How to Give a Killer Presentation [2024]

When you give a killer presentation, you stand a much greater chance of making it easy for your audience. And if you make it easy for your audience they are more likely to respond.

What does creating a killer presentation mean in reality?

By killer presentation, I mean:

  • A presentation that can be remembered.
  • A presentation that positions you as someone of note within your organisation.
  • A presentation that creates action, change in behaviour or change in thinking

To create a killer presentation you need to be different, and you need to take a few risks. (If there was a simple formula, then everyone would be doing it.) But when I say take risks, I mean doing things that are done outside the typical business setting but are actually best practice presentation skills training shortcuts. Shortcuts that have been tried and tested for hundreds if not thousands of years. You want to follow the cardinal rule of ‘Don’t be boring’.

An Example of a Killer Presentation

John is the COO of a large utilities company. We trained him to improve his presentation skills.  To deliver killer presentations. He has thousands of employees working daily in dangerous conditions, keeping water running for millions of customers. People have to work at heights, at depth, in the middle of the road, day and night, winter and summer. They work in every dangerous situation you could imagine.

And it is hard keeping everyone safe. Teams are scattered over several hundred square miles and they work autonomously, going to emergencies as and when they happen.

Health and safety is important to the business; it takes up a large part of senior management time. Every year the senior team gathers, and this year safety was again one of the main topics of the day.  

John, was new as COO and determined to make an impact. He know that the presentation skills he learned in his training would be critical.

His HR team had pulled together a big presentation deck discussing health and safety. It had the company history, the key imperatives, the company values, best working practices and updates on recent legislation. It was a comprehensive pack and it had taken weeks to put together. They even brought in professional designers to make sure the presentation looked as important as it was.

John knew from his presentation skills training at Benjamin Ball Associates that starting his presentation with slides – no matter how good – would not work. So he used a story from his early career. He started his killer presentation like this:

“When I was in twenties I was put in charge of a building site. In my first week on that job we had a crane collapse.

“That night, I had to knock on a woman’s door and tell her that her husband had been killed on a site where I was in charge.

“I don’t want any of you to have to go through what I went through that day. That’s why we are talking about health and safety today.”

In less than 80 words John had grabbed his audience’s attention, had appealed to their emotions and made them realise that he knew what he was talking about.

That was a great example of a killer presentation using advanced presentation skills.

While not every presentation you do will be a killer presentation, it is something that you should aim for. Much better to aim high and fall short than aim low and fall short anyway.

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

Why is it hard to create killer presentations?

One of the big challenges we face in business is that The Presentation has become a standard way of communicating. Unfortunately, the average presenter and the average presentation is not very good. As a result, time is wasted, money is wasted and we are not as clear and inspiring as we should be.

The average business presentation is completely forgettable. I often challenge clients to count the number of presentations they have seen in the last year, and then to describe any memorable ones. I am lucky if they can speak about one.

Too many people, when they hear the word “presentation”, reach for their computer and start creating slides. They feel as if they are making progress.

They pull information together, they lay it out into a PowerPoint document and admire their handiwork. Then they start to think about how to tell the story. You’ll never give a killer presentation like this.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

What you need – A story, a script and a plan to create a killer presentation

BUT…the process for creating a great presentation should be more like that of making a movie. When you make a movie, filming (the equivalent of creating slides) only happens after you have a story, a script and a plan.

The better you have planned your presentation, the easier the process of giving it. At first, it may feel frustrating that you are not writing or creating slides. But when you invest in proper presentation planning, you will benefit many times over.

In the end you will spend less time playing with PowerPoint. You will spend less time editing and you will spend less time searching for a way to link the sections of your presentation together. You will probably find that practising and rehearsing is also easier and more enjoyable.

The other great advantage of improving your presentation skills is that you have formal check points where you can share your work to check that you are on track. This will help with timekeeping and, where necessary, make sure your colleagues are onside.

“There are three things that are important for a film. Number one is story, number two is story, number three is story. Good actors can save a bad script and make it bearable, but good actors can’t make a bad script good – they can just make it bearable.”

Mark Strickson, TV producer & actor

Summary – how to improve your presentation skills for success

Start by planning, not by writing. This may feel counter intuitive, but you’ll make progress faster.

How do you give a killer presentation? Try these steps:

  1. Use AIM as the first stage of preparing your presentation
  2. A – Audience: Analyse your audience and understand their needs
  3. I – Intent: Be clear on the single purpose of your presentation.
  4. M – Message: Decide your one take-away message from your presentation
  5. Decide the three parts of your presentation
  6. Create and perfect a 90 second summary of your presentation before fleshing it out
  7. Answer the WHY questions in your presentation before the WHAT or HOW questions
  8. Imagine your audience asking So What? and What’s in it for me? throughout.
  9. Check your presentation summary against your Audience, Intent and Message.

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

Create a killer presentation. Step #1 – Have you taken AIM?

Summary – AIM is an easy-to-apply planning tool that makes your business presentations and talks easier to prepare.

What typically goes wrong? Most people create presentations without proper planning. They start writing or creating visual aids before they have decided what they want to say.

Why does this matter? Without an effective tool for preparing a business presentation you waste time and will be less effective.

So, instead, Use AIM.  Start with a blank sheet of paper and write the three letters AIM across the top. In each of these columns start writing what you know about A: Your Audience, I: Your intent, or Purpose and M: your take-away Message. For Audience ask yourself searching questions about why they are here and what they want from your presentation. For Intent, summarise your intent into one clear line. And for message identify the single message that you’d like your audience to take away from your business presentation. See the next sections for more detail on A, I and M.

“90% of how well the business presentation will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.”

– Somers White

Improve your presentation skills tips

  1. Use the AIM approach before all communications.
  2. Keep working at AIM until you are happy.

Create a killer presentation. Step #2 – AIM Part 1: Who’s your audience and what do they need?

Summary – Your audience, not you, should be centre of attention in your presentation. The better you understand your audience, the better your business presentation will be.

What typically goes wrong?  When people give presentations about their latest project, they talk about their latest project. If they are reporting quarterly results, they report quarterly results. If they are speaking about their new business, they tell the audience about their new business. If explaining a new piece of regulation, they talk about elements of that regulation.

The problem with this approach is they are not including their audience in their presentation. And if they don’t include the audience, The audience will be less engaged.

Why does this matter?  Audiences are selfish. They like being talked about.

Instead, to improve your presentation skills your presentation should be about what your subject means for your audience. For example:

  • “What you can learn from our latest project.”
  • “Our quarterly results and what they mean for your department next quarter.”
  • “How our new business can make you money.”
  • “What the new regulations mean for you and your clients”

To do this, you must understand your audience. That means asking questions about them and getting under their skin. For example, some questions you may have could include:

ABOUT BACKGROUND

  • Who is coming to this business presentation?
  • What common reference points can I use?
  • What experiences have they shared?

ABOUT MOTIVATION

  • Why are they coming?
  • What problems do they have?
  • What do they need and want?
  • What will make life easy for them?

ABOUT EXPECTATIONS

  • What would they like me to business presentation about?
  • What would a win feel like for them?
  • What will make them sit up?

ABOUT CONNECTING

  • What can I say that will show them I am on their side?
  • What stories will resonate?
  • How can I add value?

ABOUT EMOTIONAL POSITION

  • What frame of mind will they be in?
  • What should I avoid talking about?
  • What will make them feel good?
  • What can I say at the start to win them over?

ABOUT MAKING IT EASY FOR THEM

  • What specific language should I use?
  • How should I position what I am talking about for this audience?
  • What phrases will resonate?

The more you learn about your audience, the better you know them and the better you can plan your presentation for them.

“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.”

– Ken Haemer, presentation designer

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Before any presentation, analyse your audience
  2. Research them
  3. Make sure you really know them and their needs before you start planning what to say

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

Create a killer presentation. Step #3 – AIM Part 2: What are you trying to achieve?

Summary – Decide early the intent or purpose to your presentation. This will help you direct your efforts and target your presentation so that you achieve your goals.

What typically goes wrong?  “I’m going to talk about…” is a typical answer to the question “Why are you doing this business presentation?” But presenting about something is of no use to anyone. It is pointless.

For example:

  • “I’m presenting about our new project”
  • “I’m presenting about the new regulations”
  • “A pitch about our new fund”
  • “An introduction to ABCX co”
  • “Monthly board report”

Why does this matter?  For a presentation to work it requires a clear purpose. When you know your purpose you can harness your presentation to achieving just that.

So, instead, decide your intent. For example, when I asked a Chief Financial Officer recently what was the intent of his presentation, he was clear: he said that he “Wanted to look like the next CEO of this business.” This clear purpose made it easy to help him prepare what he said, how he said it and how he positioned himself.

Someone recently, when giving a presentation about new regulations, was clear that she wanted “to help companies use the new regulations to run better, more profitable businesses”.

An HR director who was introducing a new expense system was clear that her intent was to “get people to use the new system by next month so they can get paid faster and with less effort.’

A fund manager who was pitching a first time fund to new investors had a clear intent of “getting onto their radar screens and securing a second meeting.”

A company looking for a trade buyer had crystallised their intent into “creating excitement about the potential value of buying this business and demonstrate the risk of others buying it.”

“An accountant at an FMCG firm had the intent with his monthly board reports to “Get them to recognise the value my team adds.”

Having a clear intent will make it easier for you to plan your presentation. Identifying that intent is also one of the harder parts of planning a business presentation.

“A presentation is a voyage with purpose and it must be charted. The man who starts out going nowhere, generally gets there.”

– Dale Carnegie

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Be absolutely clear on the intent of your presentation.
  2. Summarise your intent in one line
  3. Use your intent as your North Star to guide everything you say and how you say it.


 

Create a killer presentation. Step #4 – AIM part 3: What’s your one big take-away message?

Summary – Your presentation needs a take-away message. This means one simple message so when someone asks “What was that presentation about?” a listener can confidently answer what you want them to say.

What typically goes wrong

Many presentations have titles such as:

  1. “Quarterly strategy report”
  2. “Project X”
  3. “Manufacturing update”
  4. “Annual results”

These are all topics, not messages

Why does this matter?  These titles do not help the audience. It only tells them something they already know. With a topic title you miss the opportunity of preparing your audience and getting them in the right mindset to be ready for your presentation.

So, instead, identify a message that summarises your presentation that you can use as its title. Keep improving the title until it properly captures what you want to say. For example:

  1. “Our strategy remains on track”
  2. “Launching Project X by December could double revenues next year”
  3. “Manufacturing: three problems we must address”
  4. “Profits up 5% this year despite Covid headwinds”

Then test your title on other people. Check if it generates the reaction you want.

“If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” 

– David Belasco, theatre producer

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Decide the title of your presentation early.
  2. Check it generates the reaction you want.
  3. Use this to build the rest of your presentation.
  4. Re-test your message against A.I.M.

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

Create a killer presentation. Step #5 – What are the three parts of your presentation?

Summary – Your brain Is naturally tuned to hearing things in sets of three. If you can break your presentation into three parts that work together then it’s more likely to be successful.

What typically goes wrong?  Many presentations are like shopping lists. The presentation covers multiple topics and jumps from one idea to the next.

What’s wrong with a shopping list approach? In the end, a huge amount of information has been transmitted but little has been received.

So, instead, remember that Less is More in a presentation. Help your audience by giving them a structure. A three part structure is one of the most useful planning shortcuts that you can use.

Once you are completely clear about your intent and your message, start developing a three part structure for your presentation. For example, if I wanted to give a presentation that shared advice on how to present, I would consider using one of the following structures:

Mistakes other people make / Tips you can use / How to become a great speaker
or
How to define your messages / How to structure your presentation / How to deliver your presentation
or
What bad looks like / what good looks like / what you can do differently

In writing and speaking, three is more satisfying than any other number.

– Carmine Gallow, author

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Find your three part structure early.
  2. Use the structure to focus your efforts and guide your planning

Create a killer presentation. Step #6 – What is your story?

Summary – To improve your presentation skills you should underpin your presentation with a story or a narrative. No matter how dry your subject, by using a story it will be more memorable and more effective.

What typically goes wrong?  As an expert, a typical presenter wants to share knowledge. For example, A few years ago, I helped a lawyer give a business presentation to investors. This audience was made up of private equity investors in businesses who also sat on their boards. The subject was the 2006 Companies Act and the Duties and Responsibilities of a Director. A dry subject.

In her first draft, she reviewed sections of the Act and highlighted problems that directors may face. For example, “Section 172 of the Act, sets out your overarching duties as a director. You must act in the way you consider, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole.”

As you can imagine, it was not the most exciting of business presentations.

Why does this matter?  A precise business presentation may not be an interesting business presentation. And an uninteresting presentation will not be heard.  Your job as a presenter is to make your business presentation interesting and easy for your audience.

What to do instead

What this means is that you need to find a story that fits what you want to talk  about. This is key to improving presentation skills.

For example, for the investor director presentation above, we decided to title the presentation “How to keep your nose clean and yourself out of jail”

Then the presentation was based around a series of situations that anyone in the audience might face. She did not refer to any particular section of the Companies Act at all. Her text was:

“Imagine this situation. You turn up for a board meeting. You are a 10% shareholder and you are a director. At that board meeting the CEO announces that the company is near bankrupt and needs more funding. What should you do? Do you absent yourself, having a connected interest. Or do you declare your interest as a shareholder? Or do you carry as normal assuming business as usual?”

By framing it as a story you involve your audience and you make it easier for them to process what you say.

“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.”

Jean Luc Godard, film director

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Find stories to tell, narratives to bring your facts to life.
  2. Tell the story behind the numbers.
  3. The dryer your subject matter, the more important stories become.


Create a killer presentation. Step #7 – Have you asked WHY?

Summary – ‘Why’ comes before ‘What’ comes before ‘How’

What typically goes wrong? When a speaker knows a subject well, it is easy for them to assume knowledge and talk about the nuances of what they know. I often describe this as the ‘How’ of a subject.

For example, when speaking about a new engine you have developed, you might say that we made the pistons more accurately, that you mix petrol more precisely and you have added a new technique of managing engine performance.

Why does this matter?  This is one of the most common mistakes that experts make when giving presentations. They spend too much time explaining HOW something works, rather than explaining WHAT it is they are presenting about and WHY it is important.

What to do instead

Instead, to improve your presentation skills, phrase it like this, answering the WHY question:  “We have designed a car engine that is more efficient and will get 100 miles to the gallon.”

“Start with Why”

– Simon Sinek

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Ask yourself “So What?” to everything you say
    1. Check that you are clear why the audience will be interested.
    1. Imagine someone in the audience asking “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

 

Create a killer presentation. Step #8 – Can you give a 90 second summary of your presentation?

Summary – The best way to test your planning and improve your presentation skills is by speaking a c 100-200 word summary of your presentation. This summary will test the rigour of your thinking, the clarity of your ideas and the robustness of your plan.

What typically goes wrong?  The average poor presentation meanders from topic to topic and is more like a data dump than a well organised business presentation. It is rich in information but poor in story, structure and planning. It will not easily fit into a short sharp clear summary.

Why does this matter?  Lack of planning = Lack of story = hard on your audience.

So, instead, Create a short summary of your presentation to test your thinking

  • You can use it early in your planning to test your ideas.
  • If you are working with colleagues you can share your thinking.
  • If you are preparing a presentation for someone else, you can share your summary to test their reaction.
  • If someone else is preparing your presentation, you can use a summary to check they are on track.

This is one of the most powerful of all shortcuts and will save you a huge amount of wasted time.

“If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.”

Dianna Booher, Author

Top Presentation Improvement Tips

  1. Test your ideas with a short summary.
  2. Use a critical audience.
  3. If it is not tight enough, keep refining your summary.

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

 

Summary – how to plan your presentation for success

Start by planning, not by writing. This may feel counter intuitive, but you’ll make progress faster.

How do you give a killer presentation? Try these steps:

  1. Use AIM as the first stage of preparing any presentation
  2. A – Audience: Analyse your audience and understand their needs
  3. I – Intent: Be clear on the single purpose of your presentation.
  4. M – Message: Decide your one take-away message from your presentation
  5. Decide the three parts of your presentation
  6. Create and perfect a 90 second summary of your presentation before fleshing it out
  7. Answer the WHY questions in your presentation before the WHAT or HOW questions.
  8. Imagine your audience asking So What? and What’s in it for me? throughout.
  9. Check your presentation summary against your Audience, Intent and Message.

About Benjamin Ball Associates

Benjamin Ball Associates  Presentation skills coaching team

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.

Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.

We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email louise@benjaminball.com to find out more and discuss transforming your speeches, pitches and presentations.

Contact us for a free consultation on your coaching needs

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

Let's talk about your presentation training needs

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

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