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How To Prepare An Effective and Engaging Presentation

Updated on June 20, 2014
Not what I meant by knocking 'em dead.
Not what I meant by knocking 'em dead. | Source

Organizing an effective and engaging presentation can be stressful. A lot of work goes into them, but where do we start? This article will offer some tips on how you can prepare before-hand.

Prepare in Advance

Gather everything you want to say, organize your notes, and focus on the message you want to send to your audience. The reason behind your presentation is the first step to preparing. Depending on what type of presentation you will prepare, ask yourself this question:

  • What position am I taking? OR What do I want to teach my audience? OR What do I want to sell to my audience?

Once you have a clear idea of what you will be presenting, ask yourself:

  • Who is my target audience? Is it a professor/s in an academic setting? Is it a new client in an ad firm? Is it new employees to a company?

Now that you know who your audience is, tailor your presentation around these factors. State your stance, or what it is you want to tell your audience, in a clear, concise statement.

Write Notes for Yourself

Index cards can be your best friend, especially if you're a novice presenter. It's something you can use to remember your speaking points. My advice, however, is to write notes and NOT your whole speech. Your audience does not want you reading to them. They want you to speak to them. Remember that they are there to listen to your message, whether it's to teach them about something that is important to you, or to persuade them into buying an idea. So, let's say you're presenting on why dogs make better pets than cats. Instead of writing "Dogs make better pets because they can be taught to serve an owner. For example, dogs can be trained to help the blind. Cats on the other hand, provide comfort to the elderly, but are known for their idleness." On your index card you can write:

  • Dogs help the blind; act as caretakers.
  • Cats are idle; Give comfort but do not act as caretakers.

No one is going to see your index notes so don't worry about semantics. If you get stumped during your presentation you can look down to remember your second point.

Having a Powerpoint Presentation

A word (or several) on PowerPoint presentations. PowerPoint can make any presentation look esthetically pleasing to the eye. However, do not overuse PowerPoint. This is where many presenters, both novice and experts, fail.

What could have been a great presentation is now overshadowed by too much information, color or pictures on the screen. This distracts the audience from paying attention to you, and eventually makes them uninterested.

Like your index cards, your PP slides should not have your whole speech written. PP slides should have relevant information like facts, statistics, charts, pictures, or interactive visuals that relate to what you're saying. And if you want to reiterate what you've said, write short sentences that get to the point, and don't make any slide more than 7 lines.

You don't need to have slides for every point you make. If there is a space between the previous slide and the next slide, you can have a black screen as the background so as not to distract the audience. If you do need written information on your slides for your presentation remember these tips:

  • Make the font on your slides large enough so that it can be read from the back of the room.
  • Your background color and font color should not keep the audience from being able to read the words. I.E. Don't use yellow and pink on a white screen.

For more information about PowerPoint slides, visit this article:


Eye Contact

Making eye contact with your audience makes you look like you know what you're talking about, makes you look confident, and makes the audience want to listen to you more intently.

The best advice I can give is to look at the back of the room for no more than 5 seconds at a time. Slowly start moving your glance towards the audience, trying to make eye contact with everyone. And then start at the back again. It will take time before you feel confident looking at the whole audience without having to rest your eyes at the back of the room. Take your time, and don't rush. Even expert public speakers feel nervous speaking in front of people.


A lot of people don't take the opportunity to practice in front of an audience or in front of a mirror. It's hard because you tend to be really critical and you feel it makes you more nervous. It's true. Sometimes I hate practicing because I tend to notice the inflections in my voice, or the face I make when I'm thinking too hard. However, practicing your presentation will help you better face the anxiety you have.

Instead of going up to your actual audience and realizing that "which" sounds a lot better than "and" in the middle of your presentation, it saves a lot of time and anxiety to notice these things before you go up in front of people. So, if you don't want to be crowned the next Miss America wordsmith for streaming off course with a bunch of prepositions and conjunctions "and, if, like, the...", take time to practice in front of friends or a mirror.

Let's Review

Above all else, if you have practiced your speech, have your index notes, and have a good PowerPoint presentation filled with relevant information, you should be confident that you will have a clear, effective, and engaging presentation. Let's Review:

  • Decide on topic of presentation, what your stand will be, who your audience is, and what evidence/information you want to use.
  • Use index cards for support, not a crutch during presentation.
  • Don't let PowerPoint do the presentation for you. It's used to offer relevant information (graphs, pictures, interactive visuals), not to restate what you have just said.
  • Making eye contact and having a straight posture will make you look confident. Your audience will appreciate your confidence, even if you are nervous under the surface.
  • Practice makes perfect. It's worth the effort.

Hope I have offered some new and effective tips to making a great presentation! Remember, everyone gets nervous. Don't let it faze you. As long as you prepared and have practiced, the only person holding you back is yourself. Good Luck!


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    • profile image

      david 4 years ago

      wonderful. so simple and crystal clear.

    • Maria-Arg profile image

      Maria-Arg 6 years ago from New York City

      glassvisage- thank you for reading and commenting!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      Wow, you break this down really well! Thank you for sharing this information and for making it so easy to understand! Great tips - and a great photo :)

    • Maria-Arg profile image

      Maria-Arg 6 years ago from New York City

      Hey, thank you! I've seen it so many times before, people reading from their notes...big no no. Practice makes perfect.

    • agreenworld profile image

      Dawn A. Harden 6 years ago from CT-USA

      Practice, practice, practice and good lively dialogue are a perfect match. Thanks for advice.