How to present: It’s about telling a story

You have to verbally present your project/experience/research…


If you prepare yourself then it is a positive experience for both you and the audience.

The verbal presentation is a one shot attempt to encapsulate the journey you are on and why it brought you here.

Dan and Chip Heath in Made to Stick discuss six principles which make ideas resonate, and will help make your presentations memorable.

SIMPLE – prioritise what your most important things you want to convey are – in three minutes you can only discuss the really key points of your journey. Tell us about your dreams as well as the past.

UNEXPECTED – tell the audience something that may surprise them, and is relevant to your story

CONCRETE – don’t use abstract principles, paint a mental picture, so that the audience can imagine themselves in your shoes

CREDIBLE – use authorities (or anti-authorities), human scale statistics or vivid details to make what you say believable

EMOTIONAL – can you make your audience experience affection, anger, awe, curiosity, desire, excitement, fear, fearlessness, happiness, hope, joy, passion, pleasure, pride, shame, shock or wonder?

STORIES – stories can inspire and motivate, that’s how we used to convey important stuff before we got tangled up in PowerPoint

Guidance that Hazel White and  Mike Press give to students includes:

    • write up the key points you wish to make.
    • Use short sentences with simple constructions. The concept will be made clearer, and the sentence structure is more similar to conversational styles.
    • Use appropriate language: don’t assume that all members of the audience will be familiar with concepts you use, use words that will be understood by your audience
    • Never forget – you are telling a story
    • You might begin your preparation by writing out word for word what you are going to say – but don’t read it out word for word in the presentation

 Opening: The opening should catch the interest and attention of the audience immediately, while avoiding trite filler phrases like “Thank you for having me”
Transitions: The link between successive elements of the talk should be planned, smooth, and logical.
The ending: Re-iterate three key points and finish on a good clear positive sentence. Don’t finish with phrases like “well, that’s it, I think”.
Length: Don’t run over
Practice makes perfect
Practice is the single most important factor contributing to a good presentation. No matter how rushed you might be, make time for at least a few practice runs. To go through a three minute talk 5 times only takes 15 minutes.
Hints for efficient practice

Work at being relaxed. Stand with feet slightly apart and one foot slightly forward to prevent swaying and weight shifts. Hold your notes if you are using them in one hand, with the other held naturally at your side. This posture will seem awkward, but looks natural and relaxed. Practice it. Breathe slowly and deeply, and speak from your diaphragm; project your voice. Practice making eye contact with your audience, but don’t single out one individual. Think about the ideas, and your words will follow naturally. Speak slowly and clearly, and use gestures. Don’t pace, twirl your hair, or adjust your clothing. Make sure you are speaking to your audience, not to the floor, ceiling, or wall.

Pay attention to diction; it is essential that you speak clearly and distinctly. Listen carefully to the words you use, not to what you think you are saying. Are these the best words for making your point? Are they unambiguous? Avoid using jargon whenever possible.

Using notes

A prepared series of notes can be useful, particularly if you get off track during a presentation. Keep in mind that most people find that the notes aren’t really needed once you get to the final talk. Poorly constructed notes, on the other hand, can impede a presentation. Use postcards rather than sheets of A4 – they are easier to manage and an audience doesn’t notice them if they are used well.

The Moment of Truth

Gulp. It’s your turn. Now what?

Take several deep breaths (but don’t sigh!).

Visualise your rehearsed opening statement; don’t improvise at the last moment.

Remember- the audience is on your side.