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How to time your presentation correctly

One of the biggest fears we have when presenting is that we are going to run out of time, or perhaps go over time and not be able to get our important takeaways across.

And this is a very important consideration, although to finish early is a far safer as no one really likes long presentations unless of course you are working to a speaker schedule at a conference.

The common perception is we can time ourselves according to the number of PowerPoint or keynote slides we have. This is not correct, as some slides simply need to be shown for as little as five to ten seconds, while others can be used to speak for five or even ten minutes! The time it takes to speak around a single slide differs from slide to slide, speaker to speaker and also depending on the amount of content per slide.

It is apparent that we need a better method to determine how long our presentations are really going to take us.

Clicking through your slides and ‘visualising’ how long your presentation will take you is not a fool proof tactic either. When you find yourself standing in front of your audience, suddenly you are likely to find that the complicated concept that took only a minute to explain in your head does not flow so easily from your lips. In the real world scenario, you now find a room full of blank faces staring back at you and realise there is no connection. You suddenly realise more effort is required from yourself in terms of fleshing out your explanation, and that your sentences are not flowing together or even necessarily making that much sense! And worse of all, that your timing has now been completely thrown!

Sound familiar? Or perhaps you have been so fortunate as to not experience this … yet!

To avoid this scenario and to ensure that you always are able to communicate with a certain eloquent flow AND within the time constraints dictated, you simply have to practice your presentation out loud. Clicking through the slides on your laptop and visualising what it is you are going to say is absolutely no substitute for actually saying it. And when you practice out loud you can time yourself and make any necessary adjustments to the length of your presentation, perhaps you have to shed some slides, or flesh out your content more.

For more information on presenting like a pro, contact us at The Presentation Clinic on

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To move your audience, be believable!

How many times have you sat through a presentation where the speaker begins by stating how excited he / she is to share this information with you?

And how many times have you observed that the words simply do not match the message?

No matter how much effort we put into crafting our presentations, if we are unable to match your body language and tone of voice with the message we are conveying, we are not going to convince anyone.

Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, is famous for publishing studies that prove that your audience pays far more attention to your body language and tone of voice than the actual content of your verbal communication, so much in fact that it is estimated that only 7% of the message conveyed by verbal content is noted!

And the sad reality is that you cannot fake body language, just think of that fake smile and how it makes you feel to be on the receiving end!

So if we can’t fake it, then how can we do something about our non verbal queues – or ‘paralinguistics’ that often say so much more than we do.

Anthony Robbins conducts worldclass motivational speaking sessions, and his secret involves jumping on a trampoline immediately before walking on to stage so that his high energy levels are visible. Taking a trampoline along with you for office presentations is not going to work so well in the corporate world though.

Our task as presenters is to ensure there is a congruence between the message we are conveying and the way in which we are conveying it. When you crafted your presentation, did you believe in your message? If not, then perhaps you need to find another angle.

If you really believe in your message, then sink into the emotions that you feel about the message. Feel them. The more you can feel it, the more you can convey this to your audience. Remember audiences are naturally empathic and will mimic your emotional state, so the more excited and motivated you are, the more excited and motivated they will be!

Presenting requires so much more from you than merely running through the slides on your laptop. Presenting requires you to be authentically human in front of your audience. So practice as much as you can before the time, but focus not only on the technical presentation aspects, but also on how you feel about your content. Nobody likes a fake message, nobody will respond to insincerity.

Emotions have immense power, use them!

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So you think you want a beautiful presentation?


At the Presentation Clinic, we design presentations for our clients. Many of our clients come to us requesting beautiful powerpoint presentations, which we can certainly assist you with. However, no matter how beautiful your presentation is, it is not going to assist if your message and the way in which you deliver it does not connect with your audience.

So what makes a good presentation?

If we use as an example, some of the very best speakers showcased do not use any visuals at all! So do you really need visuals, and how can you present in such a way as to make an impact?

When you ask us for assistance, we’re not going to necessarily suggest giving you what you want, but focus rather on what you need. And more often than not, the message is the most overlooked aspect of a presentation.

Have you got something to say? And is what you have to say different from everyone else? Is the information you are imparting speaking to your audience?

There is no formula for this work, but we will give you a secret here. Your super power when it comes to presenting is to use empathy! Understanding as much as you can about your audience and addressing their needs is going to separate you from everyone else who feels they have information to impart that will be automatically accepted by the audience.

The very last thing you should ever do, is design your slides. You may even find you do not need them!

Speak to us about crafting your presentation and helping you move your audience. For more information contact us and find out how we can transform your presentation style and help you get the results you need! International assistance offered.

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Good body language means moving with purpose


How often do you observe a presenter pacing backwards and forwards during a presentation? Or dancing side to side? Swivelling on a heel or crossing and uncrossing one’s legs?

Perhaps you too are guilty?

And what is wrong with moving in a presentation? Surely standing in one spot is boring?

Firstly this depends on the length of the presentation. For short presentations, standing in one spot can actually do so much more for you! For longer presentations or bigger audiences, more movement is possible, provided it is with intent.

When the presenter is constantly moving, the audience struggles to focus, and if the movements are repetitive then we lose interest in the presenter. Standing firm and still is an indication of confidence. While one does not want to be rigid, we also need to be aware that mindless movement is only serving to make us feel better, but alienating and often annoying our audience.

The problem with pacing backwards and forwards – or even swaying for that matter – is that we are indicating our discomfort. And this is interpreted as more than discomfort by the audience on a subconscious level. What other creature paces backwards and forwards? A predator!

Just take a moment to think back to the last time you observed a big cat in a cage. The backwards and forwards pacing is typical of a predator, which is not how you want to be perceived by your audience! Ironically a movement that we exhibit when we are nervous, is interpreted to be threatening or arrogant.

And what is more, the constant motion is making it harder for people to focus on your message! Rather move to make a point, or in a long presentation to raise energy in the room.

Become conscious of your repetitive gestures and patterns of moving so that you can change them, and observe how your audience starts to respond to you with increased respect and attention.

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Lessons we learnt from TEDx 2015 – Multiple Presenters

The Presentation Clinic has worked with TEDx Cape Town to assist TEDx speakers to perform at their very best!

TEDx is an initiative we are honoured to associate with. All participants work purely from an altruistic place of empowering the future movers and shakers to get their great ideas out there. It is such a privilege to have assisted TED these last two years as speaker coaches.

During the process, we’ve learnt some very important lessons. The first speakers we assisted in 2015 where a husband and wife couple, tackling the controversial issue of Marijuana prohibition. What we learnt from this talk is how to assist speakers when they are sharing a platform.

Our two speakers were quite accustomed to being in the public eye, however one had a little less confidence and was overshadowed often by her very charismatic partner. Her comfort zone lay in reading her material. We had to work to balance the communication and help each speaker become comfortable interacting with the other as opposed to a rout tennis match where they simply took turns in bouncing the message between them.

What we learned about coaching more than one speakers who are presenting is the following:
• Get speakers to interact with each other. The interaction is crucial for the audience. Let it be a conversation they are sharing.
• When the one speaker is presenting, the other must observe the other instead of focussing on what they are planning to say next.
• Ensuring the speakers are comfortable interacting is very useful, as if the one forgets what they were planning on saying, the other can remind them in a fun conversational manner and so a dialogue can take place which is much more natural, and also much more enjoyable to observe as an audience member.

We would like to congratulate Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke for their excellent presentation and hard work. We thoroughly enjoyed this rather unusual challenge!

We hope you enjoy this video.

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How to use body language to overcome speech anxiety when presenting to an audience

nervous body language

When standing in front of an audience, your body language is a crucial element in delivering your message effectively as a public speaker. And a nervous presenter can often be detected in the telltale signals that they display such as pacing, dancing or holding for dear life on to props such as a podium. So how does one overcome both nerves and at the same time demonstrate dynamic body language that is coherent with your message in order to deliver a quality presentation?

Amy Cuddy is an American social psychologist and Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit at Harvard Business School. She has become famous for known for her research nonverbal behaviour, and the effects of social stimuli on hormone levels. She is a world famous speaker on the psychology of power, influence, nonverbal communication, and prejudice and her TED talk has been viewed more than 21 million times and ranks number two among the most-viewed TEDTalks according to Wikipedia.

What Amy Cuddy has to teach us that is so profound is not only does our body language communicate a clear message to our audience, but it also influences the way we feel about ourselves.

To assume a confident stance when conducting a presentation therefore not only makes us appear confident, but makes us feel confident. This is very useful information as herein lies a very useful approach that we can adopt in order to overcome speech anxiety.

Powerful body language will assist you to feel powerful when you present. It will also assist you to feel more powerful in situations where you would normally feel submissive, such as those difficult job interviews or workplace confrontations.

We recommend taking a look at Amy Cuddy’s very popular TED Talk and try out some powerful body language in order to change the way you feel and look in not only your presentations, but your life. Or, if you still need some help, please docontact us for some individual coaching. We hope you enjoy this video.

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Confidence alone does not a great presenter make

presentation confidence

Sadly confidence does not a good public speaker make. In fact, being too confident can cause you to alienate your audience and prevent you from creating that vital connection. It struck us that this is a common misconception: confidence is the key ingredient to standing in front of an audience. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Confidence is simply one of the many ingredients, and can in fact cause more disconnection than positive results.

Too often we see speakers who have a message and information that they wish to impart. Their entire focus is on the transmission of this message. They may spend hours rehearsing and may put on a slick performance, but all they achieve in their presentation is to place themselves upon a soapbox and bombard their audience with “this thing” that the audience cannot relate to.

The true art of effective presentation requires connection with one’s audience. Confidence on the part of the speaker can in fact form a barrier to communication. Too often, speakers forget that what really needs to take place in a presentation is communication. Think back to the last conversation you had and ask yourself did the other participant’s confidence facilitate better communication or where you alienated as a result.

We believe the art of presenting and great public speaking is a journey that never really ends. There will always be room for improvement, there are always skills to improve and aspects that we can learn from one another. To assume that confidence alone will carry you as a presenter is one of the worst mistakes we can make and sadly our audience members do not appreciate arrogance. If you want to win the hearts and minds of your audience, show your humanity before them so they can relate to you. Remember that people relate best to people, not talking heads.

For one-on-one coaching or customised presentation training, please do contact us, but if you are unable to work with us, please do practice in front of as many critics as you and be open to receiving criticism as we always can learn from each other, and we always will have room for improvement in our journey to become exemplary speakers.

As for our friend, sadly they made very few sales. If your audience does not like you, they are not going to listen to you, no matter how loud or how well you think you can convey your message.

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The too often overlooked aspect of a presentation


You’re ready to go. You have a beautiful presentation. Your visuals are breathtaking. Your content is coherent. You feel you’ve got your body language under wraps. What could possibly go wrong?

So often we witness presentations that could have been fantastic, but sadly miss the mark as the presenter forgets a crucial element of the package – audio! Your voice is so important in delivering the message and must be congruent with not only your tone, but also the message you intend to convey.

Nothing is worse than a presentation delivered in monotone, and it is also important that you are heard by your audience members. Remember to consider using a microphone if you have a group that is larger than 40 audience members in size.

There are so many different vocal techniques you can practice, but the most important thing to remember is to be natural. No one wants to listen to an overly dramatic recital either.

Make a recording of your voice and ask yourself honestly if you would enjoy listening to you? If the answer is no, you have work to do!

For assistance with vocal effects and presentation coaching and training, please do contact us. We also thought you might enjoy this video by Julian Treasure.


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How to design a presentation


Presentation design mind-mapping

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

Designing a presentation can be daunting, and recently I fell into the all too familiar trap, staring at my computer screen, struggling to make sense of what I had created as I moved my slides around as I tried to rework an old presentation for a new requirement. Before I realised what I was doing, I was completely ignoring my own teachings, and hours had passed and I was no better off than when I had started, in fact my presentation was a complete mess! So how does one avoid getting oneself into this mess, and how does one go about effortlessly designing a fantastic coherent presentation?

I’d like to share with you a lesson that changed the way we at the Presentation Clinic think not only about presentations, but all forms of written communication.

“Put pen to paper before you put fingers to keyboard.”

What is the first thing we find ourselves doing when we know we need to design a presentation? That’s right, opening up PowerPoint or Keynote and creating slides! Yet this is the very worst thing you can do! Designing your slides, even if you plan to make them look amazing later, is still the very last thing you should do when designing your presentation.

If we want to construct a logical and coherent message flow we really should stay far away from a computer screen in the beginning. One of the most effective tactics to employ initially is to mind-map your message flow.

Start by writing down your presentation. This will ensure that you keep this ‘top of mind’ as you work on your message flow.

Now plan a logical sequence in which to introduce your evidence. Consider the type of presentation you are conducting and your audience’s needs. How much evidence should you include and where should you include this evidence? What is really necessary and what is of interest to your audience? Create a visual representation of the flow and content of your presentation and order it now on paper, be as messy and creative as you want.

By working on paper you are able to construct, reconstruct and deconstruct your presentation in your mind’s eye which is far easier than on a computer screen.

Once your mind-map is complete, you can calculate how many slides you require for each phase of your presentation.

You will also be able to approximate how long your presentation will be, before you even begin designing your slides! As a rule of thumb, allow for five minutes per slide if you are an experienced speaker. The more you get to know your own presentation style, the better you will know how long you spend on each slide. Inexperienced speakers tend to use more slides, spending less time per slide as they use them more as ‘queue cards’.

You will also be able to approximate how long your presentation will be, before you even begin designing your slides! As a rule of thumb, allow for five minutes per slide if you are an experienced speaker. The more you get to know your own presentation style, the better you will know how long you spend on each slide. Inexperienced speakers tend to use more slides, spending less time per slide as they use them more as ‘queue cards’.

Create module slides to separate the main themes in your presentation. Start collecting your evidence. Ensure whilst designing your presentation that you keep the paper version of your initial design by your side so that you do not get caught up into creating too many slides that will detract from your coherent message flow.

Once you have inserted content into your slides and you are satisfied that the message flow is coherent, you can start working on making sure your presentation is visually appealing.

This technique will ensure that you do not waste time, become distracted and lose focus on your core message or presentation objective.

If you require additional assistance with message flow, we are pleased to inform you that at The Presentation Clinic we employ the services of one of South Africa’s top communication strategists. We can assist you or your organisation with the strategic message flow of your presentation, and we can also assist with the presentation design for those very special presentations.

We would however prefer to train YOU to create your own beautiful presentations, so please do get in touch so that we can impart the latest design fundamentals that are psychologically proven to have a maximum impact upon your audience.

contact us

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How to use a microphone


If you have to speak to a group of thirty or more audience members, you really should consider using a microphone. Whilst it is possible to project your voice adequately to a group of forty delegates and still be heard, the longer your presentation, the greater the strain will be on your vocal chords.

Using a microphone can indeed be daunting and can in fact, make or break your well rehearsed speech. There is an art to holding the microphone, and you need to be acquainted with the technology before you assume that using a microphone is child’s play! It certainly can shatter your confidence if you have not done your homework.

The most difficult type of microphone to use is the hand-held microphone as you need to angle the microphone correctly – without ‘spitting’ into it either. Be aware of what are known as ‘plosives’ – these are the sounds that literally explode if the microphone is too close to your mouth such as ‘p’s’ and ‘t’s’. The rule of thumb is to hold the microphone a fist’s length away from your mouth. Holding the microphone below your mouth does make you more vulnerable to ‘plosives’, and does reduce your volume. The best way to hold the microphone is like a rock-star – at a ninety degree angle to your mouth, however this is unnatural to maintain for the average speech so a compromise has to be reached. Do not expect the microphone to do all the work for you, you still have to project your voice!

Please do not begin your session by tapping the microphone and saying ‘Testing, testing!” as this will annoy your audience. Get to know your technology, and assume that the microphone has been handed to you in working order. You will soon realise if the microphone is not working!

Be aware of turning your head away from a standing microphone as your volume will be lost! And if you are using a hand-held microphone, do not use it as a prop for hand gestures.

The most comfortable type of microphone to use is a lavelier or lapel microphone, but remember to not pat yourself on the chest, cough or fiddle with your clothing when you are wearing this device.

We hope you have found this tips useful! For more information on presentation training, master of ceremonies assistance or one-on-one coaching contact us at The Presentation Clinic now.

For presentation skills training and personalised body language coaching, we can assist!


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What Obama’s Body Language says about his Presentation Skills


President Barack Obama, perhaps you love him, or perhaps you’re not a fan. One thing you cannot deny, is this man is highly charismatic and a truly masterful public speaker. If you are seeking to improve your presention skills and become a better public speaker, we at The Presentation Clinic recommend that as a training tool you study great speakers in order to mimic their behaviour. After all, one of the best ways human beings learn is to observe other people. So what can we learn from observing President Obama? In this article we shall take a look at his body language and see what he can teach us.


1. Convincing

President Obama is most definitely charismatic. He uses his personality to his full advantage. If we observe his posture in general, we can see he makes himself as large as possible wherever possible, a sign of confidence, but also a sign of dominance. His hands are usually visible, indicating open body language which is non-threatening subconsciously to his audience. In this image, the President has assumed a particularly convincing stance. We often see these hand gestures with clergymen who are also working on obtaining our trust. Open hands and hands displayed are attempts at indicating trustworthiness. The frequency with which we see the President open his hands indicates that he places importance on building a trust relationship with his audience.

Smiling also disarms your audience and increases the chances of your audience liking you. The President is often seen to smile during his speeches.


Presentation Skills Obama

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2. Conviction

The President is certainly masterful at putting his body and facial expressions behind his message. In this example, he is discussing changes to health policy, a serious topic that requires a serious tone. His facial expression indicates conviction, a no-compromise stance. His hand is being used to reinforce a point in a very strong way. It would be difficult for the average human being to stand up against this very authoritative body language. This is a typical ‘alpha’ leadership display. We can see the President has a need to push the point he is making here in such a way that there is minimal resistance. His facial expression and body language will either cause his audience to submit or his opponents to take an aggressive stance against him. This is a passionate display of body language indicating a strong opinion.


Presentation Skills Obama

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3. Congruence

In this next image, we see President Obama speaking on the Trayvon Martin case. The Travyon Martin case is indeed a highly emotion issue, and what can we observe in President Obama’s body language? The President’s face indicates deep concern and seriousness. If one has to look at this image without understanding the background to this picture, one would imagine the President is experiencing regret and sadness. His body is slightly hunched, he is not currently demonstrating his alpha powerful persona. He appears saddened, humbled and regretful. His ability to demonstrate these emotions to match the content of his speech enable him to display congruence. Congruence is a very important characteristic of a successful presenter or public speaker, you have to be believable. If your facial expressions and body language do not match your message, your audience is not going to buy you. One of the reasons so many Americans resonate so strongly with their President is his ability to be believable.


Presentation Skills Obama

Picture by Win McNamee/Getty Images

4. Connection

Being human is important if you want your audience to connect with you. President Obama is loved by a large portion of the American people and he makes it easy for people to connect with him as he is able to be himself in public. The characteristics of a good public speaker are a natural speaking style and the ability to remain human, not removed from your audience. In the following image, we see a good display of humour and human emotion from the President, something he displays often. To be well liked by your audience, even though you may be presenting a formal topic, you still need to connect with them as a person. What presenting really is about is having a conversation with people, using your personality in order to do so.


Presentation Skills Obama

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5. It’s hard to maintain all the time if you are a public figure

We can’t be perfect all of the time. And in this last shot, we have to admit, that the President really does not look very interested in his audience. Yet at the end of the day, we have to give it to him, Obama’s body language is probably one of the best examples of a consistent and charismatic public persona.


Presentation Skills Obama

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