike a balance.
  • Being yourself means incorporating humor that suits YOU, using a delivery style that fits your personality, and presenting information that you personally believe in.
  • If sarcasm is your thing, use it – but be sure people know when you’re being ironic or sarcastic (you’d be surprised).
  • If you’re a funny person, don’t over-do the humor; make sure you only apply humor when it’s relevant to the material (or during a segue – see our recent post on mastering the segue), and don’t let the humor upstage the material itself and the takeaway.
  • Practice deep breathing just before you stand up to present, to relax your body, sharpen your focus and calm your nerves.



  • Don't go over time - this demonstrates disrespect for the audience and the event organizers
  • Don't be afraid to color outside the lines - creativity is always appreciated when it is a fit for your audience
  • Remember to breathe during your talk, and if should you stumble, lose your place or otherwise become flustered, remember to take a moment to breathe before you proceed.

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Categories: PowerPoint Presentations