Presentation Advice from the Top Career Experts

Written by: Adrienne Johnston

Hate public speaking? Detest PowerPoint?

We all know that our ability to convey our message and inspire others is essential to the success of our ideas and careers.

So, I’ve asked top career experts to share their top piece of advice on presentation preparation and public speaking. May you find their expert advice valuable and confidence-boosting!

My #1 piece of advice is to remember that good communication connects. It bridges the gap between you and the other – it should bring you closer in shared understanding and experience. It’s easy when using PowerPoint to do the opposite: charts with too much detail that are hard to read, slides with too much text that distract the listener from being with you and your message, an unorganized flow that raises more questions than it answers, or authority establishing tactics that actually widen the apparent gap between you and your audience.

If you want to use this idea in practice, keep in mind the emotional state of your audience at each step. Where will they be when you start? (the answer is almost always “somewhere else”: distracted by the rest of the their day or focused on their own agenda) and then what steps can you take them through (using slides, data, and talking points) to bring them closer to you in terms of understanding, awareness, affinity, respect, and desire to say yes to whatever your invitation is.

Angela Guido,

Focus on connecting rather than impressing. It will increase the odds that your presentation will be meaningful.

Janet Scarborough Civitelli, Ph.D.,

Most importantly: know your audience. When creating a presentation, it is important to leverage some of the same skills jobseekers should use when preparing for an interview. Know what is most important to the participants, and structure the talk accordingly. This requires asking questions when scheduling a speech about what interests the listeners, their familiarity with the subject matter and what questions they hope the speaker will address. Similarly, in an interview, job seekers should be extremely familiar with the job description and the company so they can answer interview questions in relevant, meaningful ways.

Miriam Salpeter.

Keep it Brief: Brevity is not easy to achieve. It actually takes more time than we think and much of our content lands on the cutting room floor. Not all of it is meant for the audience.
You will find that happens with your career presentations. No matter if it is an interview, group conversation or platform speech, less is more.
Sharing just enough will allow you to get across your heart, point and message while not overwhelming or losing the audience. The focus should be on salient points sparking a dialogue, not a one-way communication channel.
When crafting media for your presentation, this translates to keeping bullet points to a minimum, sharing pictures that speak 1,000 words and remembering that people remember and love stories that they can internalize for themselves and/ or share with others.

Brian Horvath,

Delivering a great presentation requires a combination of knowing your audience, great content, attractive slides and clear delivery. After three decades of presenting to audiences up to 19,000, and making plenty of mistakes, I would highlight the one top requirement of “preparation via practicing”.
Working back from the day of the presentation, I recommend 3 days to review the finished presentation and role-play. In the “old days” I would stand in front of the mirror. Now, with our laptops, it’s so easy to record ourselves and play it back. Yes, it will be cringe-worthy, but you will be so glad you did it!

During the practice sessions, assure you know the 3 key messages per slide. Don’t try to memorize every word of a script or you will freak out when you forget something.  Practice modulating your voice, using inflections and high energy.  Picture the volume dial on your car radio and dial it up for the presentation!  Practice your arm movements while planting your feet so you are deliberate with your motions yet not distracting from your great content. ”

Dana Manciagli ( is one of the top 10 U.S. career bloggers, a private career coach, speaker and author. She also founded “Job Search Master Class®, a self-paced online curriculum.

My top piece of advice for presenters is, incorporate stories into your presentation. Although they may seem like too much detail at first, people grab onto stories. They’re often just as powerful (or sometimes more powerful) than other information you may present.

Angela Copeland,

Been in the business for over 10 years I’ve seen tons of presentations and I can clearly tell which ones are good and which are not. When creating a presentation follow these few simple steps:

1) Think outside the screen – the slides on the screen are only part of the presentation, the main part is you. Slides will provide you with the roadmap but you have to walk the audience through.
2) Keep it simple – while lots of presentations might use lots of colorful images, that might not be the best practice. In my personal opinion you should use images only when they add important information or make an abstract point more concrete. Stay away of using PowerPoint’s built-in clipart.
3) No paragraphs. One thing at a time – slides are the illustrations for your presentation and not the script. They should underline and reinforce what you’re saying when you give your presentation.

Yuri Khlystov,

My top piece of advice would be to practice several times, particularly if you have public speaking anxiety. Also be concise and eliminate filler words such as “like”, “um” and “uh”.

Andrea Moore Shapley,

My advice would be to really think about your audience. Are they going to want something super detailed or short and to the point? Tailoring your presentation to the people you are communicating with is key to getting your message across.

Erin at Career Designs,

The most important piece of putting together a great presentation is to to think intently about your audience and identify one key piece of information that will be of service to them, one unifying concept – a theme that pulls everything together and that the audience is there to know about – and make sure that your presentation builds to explore and flesh out that concept.

It’s easy to get lost in a bunch of ideas you have that you want to communicate. Always bring it back to what the audience needs to know and make that your North Star.

Allison Cheston,

Treat your presentation like a rock concert. Start strong and finish strong, so that your audience wants to hear more. When I was in law school, Nancy and I went to an Ike and Tina Turner concert. Tina Turner’s first song was I Want to Take You Higher. Her last song before the encore was Proud Mary. Fast forward to 2000 and Tina Turner’s One Last Time Live in Concert at Wembley Stadium. Her first song was I Want to Take You Higher and her last song before the encore was Proud Mary.

My top advice is to start strong and end strong. Use the first 90 seconds to capture your audience. During those 90 seconds the people in the room are asking: “What’s in this for me?” You have to answer that question. To end strong, don’t say are there any questions. End with some type of call to action. Answer the question you hope your audience is asking: “What should I do now?”

Cordell Parvin,

Getting the chance to do a presentation especially a public presentation in front of a large audience can be both exciting and induce nervousness at the same time. The key to doing a great job is to prepare well. The more prepared you are the greater your level of confidence.

Good preparation includes the following steps: writing down important material on slides and becoming well versed with the key points that you want to address, anticipating a few questions beforehand and figuring out how to answer, dressing in comfortable clothing, testing the equipment you will be using, familiarizing yourself with the presentation venue or room, getting to the venue in good time, carrying a bottle of water with you, talking to a few of the participants before the presentation, reminding yourself to slow down and smile, even if you stumble on your words be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and keep going.

After each presentation do a post-mortem of what went well, what didn’t go well and use these learning points to improve your future presentations. Finally, the more presentations you do, the better you become at delivering them.

Duncan Muguku,

We’ve seen some amazing Winning Well communication from rock star leaders. And sadly, we’ve also experienced a few town hall meetings and presentations that, despite best intentions, turned into a colossal waste of time and expense.
What makes the difference?
Of course, including a few slides on the state of the business is important. Your team wants that kind of transparency. But resist the urge to pontificate on all the details. Work to simplify the messaging and focus on the “so what?” What do you want them to do to move the needle? How can they make an impact on the bottom line? Be as specific as possible in terms of needed behaviors.

Karin Hurt,

People remember stories more than stats, facts and figures. Use stories that resonate with your audience to illustrate your main points. This will help you to connect with your audience quickly and keep them engaged.

Janine Esbrand,

My advice would be to know what the goal or learning outcome of the presentation is before you get started, this includes creating an outline and defining what the learning objective is for each section. I have also found that when using PowerPoint or Google Presentations the suggestions regarding format have really made my visual presentation a lot more interesting.

Jasmine Briggs,

My top piece of advice for creating presentations is to think first about the experience you want the audience to have. What emotions do you want them to feel? What conclusions do you want them to draw? If the presentation went as great as you could expect it to go, what would the outcome be?
In other words, start first with your intention. The answers to these questions will help you fill in the blanks about what kind of visual components you need, what modality you will use to convey your content, and how the room should be set up.

Karen Huller, CCTC, CPRW, CCHt,

My best piece of advice is about confidence: Remember that you probably know more about this subject than anyone else in the room. Therefore, you will be providing big value when you speak.

Carolyn Couch,

As a Project Manager and someone who is active in B2B sales, I have done quite a few presentations and can share a few pieces of wisdom. Top of the list – in terms of the BEST piece of advice – is to make it fun and make people laugh REGARDLESS of your industry or occupation. Sell the performance. “If you loosen the crowd up, they will enjoy it more and you will become more comfortable and confident in your delivery. I teach others to think of their performance like they want to win an academy award – sell it, not just the content on the slides.” – John Waite
Tell a joke or do something funny. It’s how I start ALL my presentations – even if someone is transitioning a section to me. Example: If I am the last one to speak I might say, “Well, they save the best for last, right?” … If I am starting things off, “Is everyone here for the discussion on the history of ______ “. Make it make sense or contextual for your group where you will get a laugh.
Other tips:
* Never memorize a presentation
* Don’t spend more than 2 – 3 minutes on any one slide (and never read FROM the slide)

John Waite, Founder of

Keep it simple!  Don’t include too many bullets and text on the slides. Don’t READ the slides verbatim. People know how to read. Engage your audience and keep them involved with stories – allow them to participate and become part of the engagement model. That will keep them inspired and interested in your content and in YOU!

Deb Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC,

It is very important you rehearse with a stop-watch, as most candidates try to fit in too much. Most recruitment presentations I’ve seen require a 10-miunute presentation and you’re not likely to be able to get through more than 5 slides during this time.

Margaret Buj,