Career Advice: This 3-Step Guide Will Help You Ace Your Next Presentation


Are you one of those people that would rather write a 10-page paper instead of creating a slide deck? Does hearing the word “PowerPoint” make you cringe?

Whether you love them or hate them, presentations are an invaluable communication tool. When created properly, they can do remarkable things – they can change minds, they can enlighten, and they can inspire. If you’re in a time crunch, here are three tips you can use to develop an effective presentation that will leave a lasting impression.

Define your purpose

First, pinpoint the reason why you’re creating this presentation. Whether this is for school or the workplace, take a moment to think about what you’re trying to accomplish. This will define your presentation’s content and tone.

Purpose of presentation What to consider
Educating the audience about a topic

Example: Informing a group about the current status of Canada’s economy.

  • What does the audience already know?
  • What details do they care about?
  • What can be left out?
Persuading the audience to agree with you

Example: Convincing your team that your company should expand internationally.

  • What is the audience’s opinion going into the presentation?
  • To convince them, should you appeal to their logical side (i.e. use facts and figures), or emotional side (i.e. use personal stories)?
Motivating the audience to take action

Example: Encouraging your classmates to join a committee you started.

  • What will the audience gain by doing what you’re asking?
  • How can you help the audience take action?

Structure your story

Strong presenters are like storytellers – they take the audience on a journey that engages them and stays with them even after the story is over.

This all starts with a main message, which is the underlying idea behind your presentation. What do you want the audience to walk away with? You may want them to think, “Canada’s economy has room for improvement”, “This company really should expand to other countries”, or “I want to join this committee”. From there, you’ll need to develop a few supporting points that back up your main message.

The best way to tell a story is to apply a logical structure that the audience can easily follow. Here is a format that is often used:

  • Main message
  • Point #1
  • Point #2
  • Point #3
  • Repeat main message

This structure is effective because humans can only remember so much. If you presented something with eight supporting points, the audience would likely recall only two or three of them. Also, by starting and ending with the main message, you ensure that the last thing the audience hears (and what they’ll most likely remember) is the most important thing.

Create slides that enhance your message

Now that you’ve defined the purpose and structure of your presentation, it’s time to create the slides themselves. Here are some ways to ensure that they support your speaking points, rather than overpower them.

The sample slides below use the example of convincing your classmates to sign up for a committee you started.

Keep it visual – use graphs when you can to simplify data

Make your headings descriptive – this will help you quickly get your point across

Reduce text – remove unnecessary details that you can speak about, or provide later

presentation 3

It’s best to use one font style throughout the presentation. Also, try to avoid animation and fancy slide transitions, as these can waste time and become distracting. Remember, minimalism is key – you want the audience to focus on you, and not your slides.

With all this being said, one of the best ways to learn is to watch people who are already good at presenting. Pay close attention the next time you attend your favourite professor’s class, or watch a TED talk. Take note of what they say, how they make you feel, and what their slides look like. You’ll eventually develop your own style that works for you and makes you feel confident when you’re up on stage. One day, you may even find some of your own audience members taking down notes on what you’re doing!

What are your top presentation tips? Tell us in the comments!

About the author

Allison Tse is a marketing professional with three years of experience in the credit card industry. She currently works at CIBC, but started her career at American Express after graduating from the Queen’s Commerce program. Outside of work, Allison loves to cook and is currently pursuing a Culinary Arts Certificate at George Brown College in Toronto. Check out her profile on LinkedIn