Death is the number two fear that people have and public speaking is the first! ~ Sidney Sheldon

Managers are frequently called upon to speak and present briefings or reports within their organisations as well as to outside groups. 

Whether you perceive yourself the Bell of the ball or whether you are an introvert, this task is most certainly your least favourite.  The mere thought of it leaves a sick feeling in your stomach and produces beads of sweat on your brow.

There are ways to overcome or at least lessen the torture.  Here are some practical guides which I hope will assist you.


Nervousness is the most noticeable; combat it by considering these hints.

  • Test your slide presentation ahead of time!  
  • Be at the venue early; be familiar with the equipment and how it works;
  • Always carry a spare copy of your presentation on a memory stick.  Technology is great when it works…
  • Know what you are going to say when each slide appears.
  • Talk to people ahead of time;
  • Check your breathing, speak clearly, take your time and don’t rush through your words.  Smile!
  • Pause between your slides;
  • Remember, the audience is on your side!



Presentations are both verbal and visual.  Make sure you are audible.  Visual aids include the gestures you will use, your presentation slides, images or models that will help you get your message across.

Planning your presentation:

A vital part of your preparation process is asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What is the topic of the presentation?
  • How much does the audience already know about the topic?
  • What is the purpose of my presentation?
  • What message do I want to get across to my audience?
  • Why have I been asked to talk on the topic?
  • Do I know the venue?
  • What equipment is available at the venue?
  • How much time do I have?

Once you have answered these questions, think about what you want to achieve with the presentation.  Do you want to be:

  • Informative?
  • Entertaintaining? or
  • Generate action?
Structure of the presentation:

Just like a report or an assignment, a presentation must have an

  • Introduction;
  • Body;
  • Conclusion
The Introduction

If you don’t capture the attention of your audience at the very beginning, you might never get it!

  • Keep the introduction short;
  • Say something that will arouse attention or capture interest.
The Body

This is the section where you develop your points to provide your main message or argument.

  • Make sure your font size is at least 20 points
  • A few well-chosen points are easier to talk and remembered by your audience;
  • Illustrate your points with examples;
  • Present your points in a logical sequence;
  • Make your presentation interesting and alive by using visual aids such as slide automation, interesting pictures or a short video.  
  • Don’t have too many slides OR too much text on each slide.  Your audience will lose interest and you will bore them to tears.
The Conclusion
  • Keep the conclusion brief;
  • Summarise the main points made in the body of the speech
  • Give your audience the option to ask questions.



Body Language
  • Avoid nervous mannerism such as playing with the clicker or a board marker;
  • Do not hold your notes. Place them on a lecture table;
  • Be yourself;
  • Keep eye contact at least 90% of the time and distribute your eye contact evenly.
  • Unless the audience is familiar with it, avoid technical jargon.  This is the quickest way to lose your audience;
  • Keep it simple and keep your sentences short;
  • Don’t mix your languages;
  • Don’t swear.
  • Project your voice so it reaches the back of the hall;
  • Vary the tone and vary the pace;
  • By making use of good pauses you can control and regulate your tempo. Pauses are used to:
    • Emphasis your point;
    • Allow the audience to ‘catch up’
    • Give yourself breathing space
    • A glance at your notes.
  • Stay within your time limit;
  • Cut the body of your speech if you do run out of time;
  • Don’t cut the conclusion. The last impression could make or break your presentation.
Visual Aids
  • Limit your visual aids to five to seven points per page;
  • Never use more than three colours per slide;
  • Use points or keywords rather than sentences;
  • Pause while you change slides;
  • Don’t talk to the visual aid;
  • Prepare when and how to use the visual aid;
  • Turn the projector off between slides;
  • Check that you have a spare bulb for the overhead projector.



  • Thank the person for asking the question;
  • Repeat the question to the larger audience;
  • Answer the question if you can, bearing in time that your time is limited;
  • If you cannot answer the question, open it up to the audience;
  • Check that the person who asked the question is satisfied with the answer;
  • Thank the questioner again;
  • Deal firmly but politely with interrupting questions;
  • If a premature question is asked, tell the person that you will be discussing this matter later and ask him to keep the question until that time;
  • If an inappropriate question is asked, suggest to the questioner that you and he discuss this matter after the presentation.


  • Practise makes perfect.
  • Control your feelings of nervousness
  • Thorough preparation and practice are more than half the battle won.