How to's 21 may 2015

Rules of good presentations


My last article was about valuing your own uniqueness when you present and turning this into a great asset for a good presentation. This was rather advanced stuff which might be a little ahead for quite some people. In this article I want to take a step back and give eight rules for good presentations. If you follow this rules, you are quite ok. Yeah, I am sorry you’ll be only quite OK, but not good yet. Why? You’ll read that in the next article I’ll get online next week.  But let’s start with the eight rules, which are put into four categories.

  1.  You
  2. Content
  3. Medium
  4. Audience

The reason for this categorise lies in communication theory. I’d love to write more about this theory, but it would bore the sh** out of you. So let’s jump in:


1. Attitude

Be straight on your attitude. If you hold a presentation with the attitude “I hate this, they are going to hate me, nobody cares about the stuff I am talking about” You’ll be most likely right. However, if you think “The Audience? Mine! They’ll love me. And the stuff I am talking about is crazy interesting” you’ll be right as well.

Of course, it is really simple to say that if you already know that your presentations are great, but if that is not the case for you, you can fool yourself into this believe. Tell yourself several times that it will be great. If necessary, go outside and shout like a cave man. It works! It works in the same way in which the shouting in martial arts works.

2. Appearance

People are shallow, play with it. I am a rather laid back dude. I can easily live for half a year with clothes which fit into a backpack. Basically I don’t care how I look. However, you can be sure that I am as sharply dressed as my wardrobe allows me if I give an important presentation. I even wear glasses to make people think that I am smarter than I actually am. People make loads of judgements based on the way you look, but this does not only include clothes, hairstyle and jewellery, but also posture, body language and facial expressions.

Make sure that all elements (clothes, hairstyle, jewellery, posture, body language and facial expression) match the audience and your message.


3. Purpose

When you deliver a presentation, it usually has a reason. As most readers will be students, you might say “because I have to”. But sorry, that is not really a reason. Presentations are usually one of three kinds (or a mixture of them).

  1. Show knowledge
  2. Transfer knowledge
  3. Inspire for action

It is extremely important that you are clear on it, what the purpose of your presentation is. It is important, because those three categories require different approaches. Unfortunately many (little gifted) lecturers fail at exactly this point. They present as if they had to show knowledge, but in fact they should transfer knowledge and inspire the student to take action (and study). I could write an entire article about this three categories (which I might), but it is already very helpful if you are aware what your target is.

4. Structure

If you are hoping, that I give you now THE structure for you presentation, I have to disappoint you. Why? Because it doesn’t exist. The structure of your presentation needs to be suitable for your purpose. The important point is, however, that you need a structure. And you need to write it down on a piece of paper before you even open PowerPoint. Actually you need to write it down before you even start your PC.

Many instructors say that you need to show your audience the structure, so they know where they are meanwhile. I do not agree. Of course, your audience might appreciate to know where in the presentation they stand (especially if you bore them), but it might not fit your purpose. In management studies we tend to say “structure follows strategy”, the analogy for your presentation is “structure follows purpose”.



5. Voice

A presentation is usually a combination of you speaking with the support of PowerPoint, Prezi, a Chalkboard or whichever medium you choose to use. Even though you have several tools to support you, the main medium for transporting information or passion to your audience is your voice. You might have read that you have to speak slowly, but again I would not agree. As stated in my last article, the way you present should fit to you and your own little quirks. If your personal talking style reminds to a chicken on speed, don’t try to talk like a koala on dope. However, make sure you speak clearly. And this is the difficult part if you are rather the chicken type of speaker. It is much more difficult to speak fast and clear, than slowly and clear, but it is possible (ask Eminem). So if you speak fast, you’ll have to practice, practice, practice.

Unfortunately, speaking clearly is necessary but not sufficient. Additionally you’ll have to bring some music into it. With music I mean melody, rhythm and volume of your voice. DON’T keep it steady. It might be obvious, but steady voice puts people asleep.

6. Tools

As earlier mentioned “structure follows purpose”, the same goes for your tools. Many people associate with presentations automatically PowerPoint. This is a very sad fact, as it leads to incredible boredom in the choice of tools. If you want to use a projector, have a look at other tools as well. is a great tool if you want to emphasise on structures, using videos can give a break to your voice and give the audience a break from your voice. There are several other tools online, have a look.

But your tools do not need to include a projector. A whiteboard is a great tool to let things appear in front of people. And even with the worst drawing skills, it is still fun for the audience, watching your attempt to draw. Another great tool is a “sticky wall“. This is a large piece of fabric sprayed with Repositional Spray Mount. The cool thing about this is, you can glue pieces of paper onto the wall, take them off, move them around and so on and so forth. And again, there are several other tools offline, have a look.

To sum this point up: There are plenty of tools out there, not only PowerPoint. Use them!


7. Know them

Get as much information about your audience as you can get. However, be clear about it who your audience actually is. Your audience is not necessarily the people who listen, but the once you want to impact. If you give at the end of the term a presentation and you’ll be graded upon it, make sure you know your teacher. At the end of the day it does not matter if your fellow students like it or not. The person you want to impact is the teacher. If you are talking at a public hearing and you want to convince the opponents of your project, don’t talk for your supporters. Remember, the purpose of your presentation rules over everything.

8. Interact

The very basic form of interaction is eye-contact. This is like a clear voice, necessary but not sufficient. If you want to keep your audience, talk with them, ask questions; interact!

A trick to make that happen is to have one or two people in the audience you can refer to, ask them as experts or as potential customers. Make the presentation more a conversation than a lecture.



  • You need to know your audience, to interact with them.
  • You need a clear voice and you can use a huge variety of tools (not only PowerPoint).
  • You need to have a structure, but the structure follows the purpose of your presentation.
  • You need to look appropriate and have a positive attitude.


And again: Everything follows purpose! This is the most important message of this article. If you are straight on the reason why you are standing in front of this crowd, everything else can be managed.

And now? Well, those “rules” I gave you here are unfortunately no real rules. Presenting is much less of a craft but much more of an art. And there is only one way of getting good in it:

Practise, practise, practise.

Take this rules as an inspiration for your next presentation, but don’t take them as an obligation. If you liked this article, make sure you read my next one. It will describe why you need to know the rules to break them (and why you should break them).

You can also follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn, if you have any questions, drop them in the comment section below.


Original Post Written by Marcus Huelsdau on May 21,2015

2 Responses to “Rules of good presentations”

  1. A great follow-up to your previous article :) I agree with your motto “Practise, practise, practise”

  2. Thank you Sakthi,
    If you think it is valuable, share this little piece of mine :)

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