A good presentation answers questions; a great presentation becomes a resource in the memory bank of audience members’ minds. We all like to think we leave a lasting impression everywhere we go, but of course this can’t be true. If it were, high school reunions wouldn’t be filled with, “Hello, my name is: _____” stickers.

So how do you deliver a presentation that does more than just answer questions? Having given (and received) a multitude of presentations, I’m starting to formulate an  answer to this riddle. It’s preparation and follow through–as simple as that. Here’s what I mean:

1. Prepare the right way: I know there are a lot of people winging it out there on a regular basis, but I have to believe the vast majority of presenters really do put some time and effort into preparing for the stage. But how we spend these efforts determines our results. Not only should our presentations answer the audience’s fundamental questions regarding the topic; they should also be constructed and delivered with regard to what they already experience regularly. In other words, do some research on what your audience will consider status quo, then avoid it like the plague.

2. Look beyond yourself: Presentations that say, “Me, me, me; mine, mine, mine; us, us, us” are boring. When you sit down at the negotiating table, it’s a time to zoom in on the business at hand; when you present, it’s a time to position yourself in the world, to provide the audience with bearings on events in the world and how the topic of discussion relates. Everyone likes feeling important, and nothing says important quite like a sense of uniqueness with a global backdrop.

3. Entertain: Everyone has some level of toleration for humor, gimmicks, and pleasure. No presentation should be without at least one of these. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to an audience’s attention is through their laughter. Don’t spiral down rabbit holes or anything; just make room for some fun. You don’t even have to be personally funny: find a funny YouTube video that illustrates the issue at hand, or recycle a favorite Seinfeld episode. Anything to cut the boredom.

Making a memorable presentation isn’t rocket science, it’s empathy: understanding what the audience faces every day, offering them context in a disjointed world, and helping them have fun will put you in the 99th percentile of presentations they’ll see this year. So go out and give a presentation that keeps on giving!

Question: What is the most memorable presentation you’ve ever seen? What made it special?


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