"The brain can only absorb what the butt can endure"

Presentations are a wonderful opportunity for us to share our knowledge with others,  influence colleagues and help our team see and hear another point of view.

However, for many of us, the thought of presenting is clouded in fear and as a result only a fraction of our true selves shows up.  

This blog focuses on three elements that ensures you have an effective presentation that meets its objective.  

We will be using the analogy of Steak, Sizzle and Style to work our way through these elements.  

Steak – The Content

Audiences are looking for knowledgable presenters who are well organised and have a clear message.  This is where you are looking to demonstrate your credibility by being prepared, focused, presenting ideas in a clear and memorable way and providing lots of “how to" ideas.  

Sizzle – Make it interesting

All audiences want the presenter to bring the material to life for them.   Telling stories is a very powerful way to provide a message so that an audience works it out for themselves without you having to “feed" them.  Using humour brings warmth and energy to the engagement and audience participation ensures peoples brains are still ticking over.  Audiences love to hear relevant personal anectodotes and examples of where the material / ideas have worked in real life.

Style – Bring yourself

Finally an audience wants a presenter who is relaxed enough to bring their full personality to the session.  They want to see enthusiasm, confidence, sincerity and a belief in what you are talking about.  An articulate presenter who talks comfortably about the topic and conveys the appropriate emotions for that are required for the subject.  To ensure that your full personality is seen at the presentation we will look at tactics for managing nerves and how to stay resourceful.


Objective and Message

The first thing we want to do when writing a presentation is to get clear on our objective and message.

Objective: What you want the audience to do as a result of listening to it.

Message: In one sentence the one thing you would like your audience to remember.   This is the overriding theme of the presentation and should be repeated frequently. It’s like the chorus. 

Once you’ve clarified your objective and message your presentation becomes easier to plan and manage.  You can ask yourself the question, does this piece of content contribute to the objective and message.  If it does then it can stay in.  If it doesn’t then you can remove it.

Advertisements are like presentations – albeit on film. Their objective is to get people to buy their products.   The messages vary – you’ll be really cosmopolitan and global if you drink Nescafe or a great mum if you use Ariel, etc.

In terms of stating your objective and message you will always state your message but may not necessarily state your objective. Think about TV ads, they don’t say – we want to persuade you to buy coffee. The objective is for your purpose only.


Here is a nice example from Mary Portas who has great clarity of Objective and Message when she is doing her messaging:

Objective: To get high quality donated products

Message:  Make a donation, don’t dump your rubbish


People always feel more compelled to do something differently when they are clear about a problem and the repercussions of not resolving it.  Presentations are normally about taking people from Point A to Point B and influencing them to do something differently.  The four box model here gives a very comprehensive overview of how you might structure your presentation.  Retain and remove elements as you feel is appropriate for your presentation’s objective and message.

1. Current Situation

Scope – This is the purpose of your session.

  • What will you be covering?
  • Where you will be going?
  • Get everyone on the same page.
  • Who, What, Where and When

Hook – Something that grabs the audiences attentions and carry the message

  • A story
  • Film clip
  • Image
  • Quote
  • Do, show or say something unexpected
  • Music


Current Situation

Get the audience on side and talk about the strengths / postivies of the current situation

Current challenges

If you were doing a SWOT, what are the weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the current situation.


2. Future

  • What could the ideal world look like?
      • What could the future look like?
  • Consequences of not changing
      • Data insights of not changing
  • Opportunities that could be taken
  • Supporting data


3. Solution

  • How to move towards a better future
  • Recommendation and benefits


4. Actions

  • Make it easy – nobody likes implementing complicated
  • Overriding benefit
  • Link back to your hook.


It is our job as the presenter to bring the presentation material to life for our audience irrespective of the subject.  The sizzle is about adding some heat and interest to our material so that it is relevant and digestible for your audience. 

The modern learner is distracted and with presentations, you have 8 secs to hook people and then 20 mins to hold their attention before it goes wondering.   The recommendation is to add some sizzle every 6 mins.

Tell Stories

Storytelling has been used through the ages to teach and influence people. Before most people could read and write lessons were learned through stories told as people worked on the land.  Storytelling is simple and most presenters enjoy telling a story and all audiences love listening to a relevant story.  Stories make it easier for us to remember facts and show respect for the audience as you allow them to figure out the message for themselves rather than telling.  

Uses visuals

Well laid out slides with powerful visuals can allow you to make a point quickly and easily.  It is remembering that your slide is there to support the audience and not act as an aide-memoire for you.  Some favorite sites for free visuals are:

Using humour

Humour creates a wonderful connection between you and the audience.  It can feel very isolating as the presenter at the front of the room looking out at a sea of faces.  However, the moment you get a wave of laughter back from the room a connection has been made and you instantly relax.

The easiest way to use humour is to be self deprecating and tell a funny story about yourself.  It helps show the human side of yourself to the your audience, increases your likeability and brings positive emotions which aids learning.


When we are influencing another person our message is made up of 3 elements – the words we use, voice tone and body language. 7% of the impact comes from the words (steak), 38% comes from voice tone and 55% comes from non-verbal communication. So, 93% of the communication impact comes from something other than the words that we spend ages sweating over and getting just right.

Let’s assume that you have mastered the words bit. You’ve now got your planning tool and we’ve talked about how best to structure a presentation for maximum impact. What we’re going to concentrate on now is how to optimise your personal style.  


When we stand tall at the front of the room we convey confidence.  Unfortunatly, nerves mean that often end up fidgeting, standing with more weight on one leg rather than the other or huddling up.  Here are some quick tips to get yourself into a “grounded position" that helps you feel calm and resourceful and you can come back to regularly during the presentation.

  1. Place your feet hip width apart.
  2. Ensure your weight is distributed evenly on each foot.
  3. Imagine that your feet have little anchors that are keeping you held firmly on the floor
  4. Bend your knees a tiny amount so that you are comfortable and you avoid your knees getting locked.
  5. Imagine you are a puppet and the puppet master is pulling the last half inch out of your height.

This will feel unnatural to start with but I encourage you to see yourself recorded and see how powerful you might look by using this approach.  to relax and focus on being grounded.

Eye Contact

Let’s look at eye contact first. Why is eye contact important ? It means you’re connecting with the group and you could almost be having a 1 to 1 with that person. It conveys confidence and conviction in your message and ensures that you can measure the reaction/response of the group to what you’re saying. How long should you keep eye contact with someone for ? It depends. Different people need different amounts of eye contact. On the whole though people need more eye contact from the presenter than you think.  We often “flick" our eye contact around the group.  What we really need to be doing is having mini conversations with each member fo the audience and this often means slowing things down.  


Deliberate use of your floor space conveys confidence.  Doing a little dance on the spot is just showing your nerves.  If the room allows it, using your space is a great way to release nervous tension and makes you look completely in control.  You are effectively saying “this space is mine."  It also gets audience interaction because they are watching you, it keeps them more interested in the your presentation.  When you move around your floor space you should be making 2 clear steps on every occasion.  

What to do with my hands when I am presenting?

How much is too much, enough or not enough?  Use gestures deliberately to emphasise points or to demonstrate size. Use big gestures when you’re talking about something huge and small gestures when you’re talking about something tiny. At the moment, most of this is probably sub-conscious. But you can work on gestures, movement and eye contact so that you develop body power that really works for you. 


Just like your body is a tool through which you can convey messages – so your voice can be used to add impact and pizzazz to your presentations. 38% of the communication impact comes from your voice tone – so we’re going to do some work on how we can really get the most out of our voices to support us in our presentations.

The number 1 turnoff for audiences is a monotone voice – so what do we need to do is to introduce some interest into our voice. We can do this by using the tools in our voice of volume, speed and tone.  

Volume – the loudness or softness with which we speak. How can you use volume in your presentations to add impact. Use variety of loudness and softness to emphasise points. 

Speed – what’s the right speed to speak at ? Again, that will depend. The chances are that when we get nervous we tend to speak faster. Given that we speak at 200 words per minute and think at 600 wpm – our mouths can go into overdrive under pressure – so often we have to slow ourselves down. How ? Introduce some pausing, sip water, eg. That said, sometimes, speeding up will add energy to a room – so use speed with care.

Tone – what’s tone. The level at which we speak. Think undulating graph – we want some contrast – so use your voice to go up as well as down to introduce voice interest.


This is when your words, voice tone and body language are all saying the same thing. You totally believe in your message. When you get somebody who is saying one thing but their body language is telling us something different – we say they are incongruent.  Unconsciously, we then buy into the body language and take our message from that. 

Congruence is what you should be aiming for if you want people to sit up and take notice of what you’re saying.

Dealing with nerves

Presenting is the no 1 fear – ahead of heights, flying, sickness and even death ! So, if you’re worried about presenting take comfort in the fact that so are lots of other people !

What I’d like to do is capture from the group some ways you have individually of dealing with or controlling your nerves before making a presentation.


  1. Movement – jump up and down on the spot 50 times releases nervous tension
  2. Visualisation 
  3. Breathing Techniques – can really calm you down