Look, no slides! How to skill up for a presentation

The Message, The Delivery, The Practice, Practice, Practice

Okay, technically one slide

The last time I did any public speaking was as a co-presenter at a conference two years ago. Yes I’d run a few coaching groups since then and tried out YouTube videos as a marketing method, but when I was invited to speak at Founders Friday for a 5-minute slot, I couldn’t afford to ‘consider’ (i.e. think swiftly into panic), I just had to say ‘yes’.

‘Yes, I will skill up in time!’. With 4 weeks to go, I had plenty of time to get it together (in theory). Here’s how you can do it:

The Message

What are you going to say?! Who the hell are you?! This I actually did kinda fail a bit on, with a few people asking me afterwards what I actually do — 5 minutes just isn’t long enough! But I also could argue it allowed for some mystery so that the audience would actually look me up. I was more interested in what I wanted the audience to get out of my presentation, the solution to a pain point of theirs. In my case, my message was about how to deal with uncertainty when your line of work is entrepreneurship.

The Delivery

Knowing that we’re always presenting in some manner, I’ve swotted up a lot on presentation skills, here are some great free tools and key takeaways I’ve used (or at least try to):

Heroic Public Speaking by Michael Port and Amy Mead on CreativeLive

  • Breathe through your belly button — Stops you from going squeaky, having a dry mouth, and losing air!
  • Have your ‘character’ in mind — Mine was someone who’s confident, knows what she’s on about and can speak articulately! My friends and family regularly complain that I speak too quietly and mumble — think that’s the low confidence/conviction seeping in…but I do know my stuff!
  • Deliver a Big Promise — Again, be ambitious! Commit to a Big Message!
  • 3 Act Setup — Act 1 — Situation, Act 2 — Conflict, Act 3 — Resolution — This gives a clear before and after picture, addressing the situation, the audience’s pain point and how they can resolve it. If you don’t have a pain point, you don’t really have a relevant message…

The Power of Body Language by Vanessa Van Edwards on CreativeLive

  • 60% of communication is non-verbal, and can be as much as 93%! — I naturally don’t move my arms when I talk but hand gestures help with articulating your message, so add flamboyance to your character.
  • Got to fake it to make it! — Open body language demonstrates more confidence and power, and also makes me feel more confident about me and my message.
  • Lower voice tone — For some reason men zone out of female voices with a higher pitch (‘Heeelllooo?’). Linking with breathing properly, I tried to speak from my chest/belly rather than from my throat (which you can tell from practising — your throat dries up and your vocal chords hurt!).

Become a Better and Funnier Speaker by David Nihill on CreativeLive

  • Focus on making things fun — My message in some ways can come across serious or dry so I had to think hard about little moments of funny interspersed throughout.
  • “No one cares about your story, they care about themselves in that story” — The funny moments help with relatability, which ultimately makes you human and thus likeable.
  • Start strong — The first 30 seconds will set the tone for the rest of your talk. Rehearse these 30 seconds the most. — You also want to start feeling confident so if you know you can get out the first bit, it’s all good. I’d also add, rehearse the last line so you finish solidly.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

The Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Edit — Though it’s quite nerve-wracking to test out your material, you need to! Feedback from friends can boost your confidence by letting you know what really worked for them and highlight any places where you might have lost them. Originally I went too niche with a geeky joke (using Diablo as an analogy for the entrepreneur battle — we never get through boss levels in the first round! Remember The Butcher? — If you get this, let me know!!). But I had to let it go because my friend didn’t get it and you don’t want to lose your audience!
  • Don’t need to do fancy, need to do understandable! — 5 minutes isn’t particularly long when you account for thinking time in between sentences! You realise through practice, practice, practice, where your brain is still thinking and not connecting quickly enough. In my case, I found that making some sentences shorter and simpler helped.
  • Raise your voice by 20% — Oh it drives me bonkers when people go ‘errrrrmmmm’. Replace it with no sound (the silence is shorter than you think it is) and raising your voice supposedly stops you from going ‘erm’.
  • Practice 1 — Speed read your words verbatim to see where you might trip or where you need shorter sentences to breathe!
  • Practice 2 — Read aloud from memory. This is where it gets messy and you might edit bits to make it easier to flow from one place to the other. Some speakers suggest using memory palace techniques to remember — I get confused by the visual imagery and find that I just need a simple storyboard outline in my head, along with some key words and building in vocal muscle memory through practising.
  • Practice 3 — Read aloud from memory with noise — Mock the physiological state, the nerves — read it aloud whilst watching TV, listening to music, walking. Practising it with the additional stimuli gets you to see how you fare with trying to filter out other stuff going on. I felt more confident about my presentation because I’d been able to read aloud from memory whilst walking across town listening to music.

Lastly, smile and enjoy yourself!! I have a lazy face that requires prepping for smiling — so I have to psych myself up with high tempo music and chatting to people before I speak so that I have some friendly faces in the crowd. Thank you to those who nodded and laughed during my presentation!

Fly in my pocket

Here’s the recording from my phone in my pocket. I don’t have fancy audio software to get rid of the excess noise, but I hope you can get a feel for my nervousness (I went high pitched!! Doh!).

Psst — Leeds peeps, I’ll be co-running a workshop on time management and presentation skills in August so sign up to my newsletter if you want to stay in the loop!

And what do I do? I coach people on how to get the life they want by decluttering their time so that their meaning in life can emerge.

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Originally published at

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