10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: It’s a performance

Tip #10: It’s a performance.

Oh yes it is.
Your talk is most definitely a performance, and you are most definitely a performer.

Are you on a stage? On a podium? Talking to a room full of people? Ever gotten an anxiety attack before your talk? Yep – you’re a performer.

Your presentation isn’t just the words you’re saying. It’s not just the slides, or your movements, or your transitions … it’s not even just your content. It’s all of that – content, delivery, visual cues, the way you talk, etc – all rolled up into a big wad of performance.

Those people who read “academic papers” word for word? Those people who do the PowerPoint 10-points-per-slide thing, and basically read their outline? They probably have great content. Sit down with them for dinner, and let them share – it’ll be amazing, I’m sure. But that thing they just did on the stage, in front of people? It was a performance … but probably not a very good one (and believe me – I’ve been there, done that, so I’m guilty as charged).

But you? You know better. You have great content. A great idea or new angle that you want to share. And you know that to deliver it well in a presentation setting … well, you have to deliver great content, and turn in an engaging performance, too.

No, you don’t have to be the most amazing presenter in the world. But DO give what you’re doing on stage some thought, and I’m guessing that you’ll be much more interesting than “those other presenters.”


Pic by libraryman

  • http://twitter.com/mlhodge mlhodge

    “well, you have to deliver great content, and turn in an engaging performance, too.”

    What suggestions do you

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Good question – one I’ll have to think about a bit! I tend to “just do it,”
    and other people tell me I do a good job. So it apparently comes sorta
    natural to me.But surely there are some points I can pull out out!

  • Andrew Gee

    Yes, I agree it is all about performance. I was once the frontman for a small band, and the nerves & the solutions to those feelings are just the same as what happens when i have a “gig” at work. The only difference is the audience are all a little older! I think the main thing about any performance, is just how captivated the audience is, ie: how interesting the content is, and how exciting the “experience” is. People learn stuff when they are feeling good. Learning should be fun.

  • Cshannon

    Remember to modulate your voice! I can still remember a short presentation that I did years ago to incoming students–the information was important for them, but my voice droned on in a montone & I can’t imagine that they cared or remembered anything that I said. Something to think about as you’re rehearsing.

  • Michelle

    I would add that you should take some cues from your audience – react to them, try to engage them, and let them help shape to some degree the direction your presentation goes in (within reason – you still need to get the desired message out) – riff off of them if you will

  • http://twitter.com/adamstjohn Adam StJohn Lawrence

    The most important thing is to feel strongly about what you say, and show your feelings. Passion is always engaging, and far more important than any technique or technology.

    Beside that, you should pay more attention to the audience than to your notes or technology. Respond to their needs – if they need more action, give it to them. If they need more information, ask them what is missing. And if they “got it” already, move on fast.

    Talk to individuals; “Olga, I think you use this method?”, and to groups: “How did you guys in the cheap seats like that? Is that something you can use?”

    Crucially, if you feel you have to use slideware (you probably don’t and you usually shouldn’t), switch OFF the projection at every possible opportunity. Use the “B” key and feel the audience engage solely with you. That’s the power of the Dark Slide. :)


    Presentation coach, actor, stand-up comic.

  • http://librarianidol.blogspot.com Begin Again

    To make a performance engaging, you need to first and foremost acknowledge the audience. Make sure they’re listening. Perhaps start with a question like, “So, who here has ever had a problematic library user?” Get them to throw examples back to you.

    Also – pop culture references are a real winner in getting the audience on-side (but don’t overdo it!).

    Finally, if you believe in what you’re saying, and really find the pleasure in the message that you’re delivering, then hopefully your audience will. (On the other hand, if you’re feeling uninspired and awkward with your presentation, then the audience will DEFINITELY feel the same way.)