How to Give a Great PresentationThe best speeches include a clear, relevant message and a few great stories to illustrate it. Take for instance, Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.

It has been viewed more than seven million times on YouTube and it’s still being shared and talked about 11 years later. It’s a powerful speech with a clear message: Stay hungry, stay foolish.

“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life,” says Jobs. “That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

With that, the audience is hooked.

We all don’t have the same charisma Steve Jobs had, but there are a few things we can learn from his speech whether it’s his commencement speech or one of his many presentations for Apple.

Eric Holtzclaw, contributor to Inc. offered tips to deliver an impressive presentation.

Customize the Introduction

Great speakers give the same presentation over and over again, but their audiences don’t realize it. One part of a speech you should change is the beginning, so always customize your introductory remarks and talk about something interesting. Whether you’re showing pictures, giving statistics, asking questions, use a quote, make sure to avoid going straight into your presentation without a hook.

Sell Your Dream

Don’t sell products, services, or companies. Sell your dreams for a better future. This makes your audience think of what could be, not what is. You also need to establish why your audience should listen to you. Holtzclaw suggests:

  • In a business setting, highlight your background and expertise
  • If you want to motivate or influence an audience, vulnerability is powerful
  • Create a connection by telling a personal story that reveals something about you or your experience

Think Screenplay, Not Speech

Good content is the most important part of your presentation. Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design recommends thinking of a presentation as a screenplay with three acts: Act 1 sets up the story, Act 2 presents the drama, and Act 3 resolves the story and explain how to make it happen.

Organize and Use Drama

Your presentation needs a beginning, a body, and a conclusion. Use evocative pictures, powerful videos, and sizzling product demos to make your presentation exciting and support your points. You want to provide inspiring information that moves people to action. On a side note, slides of text don’t inspire people, so the few words the better. Also, Holtzclaw says if you plan to present more than five points, provide a leave-behind because the human brain remembers only five things, plus or minus two.

Warm Up the Audience

Get to the venue early if possible so you can circulate with the audience and welcome them. By doing this, you’ll increase your confidence and the interaction increases how much the audience supports you. Remember, you’re the host so before you start your presentation, focus on all the attention on you and truly be in charge.


If you think great presenters like Steve Jobs got on stage and winged it, you’re wrong. Practice your presentation until you’re sick of it.

Ask for Feedback

Offer a feedback form your audience can complete anonymously or ask for feedback from trusted audience members. Holtzclaw says not to take “nice job” or “good information” to mean your audience understood your presentation.

In the course of an organization’s lifecycle, its management and leaders will have to give presentations to potential employees, customers, investors, advisors, vendors, partners, journalists, regulators, and investment bankers. The key to a great presentation is a great cause.

What other tips would you add?

Image: James Mitchell via Flickr, CC 2.0