Entrepreneurs' Blog

24 Apr, 2012

Top 10 Tips For Winning Presentations – By Andrew Macbean

Posted by: Bev James In: Business Tips


Top 10 Tips For Winning Presentations - By Andrew Macbean

At crucial points in your life, you are going to have to give a presentation. The pitch to win the deal. A nerve-wracking experience, but if it goes well you could clinch that multi-million pound contract and be a hero.

So how do you get people to listen to you? How can you hold people’s attention and get them excited? How can you inspire your audience to say ‘yes!’ to your proposal – and gain the winning edge over your competitors?

The answer lies in emotion. Often the most neglected aspect of a presentation or pitch, and yet the most vital. When people make decisions, it’s the brain’s emotional centre (the limbic system) that drives the action.

Whether you are saying ‘yes’ to marriage, or ‘no’ to a business plan, the neurons in the limbic system call the shots. The ‘fight-or-flight’ buttons that triggered an adrenaline rush to protect us from danger in primitive times are the same ones that trigger feelings of excitement or anxiety when you make your pitch inhe boardroom.

So, what are the key ingredients to generate positive emotional response?

1. Clarity

We don’t like to be confused by what we hear. It makes us angry and frustrated. Guide your audience through your proposal easily and simply.

In my days with Coca Cola, I developed the ‘one-minute miracle’ method, to help executives sum up their proposal or business plan – on an A4 sheet.

Start with a simple summary and then expand from there.

2. Metaphor

It’s something you might have learned about back in English class – but it is often ignored asa a powerful business tool. Using images and stories is a fresh (but easy) way to make something new seem familiar,  and it is a powerful method of conveying ideas that are otherwise difficult to understand.

You get to be creative and fun too – and we’ll be inspired.

3. Turn It All Upside Down

Have you everseen an upside down map of the world? It’s exactly the same as the one you’ve been familiar with all your life – except that it’s upside down. This fresh perspective helps to bypass personal bias and memory (the stumbling blocks in the brain) and see the world in many different and insightful ways.

Much of your presentation will involve chunks of information we’ve seen and heard about before, so find ways to turn it upside down or inside out.

When we see things in a different way, our brains become engaged and open-minded.

4. The Dark Side

We love challenges, scary stories, and competition. It’s in our DN. Too Few pitches include struggles, drama or tension. We all know from experience that nothing worth doing or having is easy, so be upfront about it. You might say: “This is not going to be easy,” or “This is not for everyone”.

Your listeners will respect your honesty and feel stimulated by the challenge. You could also embrace the dark side by naming the enemy.

For example: “Now, of course the competition currently has an incredible ad campaign running.” But following up with: “However, this will really shake things up…!” and laying out your strategy. Name the dragons. We’ll appreciate that you’re also a realist.

5. Think Link A Film Director

Great films have variety of pace: they have fast sequences, pensive moments and funny moments. This variation keeps our interest and focus.

If you’re using PowerPoint, stop after five minutes and just talk. Or perhaps show a short film. Or hand something out. Or take the audience into another room. Stimulate interest by adding a flow of variety to how you are presenting your ideas.

It will increase the ‘feel good’ dopamine levels in our brains. In other words, keep it fun, and interesting. If we’re not bored, it’s a big step towards liking you.

6. Vision

Deep within each human being is the need to believe in something beyond ourselves. So it is no surprise that every great speaker conveys their vision. That is, their belief system and the set of values that drives their actions and decisions.

We need to understand yours. If you do not have a vision, get one. What do you believe in? You need to convey a strong sense of this in your pitch.

The vision is the deeper “why we are doing this” that will stimulate emotions and inspire us.

7. Destination

The ‘destination’ is a very real, physical (and ideally, inspiring) goal. You can see it on paper. You can talk about it. Your vision and your ‘destination’, when used together, become the secret ingredients that will help you to build a strong emotional connection with you audience.

8. Attention, Benefits and Credibility

These are the ABC of creating a comfort zone, before winning any deal. First, there will be something about your pitch that grabs people’s attention from the start – and makes it stand out from the rest.

Then, either subtly or up-front as appropriate, we need to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ – the benefits of what you are offering.

Finally, reinforce your credibility – your ability to deliver. Inspire your audience to believe in you by mentioning a previous experience where you triumphed. It doesn’t need to be hammered home; it’s sometimes best to be subtle, but clear.

All this adds up to our feeling safe in your hands – a core human requirement.

9. Act Confident

First of all, be yourself. Because the best person you can be is just you. If you pretend to ‘be’ somebody else you’ll come over as a fake. Try anchoring your pitch in a personal story that brings your presentation to life and helps you feel grounded.

And here’s a trick for the theatre: pretend to be more confident than you really are. This technique will actually make you feel more confident. Try it.

10. Location, Location, Location

The time and place and ambience for your meeting or presentation are critical – whether it’s a one-to-one in a cafe, a gathering in a boardroom, or in front of a large audience in a lecture theatre.

It is essential that there are no distractions. The lighting should be good and the sound clear. The seating should be comfortable. The space needs to ‘have a good vibe’.

And here’s a tip: never schedule a meeting  30 minutes to two hours after lunch – it is the most emotionally unresponsive time for human beings.

Wednesdays are also proven to be bad days for most people. Best to skip them all together.



6 Responses to "Top 10 Tips For Winning Presentations – By Andrew Macbean"

1 | Wendy Carey

April 24th, 2012 at 12:56


I think that is good advice and I like the idea of shaking things up. Thank you for the great contribution.

2 | Tony Adegbenro

April 25th, 2012 at 16:32


Thanks for brilliant write up
I’ve given presentations for al least 15 years using powerpoint and you have just inkjected new energy into my spirit that will enable me top better serve my audience .

3 | Tony Adegbenro

April 25th, 2012 at 16:39


I’ve delivered Powerpoint presentations for almost 15 years and reading your article has just injected new life into my mind and spirit.
My audience are in for a great treat because am going to use some of the missing bits that you’ve mentioned to jazz up my delivery.

Thanks for such a great write up.
God bless you

4 | Emmy Yeadon

April 26th, 2012 at 09:59


Hi Andrew – what great advice!

In my experience it can be too easy for presenters to focus on the content of their presentation (a key factor, I know) but to forget the other things which hold and sway an audience in a positive way.

Your 10 top tips have confirmed somethings that I do well already, reminded me of others that I have forgotten and given me 1 or 2 to introduce into my next presentations.

Really ‘useful’ information – thank you.

5 | Andrew MacBean

April 26th, 2012 at 19:06


Thanks! I didn’t even know this was up here… but I have to admit, I’ve not been the greatest at tweeting!

6 | louis

April 29th, 2012 at 10:00


Great tips. I am always on the lookout for such articles. I have a few other tips for your readers. First – make sure that you have a one minute summary prepared. Imagine whoever you need to present to suddenly has an emergency and says they must leave. You have 60 seconds to give them your story. What would it be? If this is clear in your head, you will stay on topic. Second, every slide should have one clear message you want to convey. If you are trying to convey seven messages, you need seven slides. Time of presentation is NOT number of slides, it is how long you spend on all of them. But, if you have too many ideas, you will lose people – even if all the ideas are good. Decide in advance to keep it simple, but get your most important points across. And finally, when you are telling your story (presenting), if people are talking or otherwise distracted with email or whatever, STOP talking until they come back to the presentation. Up to you, but amazing how much everyone pays attention when you stop talking for a few minutes!

Comment Form

  • Morgan Grage: I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. "No man is wise enough by himself." by Titus Maccius Plautus.
  • Derek: Brilliant article Bev, thanks for sharing. coincidentally the kilimamjaro example used is on my 2014 to do list! Ps thanks for the tips you gave me
  • jackson: thanks for your great article about developing your business idea to great business Jackson mutebi

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