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Basics of a good presentation – watch other presenters!

Updated on March 18, 2012
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In earlier hubs, we provided some pointers to get you started on building your presentation - the importance of knowing your purpose, audience, and material (Three things to know...), as well as considering a few tools in adding visual elements to your presentation (What tools should I use?). As you're gathering your information and materials, another bit of research could be very helpful as you prepare to communicate with any audience, especially if you will be expected to give presentations on a regular basis - for meetings, workshops, training, and so on.

A great thing to do as you're working to become a better presenter is...watch and listen to other presenters!

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A little research

So, why watch other presenters? To learn from them in a variety of ways, apply what you've learned, and improve your skills as a presenter.

A little bit of analysis might give you some ideas that you can apply to tweak your own presentations. Of course you're not going to copy the presentation itself, but you can apply some of the same effective presentation skills. Or, in the case of a bad presentation, learn what not to do!

Take notes. See what you like, what you don't, and what seems to be the response of the audience...no matter what the presentation topic.

Answer some questions

What are you looking for? At the most basic level, you'll want to try to figure out what works for the presenter - what helps to make this person's presentation effective...or not. See what your overall impression of the presentation is, then try to observe the reactions - and hopefully comments - from the audience.

There may be specific things you will want to watch for, as it applies to your own presentation style, but the following questions might help you get started:

Did you learn anything from the presentation?

Did you enjoy the speaker? What did you like? Was I interested in the presentation, or bored? How did the audience react?

Did the speaker use humor, storytelling, analogies, or other presentation elements effectively? What held your interest?

What about visuals, props, or other elements? What worked, or didn't? (include handouts, actual objects, etc., as well as slideshows or other media)

What about the presenter's body language? Did he or she appear nervous? Relaxed?

What about the sound? Consider volume, as well as the speaker's ability to speak clearly (with or without amplification), in addition to any sound used in conjunction with multimedia presentations.

If there were technical difficulties, how were they handled? (and how might you prepare to avoid similar problems?)

There may be more aspects of the presentation that you will want to consider, but this list can give you an idea of elements to watch for that could be applied in your own presentation. If you can, prepare a check sheet ahead of time, so you can take focused notes during the presentation.

Who should I watch?

Anyone you can! Watch presentations whenever you get the chance - to learn from presentation styles as well as new learning information on a variety of topics.

You can watch some excellent motivational and inspirational speakers like Zig Ziglar (http://www.ziglar.com/index.html) and Andy Andrews (http://www.andyandrews.com/pages/speaking/keynote-speaker/), or go to an online site where you can choose from a variety of speakers on particular topics, like TED (http://www.ted.com/) - where you can see some fantastic presenters from around the world.

A few more resources

The application?

Take those notes, and see what might be practical for you to apply to your presentation. Did the presenter follow a structure that would work great for your topic? Did you notice a particular energy and passion in the presenter's message that you would also like to convey to your audience? Were transitions smooth and easy to follow?

As you are preparing your presentation, look at elements and structures that others use that might also be appropriate for you. Also, if you've found some bad presenters, take note of those elements you want to avoid. Any training, meeting or other presentation situation can provide a valuable learning experience - add that information to your bag of tricks and get ready for a great presentation!

A great window sign, reminding us how important those details are!
A great window sign, reminding us how important those details are! | Source

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