Making Presentations Memorable

How many times have you heard the aphorism about presentations: “Tell them what you are going to say; say it; and then tell them what you told them”? Also, “know your audience” is another adage. Simple enough, yes? Then why is it that within sixty- to ninety-seconds time, the presenter has you looking at your mobile device or taking a cat nap?

Maintaining audience interest and encouraging engagement is so important to make your presentation memorable and useful. Most times people are not going to remember what you said, so if you select a topic, stick to it. And for heaven sakes, forget the PowerPoint slides. Most times the speaker will violate the rule of no more than 11 words on a slide and usually will read verbatim from the slide. Who needs this? Send me the slides in advance so I can sleep in. I’ll let you know if I have any questions.

Similar to a written piece that will undergo editing, read the speech out loud to yourself to see if it “sings” and eliminate the extraneous that often weigh down your key point(s). As you practice it out loud, select the points to emphasize by looking at your audience.

If you will simply read your speech or PowerPoint presentation, again, just send it to me in advance.

Like a traditional newspaper headline or various website newsfeed, pique interest immediately with a story, an example, anecdote or appropriate humor. This is especially important if you created a head-turning title to your presentation. Nothing kills momentum by a boring, confusing opening.

There is no one exact length for a presentation unless of course you are on a slate or panel of speakers with a rigid time frame.

If you have 15 minutes, use 10 minutes for your speech and the balance of time for audience questions, or better yet, tell your audience that you will be happy to take questions as you go. This will create an interactive, engaged environment.

A presentation or a speech is not just an articulation of a message or lesson. You first have to bring your audience into your sphere. Let them know why they should listen to what you have to say. This does not mean going over your professional resume. Instead, share a story or anecdote that puts into context what you will say. It should provoke thought and ideas as you show your commitment to and enthusiasm for your topic. Provide pearls of wisdom throughout your presentation to maintain people’s attention.

It may sound hokey or gimmicky, but if you pursue audience attention at the very start by having them answer a question on a piece of paper or stand up and respond to a statement you made, you’ll gain their immediate interest.

Your audience will be able to tell if you are authentic by how you treat it, which should be with the same level of care that you treat your topic.

About Steve

Steve is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a practice that addresses communication challenges that individual, firms and organizations face. Visit his website at to learn more.