Many successful people make a habit of delivering inspiring, clear, and engaging presentations. But learning to give good technical presentations is a bit of a journey. Here are four concepts I practice during presentation preps.

Demonstrate

Make what you’re saying tangible to the audience. Pictures, slides, or flashing lights—whatever it takes to get the audience’s attention. Listening is hard, but having something interesting and engaging to look at makes the process easier and more informative.

Don’t fire and fizzle. Make sure to explain your statements. Make sure your audience understands what you said, and why you said it. Repeat things if you have to. Let me say that again—repeat things if you have to. It might sound weird in a one-on-one setting, but repeating important concepts in a group setting helps keep everyone on the same page.

Use diagrams to convey meaning. Walls of text are boring and hard to grok. Take every opportunity to swap numbers for graphs or walls of text for diagrams. Hand-drawn diagrams are better than the best-formatted text blob.

Assert

Make it clear you understand and support the products you present, using both your words and actions.

Believe in the necessity of your presentation. Your audience needs to hear what you know about the product, and they celebrate when you do your job well. Assuring yourself of the necessity of your presentation is the surest way to calm nerves.

Practice a confident posture. Stand tall, strong, and naturally. Keep your palms open and facing slightly out. Smile. Enunciate your words—don’t slur. Use a strong but appropriate volume. Make comfortable eye contact. Remove filler words. These postures all reinforce in the audience’s mind that you are a competent, knowledgeable presenter.

How you present yourself is as important as what you present (related video).

Display

Make it easier to follow along by showing the audience what you’re doing.

  • keyCastr shows your keystrokes
  • A larger mouse pointer shows your general actions
  • Always zoom in on any window that may be presented—whether it’s the terminal, browser, or a PDF

Practice

Practicing before one presentation == one better presentation. Practicing before every presentation == one better presenter.

Visualization is the best way to practice. Between practice presentations, before you go to sleep, and right before the actual presentation. Visualizing the entire process reduces apprehension and increases confidence, preparedness, and robustness.

Self-critique lets you experience your own presentations. Record yourself, watch yourself, critique, improve, repeat.

Self-study refreshes good ideas and unearths new concepts. Try this article of do’s and don’ts from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.