With life settling back down after nearly a week in Sydney, I’ve been thinking about how watching a number of presentations over a few days has given me an insight into what works and doesn’t work as a speaker, from the safe haven of being an attendee at Web Directions South. So I have put together a succinct list of presentation tips.

Below are a few tips from a few days of watching good and not so good presentations. I have another article on my blog with over 200 public speaking tips that is well worth reading as well.

Tips on preparation

  • get in early and check your connection, slides, etc
  • rehearse and time yourself – repeatedly
  • ensure you understand your target audience

Tips on presentation design

  • use web sourced images (think Flickr) but check licensing and ensure you credit the author
  • use a standard font – not different fonts in different slides
  • use images only to make a point, don’t just add images for fun
  • simplicity really works – limited words make the audience concentrate on your speech
  • spell check, spell check, spell check!

Other assorted presentation tips

  • don’t leave the screen idle showing your desktop or file structure – make sure you have a title or blank screen for starting
  • don’t open your presentation with ‘I hope you like this?’ – it sounds indecisive
  • don’t use self deprecating humour as an opener
  • always watch your laptop not the screen behind you
  • there’s nothing more annoying than umms and ahhs
  • walk across stage and move, but don’t stand there and sway
  • have a pet word you always end sentences with? lose it!
  • understand your location – if you’re presenting overseas, localise the spelling and any cultural references
  • choose the right moment to take a drink of water
  • don’t say you’re nervous – it just highlights out any of your mistakes
  • time yourself – don’t ask the audience if you still have time.


Thanks to all the speakers who gave up their valuable time to descend on Sydney for the conference. It’s easy for me to sit back and post about what worked and didn’t when it comes to your hard work, however I am very appreciative of the time and effort involved in putting together a 45 minute presentation.

I hope the list above help some of us gain a better understanding of what it takes to capture the audience and keep them enthralled for close to an hour.

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