You spent hours preparing your outline. You used an equal amount of time making sure every slide was perfect; lots of pictures, few words. You know exactly what message you want to deliver. The only thing left is to make the presentation. it is a sales pitch to a valuable customer, a strategy about a change in business practice for your boss, or a training for a group of employees, you know you are about to shine. The lights come up and it is show time. At the end of your presentation, you realize things could have gone better. You ask yourself, “What went wrong?” The answer is you failed to rehearse. Rehearsals are an overlooked preparation, separating professionals from amateurs. No actor would ever step foot on stage without rehearsing; neither should you.

Rehearsing is important before any presentation. are like proofreading a document. Few professionals would send out their first draft of a letter. The best have others look over the content, for spelling and grammar. A presentation rehearsal accomplishes the same thing. It allows you to find errors before your audience sees the product. Steve Jobs was notorious for rehearsing dozens of hours before any presentation. TED speakers rehearse hundreds of times before appearing on the red spot.

Here are three rehearsal tips:  rehearse with a clock, practice using your media, and perform in front of a camera. Each has pros and cons. You should rehearse using more than one method. yourself. Practice with the time counting up and counting down. There are plenty of mobile applications available to help you meet your time hacks. You should know where you need to be in your presentation at particular points in time. Move quickly through your introduction. Quick introductions all time to present main points. Leave at the end to fit a quality conclusion. There is an old adage, “Tell them what your are going to say; say it; tell them what you said.” A rule of thumb for an introduction and conclusion is about 10% of your time for each. That leaves at least 80% of your time for the supporting points of your thesis. End a little short of your allowed time is better than running a few seconds long. The best way to nail your time is rehearsing.

Practice using your media. If you have slides, practice with just the slides. Slides reinforce the points you make verbally. They are not teleprompters. If you have video and audio, make sure they work. Always bring speakers suitable for the room. Practice writing your points on chart paper or boards. Neatness is important. your rehearsal; watch your recording. Reviewing your recorded presentation allows you to edit. By the time you are on stage it is too late. Recording your presentation allows you to hear the pace and volume of your speech. You observe mannerisms, good and bad. You hear words that work well, and not so much. The recording allows you time to fix the bad and improve the good.

Your presentation is all about the story. Rehearsing ensures your story is heard, understood, and acted upon by others. Practicing reveals flaws in your presentation permitting corrections. Practice reinforces your strong points. Failing to rehearse before a presentation is like sending out a first draft of a written product. Your audience sees all the flaws. Time rehearsals. Use the media you intend to show. Record and watch yourself. Taking time to rehearse polishes your act. You present a professional image. Before your next presentation, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Photo Credits

All photos from  No individual attribution provided.  CC0 license.

Better Presentations

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a terrific training presented by Jon Blum of Force Concepts. One thing that set his training apart from others I have attended was his slide deck. He followed two simple rules to keep his slide simple and effective. With some thoughtful planning, a little research and some practice with layout your next presentation can benefit from the same principals Jon employed. The first principle is minimize text. The second is maximize images. Image
The original popular presentation software PowerPoint was named so to help presenters make the points of their presentations powerfully. They were intended to be short and sweet. A common rule is to limit the text on a slide to six words per line and no more than six lines per slide. Often presenters read their slides verbatim which defeats the point of inserting the bullet point on the screen. The audience can read. They came to your presentation to hear what you have to say. If the only thing you say is what is written on your slides, they could have stayed in their offices and read your work. I suggest that you tell your group what your want to say, pause then show the slide and allow them to read the text on their own. The points on your slide should emphasize what you said.
Another great thing Jon did in his presentation was the way he presented the text on the slide. First he discussed the point. Next he showed the text and led a discussion about the point. Upon conclusion of the discussion on that point, he introduced the next point and then revealed the text. The previous line remained visible, but the font was in a light shade of gray drawing the viewer’s eye to the current point. Identifying the few simple words that effectively communicate the idea behind the point of discussion requires you to identify the principals and key points of your presentations.
How many times have you said or hear that a picture is worth 1,000 words; at least a thousand? How many pictures have you seen in a slide presentation? I would guess the answer is few. Today images are inexpensive and plentiful. Choices include charts, graphs, clip art and photographs. Websites such as, and have a large selection of photos to purchase, within the public domain or under the Creative Commons license. Sometimes finding the right photo or image on line is time consuming, but with the advent of digital photography and paint software you can create your own images that convey your message. The images I use to attract readers to my blog are my own creations or images I found on line available under the Creative Commons license for use by only providing attribution to the person who took the photo.
When selecting an image, pick one that communicates your message. You may use a few words to ensure your point is understood or to ask a question to start a discussion. If you use text with your image, keep it shorter than the suggestions offered above.
Following simple rules improve the slides you use in your presentations. Reduce the text on your slide. Use pictures and communicate 1,000 words without uttering a syllable. It may not always be possible to limit your idea to six words or to one picture, but with practice implementing these principals becomes second nature. As you prepare your next presentation, add a few extra pictures and subtract some words. Your audience will be grateful.

For a more detailed disucssion about improving your presentations, check out my Prezi at Another great resource is  Update 3/15/14:  57 slides in 18 minutes…exact amount of text during the presentation…zero!!!!

Photo credit: Kei Kondo