Everest Motivation’s David Lim shares some tips speakers or presenters can stand to benefit from before they take the stage.


You are the message

The slides and other supporting collaterals may contain the important points, but your presence on stage determines the connection you make with the audience. So focus on how you are speaking. The tone and modulation of your voice can put an audience to sleep or keep them awake and engaged. Be very clear of what you wish to communicate to the audience, and why it should matter to them.

Know the audience

It’s not about “we” or “me” but “you”. So use a lot of audience-centric language. Is it an audience of financial experts with whom you can share in great detail various nuances of accounting processes and jargon, or is it a general audience? Work on making the message relevant to the audience. Why should they care?

Think of your aids

In most cases, speakers make use of presentation programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote. Understand that these are mere aids and are to help you sustain attention and illustrate difficult points easily. They are not supposed to be a substitute for your physical presence and audience engagement. Speeches can include stories that are compelling and/or mysterious, and withholding the ending until you have finished delivering the meat of the message can guarantee rapt attention. A prop could also be a recent gadget on the market, a keepsake, or anything that can be woven into your presentation’s narrative flow.

Anticipate questions

Imagine that you are part of the audience. In the middle of a talk or presentation, you are likely to have some questions. In a similar vein, look at the outcome you want to achieve and anticipate the kind of questions that might be asked. By rehearsing a few key answers prior, you will not stumble and be able to deliver them succinctly.

Maintain energy levels

In most full-day programmes, the quality of an audience’s attention span will ebb and peak, depending on the time of the day and the quality of the speaker. The “death slot” at conferences is typically the 2-3:30pm session after the audience has had a full morning of presentations and heavy lunch. Depending on the time of the day, it is always helpful to use many visuals, inject relevant humour, and offer a strong call-to-action at the end.

Check if you are able to say what you want to say

If there’s a need, always check with compliance and legal if you wish to discuss sensitive topics or give real-life case studies based on company policies.
Always practice your presentation before you take the stage. Practice does not necessarily make it perfect, but it makes you better and more-prepared.


David Lim is a leadership and negotiation coach, and a leader of two Mt Everest expeditions. Reach him at david@everestmotivation.com for a subscription to his leadership e-zine, or for a free consultation on your leadership challenges.