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Presentation Skills for Managers

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” Dale Carnegie


Presentation skills are a great asset to add to your manager’s toolkit. The most successful presenters are able to present information in an accurate, brief, and clear manner. Studies have shown that the adult attention span is about twenty minutes. In order for an adult audience to retain information from a presentation it must be brief, clear, and concise. Presentations should not consist of more than three main topics. The best way to insure that audience members stay on track during a presentation is to provide an agenda, handouts, or workbooks.

Types of Presenters

  • Avoider: Those who circumvent speaking all together.
  • Resistor: Those who resist speaking, but can be forced.
  • Reluctant: Those who do not mind speaking, but don’t seek out opportunities.
  • Enthusiast: Those who are excited to speak and actively seek out opportunities to speak.

Presentation Steps

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Step 1: Planning

Planning is a critical part of every presentation. Before starting your presentation it is wise to know information about the audience. Information can be found from registration lists, surveys, or attendance sheets. Items you should know include:

  • Desires of the audience and what they want out of the presentation.
  • The knowledge level of the audience.
  • The attitudes and feelings of the audience.
  • Demographic information including: age, gender, culture, income, language skills, education, and so on.

Step 2: Design

Types of Presentations

  • Informational: The purpose is to deliver information or a message to an audience clearly. An informative speaker is responsible for researching and understanding the topic they are presenting.
  • Instructional: The purpose of an instructional presentation is to give specific directions, instructions, or guidelines. The presenter is responsible for teaching or demonstrating processes, procedures, or techniques. In an instructional presentation, the listeners should come away with new knowledge or skills.
  • Persuasive: This type of presentation seeks to initiate action and influence an audience to adopt a particular point of view or take action. A convincing persuasive presenter is able to present sufficient logic, evidence, or emotion to sway an audience and offer a solution to a problem.
  • Inspirational: The purpose of this type of presentation is to create feelings in the audience or to motivate and lift their spirits. Examples include: religious, motivational, support, and entertainment speeches.

Parts of a Presentation

  • Opening: It is best to grab the audience’s attention at the start. This can be accomplished with rhetorical questions, startling statistics, creative imagery, anecdotes, surveys, humor, or a sharing of emotions.
  • Body: Try not to overwhelm the audience with data. It is best to stick with three main points in order to keep participants attention. Review and restate your three main points and make sure that there is a good flow straight into the close.
  • Closing: Re-tell the audience what you told them in the presentation in a condensed format. Reinstate the main points that you want the audience to walk away with.
  • Open Forum Questions and Answers:  Q&A’s get the audience involved in the conversation. Anticipate the questions that might come up and listen carefully to the questioner. Repeat or rephrase the question if it is unclear. Answer questions clearly and concisely. If the audience has no questions then ask open ended questions to encourage participants to answer. Remember to pause after you ask a question to give the audience a chance to answer.
  • Second Closing: Have a second closing prepared so that you can end the Q&A session with power and reinforce the main purpose of your presentation one last time.

Presentation Design:

  • Layout:  Layouts should support your message and provide structure.
  • Consistency:  You must be consistent in text, images, font style and size, background, charts, graphs, videos, music, and graphics.
  • Visual Supports: Use high contrasting colors between text and backgrounds. Colors should be pleasing to the eye and not distract from the presentation. Make sure that information and text can clearly be seen by the audience. Do not let your visual supports be a distraction to you or the audience.

Presentation Slide Rules:

  • Use slides sparingly and avoid the overuse of slides.
  • One concept per slide.
  • Make pictures and diagrams easy to see.
  • Use appropriate spelling and grammar.
  • Use keywords or phrases.
  • Make bullet points consistent in structure, font, and size.
  • Use limited numbers of bullet points per page with few word.
  • Limit slides to seven points or less.

Step 3: Write

Convert your data into an outline. Outlines can help you compile your information in a way that can be easily presented. This exercise will help you further understand your information in preparation for the delivery of your presentation. Outlines can be a useful guide through the presentation and you keep on track.

Traditional Outline Format

  • Introduction
    • An agenda to clarify the goals and objectives of your presentation.
    • An overview of a situation or statement of the purpose of the presentation.
    • Strategies that help get the attention of the audience.
  • Body
    • Chronological
    • Narrative
    • Problem/Solution
    • Cause/ Effect
    • Topical
    • Journalistic
  • Conclusion
    • Summarize the main points of your presentation
    • Provide closure that will leave an impression
    • Recommendations, next steps, and future presentation information.

S-E-T Formula

The S-E-T formula is a simple method for presenters to organize their thoughts and information into a cohesive whole. This method can be used in addition to traditional outlines or as a standalone exercise.

  • S= Short Answer: Give the bottom-line answer first.
  • E= Evidence. Supporting the answer.
  • T= Transition. Summarize and transition to the next point or person.

Example 1:

What is your favorite idea for overcoming nervousness?

  • S = I like to perform a quick de-stress exercise to overcome nervousness.
  • E = Statistics show that doing de-stress exercises immediately before standing up to deliver a presentation can relieve tension.
  • T = Would you like me to show you an example of a quick de-stress exercise?

Example 2:

How is the XYZ project going?

  • S = XYZ project is right on schedule.
  • E = Phase 1 and 2 are complete, and we will be starting Phase 3 on Monday. We expect to have a full report to you by the end of next week.
  • T = Does this schedule work for you?

Step 4: Practice

  • Practice your presentation from start to finish several times before delivery.
  • Time your presentation to insure that all points are made and pace yourself./li>
  • Memorize the first two minutes of the presentation, to eliminate nervousness.
  • Plan out activities, icebreakers, energizers, and exercises ahead and manage your time.
  • Utilize slides and visuals, but do not read directly from them.
  • Just before the presentation, think positive thoughts with affirmations. Use distressing exercises to calm your nerves.
  • When you arrive at the location of your presentation make sure that all equipment works properly.
  • Be ready to deal with equipment difficulties and able to use the tools that are available to complete your presentation without technology.

Step 5: Delivery

The Message

While presenting information it is important to consider voice, words, tone, movement, and body language. According to psychologist Albert Mehrabian, the components of a message pertaining to audience feelings and attitudes are 7% verbal (words), 38% paralinguistic (vocal or tone), and 55% facial expression (body language).


  • Speak with feeling and present with confidence. Remember that the audience members are human and want you to succeed.
  • Use short sentences and words that everyone can understand. Avoid using synonyms, buzz words, and jargon.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.


  • Volume: Speak in a manner that will reach all members of the audience, without overpowering those closest to you.
  • Variation: Avoid speaking in monotone and place feeling into your voice.
  • Rhythm: Speak at a natural pace that is appropriate for the message being delivered.

Body Language:

  • Face: use facial expressions appropriately and with purpose.
  • Eye contact: make good eye contact for three to five seconds per person. At a distance looking at a person’s eyebrows will also appear as direct eye contact.
  • Gesture: use gestures with purpose and properly.
  • Posture: stand straight, but not stiff. Be relaxed, but not lazy.
  • Movement: move naturally and in support of your words.
  • Try not to:
    • Wring hands nervously>
    • Keep hands in pockets
    • Keep hands “handcuffed” behind  your back
    • Keep arms crossed
    • Chew gum
    • Drink Soda
    • Stay stationary

Tough Situations

  • The know-it-all:  A participant who feels they are an expert on the topic and want to share their thoughts. Do not fight the know-it-all and involve them in the presentation. If you involve them it is likely that they will withdrawal.
  • Unprepared Participants: Participants who were asked to prepare for the lecture, but did not. Be flexible and modify the agenda to allow participants time to get caught up to speed.
  • Inactive Sluggish Audience: An audience who seems tired or uninterested. Get out those activities, icebreakers, energizers, and exercises to engage the audience.
  • The Non-Stop Talker:  A participant who carries on conversations during the presentation or who tries to dominate the presentation. In the case of a participant talking with another participant; ask them to share what they are talking about to the group. In the case of a participant dominate the presentation; assure them that their thoughts are valuable. Invite them to come speak to you more about that after the presentation if his or her thoughts or concerns are not answered during the rest of the presentation. You can also make a list in “the parking lot” or broadside to come back to at the end of the presentation.


Presentation Skills

What should I do if the audio visual equipment fails during my presentation?

The audience is expecting a presentation with or without the equipment. Apologize to the audience of the inconvenience and move forward with your notes and available tools. If there is a flipchart or blackboard available you can use those to write things down you want the audience to know.

How do you present bad news or an unfavorable topic to a group of individuals?

Find a common ground and assure that audience that their thoughts and opinions are valuable, but it is important that they receive this information anyways. The information may be unfavorable, but if you are transparent and honest the audience with be more understanding and willing to listen.

I have an employee who needs to give a presentation, but when they present they speak in monotone. How can I help this employee improve his presentation skills?

Gently approach the employee about this problem and explain to them how to change their intonation and add feeling in their voice when they speak. By adding feeling in their speech it will make the presentation livelier. It may help if they move around more when they speak and use gestures to add energy to the presentation as well.

When I speak in public I tend to wring my hands nervously. How can I avoid this behavior?

It helps if you keep a piece of paper or an object in your hand. If you are holding something in one hand you will be less inclined to wring your hands together. Avoid holding anything that makes noise, because you may be inclined to replace one bad habit with another more distracting one.

Other Resources

Original: July 24, 2013
Last Update: July 28, 2013