how to write a great presentation

Writing to Speak. And Speaking Right

April 4, 2014

Better Writing for Public Speaking

Why does public speaking turn some charismatic inspirational leaders into boring dull presenters?  We’ve all seen it. So, why does this happen?

It’s because the rules for spoken English and for written English are completely different.

Think of the pages of a novel. Now consider how the pages look in a play.  They don’t look the same. This is because plays are written to be spoken. Conversely, a beautifully crafted, grammatically-correct piece of prose can be hard on the ear. It may sound stilted and flat when read aloud. So you have a problem if a presenter writes his presentation in the same way he would a report.

To stop you falling into this trap, here are 5 tips so you have better writing for your presentations and public speaking:


1. Start with a bang

Written communication will start with an introduction, then work through the information, often building to a conclusion. In a presentation you need to capture your audience’s attention in the first 30 seconds – so you need to start with a headline and give them a reason to engage, and keep listening.


2. Use the power of three

The brain processes information delivered in three parts better than any other number. That is why we have global slogans with three words such as Nike’s “Just Do It”, Coke’s “The Real Thing” and Mars’ “Work Rest and Play”. The best way to apply this to a presentation is to divide your presentation into three sections. Start by saying what you are going to say, then say it, and finally say what you have said. Also, if you can group your points into three themes within the main body of the presentation you will give your audience a huge helping hand. Whilst it is impossible for the listener to remember every word of a presentation, this approach will give your audience the best chance of remembering your key points.


3. Repeat repeat repeat

In a written communication you only need to say things once. If your reader is unsure, they can re-read. However, in verbal communication we need to have things repeated, not surprisingly, an optimal three times for impact. Repetition can be used to add emphasis, highlight important parts of your presentation and even build your point with an ‘expanding three’ i.e. when you repeat a point three times, each time making it a little larger.  Remember Obama’s rally cry “We will win in the churches, we will win in the towns, we will win across America!”  In spoken language you also need to summarise and navigate your listener:  Tell then what they have heard and what they will hear next.


4. Use simple sentences

In written communication sentences can be joined by conjunctions, have multiple clauses, sub-clauses and so on.  However, when we listen the brain struggles with long complex sentence structure.  So keep sentences short and simple.


5. Don’t stick to the script!

Written communication follows a set order. Once it is published or sent, it can’t be changed… obviously. However, spoken presentations are never cast in stone. In fact, the opposite is true. The same presentation can be given differently, using different words and word order every time. You can do this for many reasons: someone has asked a question, you forgot a piece of information, there has been a request for further explanation…. However, it remains the same presentation IF you are clear what your messages are. The actual words you use to describe your messages can differ without any harm coming to your power as a communicator. That is why using short bullet points as speaker notes is generally better than using a full script.  A full script forces you to focus on the words rather than the messages.


The language of presentations should be the language of conversations. After all, a presentation is just a one-way conversation with a large group of individuals.

Start your journey to world-class public speaking skills now

Download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.

You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming dull, forgettable and un-engaging presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.

It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:

  • Increased confidence when you talk and present.
  • Improved ability to persuade your audience.
  • Greater engagement with your audience.
  • Practical ways to plan and structure your talks.
  • The inspiration and motivation to change.

Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Transform your Leadership Talks ebook now.


More valuable advice...

Fundraising Presentations: an essential guide for persuading investors

Mar 21, 2021

Your Essential Guide to Fundraising Presentations. Are you looking forward to challenging questions from investors, long days and multiple meetings?...

Read More

The Best Investor Presentation – How to create one – techniques from psychology

Apr 13, 2016

Five ways to create the best investor presentation If you want investment, you need the best investor presentation. But investment...

Read More

Why good public speaking skills make you a better leader

Nov 11, 2016

Do your leadership public speaking skills inspire, motivate and influence others? They should. Many leaders are nervous of public speaking....

Read More

Five Golden Rules to Create a Great Investor Pitch Book

Mar 10, 2018

A great investor pitch book is at the heart of successful fundraising. You use it to capture the essence of...

Read More

Why Body Language Matters When Pitching to Win Business

Jun 29, 2012

Better Body Language We all know that body language is important in business.  But how important? And does is really...

Read More

Private Equity Fundraising Tips from the Experts: Become a Top 1% Fund

Sep 06, 2018

Five Top Fundraising Tips At SuperReturn Emerging Markets in Amsterdam, experienced LPs and advisors shared their private equity fundraising tips...

Read More

How to create a powerful investor elevator pitch

Mar 07, 2016

A great elevator pitch is an essential part of your pitch toolkit Last month I chaired the Quickfire Showcase elevator...

Read More

How to prepare for media interviews

Jan 16, 2013

You must prepare for media interviews The excruciating Newsnight interview with Treasury Minister Chloe Smith this summer is one example of...

Read More

How To Write So People Will Read – 6 Great Tips

Mar 11, 2018

How do you write well for business? Could you be more impressive with better writing? These days, we are writing...

Read More

How well do you answer difficult investor questions?

Nov 16, 2017

How to answer difficult investor questions When an investor questions how you calculated your Private Equity fund's performance, how do...

Read More

How to Choose a Public Speaking Coach

Aug 21, 2017

How do you choose a public speaking coach? When selecting a public speaking coach or presentation trainer, you want to work...

Read More

10 Power Language techniques to use in your next talk or presentation

Sep 06, 2017

How To Use Powerful Language For Leadership Communications   Great leaders use Power Language. It adds interest and colour to...

Read More

What is The “So What?” Test? – And how to use it.

Dec 30, 2019

So What? is probably your most important question. When you put your talk or presentation together, how do you decide what...

Read More

Better private equity fundraising | Seven tips for first investor meetings

Dec 10, 2015

What do LPs want from private equity funds at first investor meetings? That's the question I put to the panel...

Read More

How do you pitch investors?

Sep 21, 2016

What do investors really want? Six tips We wrote this piece with our Private Equity clients in mind. But there...

Read More

Give high impact talks and presentations – 5 simple tips

Mar 01, 2017

Do you want to give high impact talks and presentations? Do you want to engage your audience? And do you want...

Read More

Business storytelling for better business

Jul 05, 2020

How do you use storytelling in business ? Leaders use storytelling so that audiences listen, remember and act on what...

Read More

How to Make Your Investment Pitch More Memorable – Six Tips

Mar 29, 2017

How do you make your investment pitch more memorable? It's a real challenge these days. Investors have more opportunities than...

Read More

Effective presentation skills you must learn

Nov 30, 2019

Your leadership talks need to be effective As a leader, every talk or presentation you give is an exercise in...

Read More

What do LPs want from your private equity pitch book?

Oct 14, 2015

A well-crafted private equity pitch book can make the difference between securing a first meeting with investors and getting a...

Read More