Top Tips for Tip-Top Presentations

presenting tips

One of the main benefits of all the technology that surrounds us these days is that it allows us to do things that would have been outsourced in the past. And when you’re running a start-up or a small business on a shoestring it makes sense to go down the DIY route for all sort of requirements – your branding, design & print and your presentations for example.

And as someone who helps people to use slides well I have to be super-diplomatic when I’m talking to businesses who’ve decided to make their own slides and whose slides suck.

When people have invested their own time and energy into something, they’re always going to think it’s great.

How you present your company is so important and doing it right can help you stand out from the competition. So here are a few top tips to help you to produce tip-top presentations that will be engaging, empowering and effective.


I know what you’re thinking. What the heck has a sample of rice got to do with presenting? Well, they are both acronyms that will help you to outline your presentation and to determine when to use (and when not to use) slides.

Firstly, I’d say don’t go anywhere near a computer or PowerPoint when starting a presentation. Answer these questions:

  • S – Subject. What are you talking about?
  • A – Audience. Who are you talking to?
  • M – Message. What do you want that audience to do, think or feel after your presentation?
  • P – Place. Where are you speaking?
  • L – Length. How long are you speaking for?
  • E – Execution. How will you combine the answers to the above 5 questions to execute your presentation?

Then map out your presentation using this suggested structure:

  • Introduction – Strong opening and WIIFM (What’s in It For Me? i.e. the audience)
  • Main point 1 (with up to three sub-points)
  • Main point 2 (with up to three sub-points)
  • Main point 3 (with up to three sub-points)
  • Conclusion – Summary and call to action (tell them what you want them to do as a result of your talk)

What about RICE? This takes us down to a more granular level (if you’ll pardon the pun!) It stands for:

  • R – Reinforce
  • I – Illustrate
  • C – Clarify
  • E – Explain

If you’ve got a point that you’re making in your presentation that needs to be reinforced, illustrated, clarified or explained by the use of a visual then it’s a good candidate for firing up your laptop, opening PowerPoint and producing the slide.

Here are some examples of this;

doleful dog

This slide reinforces the point that is being made as the doleful dog stares out as his owner deserts him. (Note that no dogs were actually harmed in the production of that slide!)

Henry gold braid

If I was talking about the quality of the gold braid in the curtains behind Henry VIII in Hans Holbein’s famous portrait then you’re probably going to be thinking – show us a picture then. This is an example of illustrating a point that is being made.


This slide is part of an animated sequence showing the relationship between Earth and Jupiter and shows that the Earth would fit iton Jupiter’s great red spot three times over. You could tell someone this without a slide, but the use of the slide clarifies the point.

Electricity generation

And this slide explains a point that is being made. Again, part of a sequence, it takes the audience through the five stages of electricity generation.

And here’s an important consideration. If you are making a point in your presentation that doesn’t need to be reinforced, illustrated, clarified or explained, then simply let the screen go black so that the audience concentrates on you and what you are saying.

Using images

The use of images in presentations is so important and can help increase their effectiveness. Here are a few quickfire tips to help you get the best from using images.

Things to avoid when using images

Let’s get these out of the way first. These are the things you should steer clear of;

Clichéd images

This sort of image – the boring boardroom shot which to me is the visual equivalent of bullet points.

boring boardroom


There’s nothing wrong with using cartoons but this kind of simplistic clip ‘art’ really has no place in a business presentation.


3D stick men

OK, I’ll admit it’s a personal bugbear but these 3D blobby men seem to get everywhere!

blobby stick men

Low-resolution images

There’s no excuse to use bad quality images. There are so many sources of free and cheap stock images such as Pixabay, Unsplash (both free) and Shutterstock (which has over 300 million images!)

low res

And finally, theft

Remember, Google Images is not a free stock image site and getting caught using copyrighted images can be expensive both to your pocket and your reputation.

What makes a good image?

Think about if your image meets any or some of the criteria above. The last point is important and this is where RICE can come back into play. Does the use of a particular image help to reinforce, illustrate, clarify or explain the point you are making?

An example

Here’s a typical bad slide that you might find in any standard presentation;

camera slide

It’s the five features of a camera with a small, pointless picture of the camera at bottom right. The speaker will read the points from the screen and the audience will be reading point 5 when the speaker is still on point 2. So, what should you do instead?

Take a look at the slide below. It takes the first point in the bulleted list and uses just three words with a large image to illustrate the display which the presenter can now talk around.

good camera slide

It’s the way that Steve Jobs would always present when launching a new Apple product. It would then be followed by the other four points with a similarly big image illustrating those particular features.

Slides v Handouts

If you hear a presenter say “Don’t worry, I’ve made all of these slides available as a handout”, you’re also likely to hear an audible groan if I’m in the audience. What this means is that either their slides won’t work or their handouts won’t work. Or, more likely, both.

This is one of the biggest points I make in my slide presentation workshops:

If your slides work as handouts, then they don’t work as slides.

Your slides are ephemeral. They are only there to support the audience for the time you are presenting and to work to enhance what you are saying during the presentation.

Your handouts can contain much more information as the audience can take them away and read them at their leisure. This is where you can put your text and bullet points. A good mantra is to aim towards zero bullet points on your slides.

It will mean more work for you, yes, but it will make your communication work for your audience and ensure your message gets across.


Giving some serious thought to your presentation before going anywhere near a computer and then producing great slides that work just for your presentation will position your company above the competition and help you to stand out as well as making sure your message hits home.

I wish you luck!

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by David Henson, a member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches communication and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. With 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland, you can find your local club at

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You can find lots more tips to help you deliver winning presentations and pitches in these other ByteStart guides;

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