There Be Dragons – Presentation Skills

The new season of Dragon’s Den is upon us, (for those reading this in the USA that would be Shark Tank to you) and we have new dragons, very exciting. I am always dumbfound by those people who go in and not know their numbers or the answers to the very basic questions, it is almost as if they have never seen the show before, basic preparation people.

I train lots of people to present and whilst many trainers focus their attention on the presentation itself, I choose a different approach. By addressing the psychological effects of the process; before, during and after presenting one can really get to the bottom of things, dispelling myths, laying waste to personal fears and making sure that the most important thing about the presentation is perfect. That being, the presenter.

Controlling the Material

When people come to me for help, it is very important to get them to understand that the presentation must have a specific outcome.

  • To inform – The results of a campaign for example
  • To educate – Such as a new way to present
  • To persuade – Used in Sales to convince someone to buy
  • To change opinion – Often found in politics

I am sure there are others but having an outcome helps to set a course for the presentation and focus the material and the presenter’s mindset. Think about when you want questions asked and tell the audience at the beginning when this will happen. Prepare before the presentation by creating an FAQ. This will help you to anticipate many of the questions you will get, demonstrating good preparation. If you commit them to paper with the answers you have an instant handout and takeaway for your audience.

Make sure you rehearse

  1. Start by presenting to the mirror and hold eye contact with yourself, it can feel awkward but do not worry it is good practice.
  2. Next present to an audience made up of friends or colleagues as them to offer honest constructive feedback
  3. If you do not have an audience make one. I use magazine covers with faces on them placed on chairs, that way I can get a sense of the real things.
  4. Record you presentation on your phone or ipad before and watch yourself back, this is brilliant practice
  5. Do all of the above, remember fail to prepare you prepare to fail, cliché I know but very true.

Controlling the Environment

It is a good idea to find out what the room will be like prior to presenting. Make sure technology works, including clickers and pointers, lighting, temperature speakers and adapters for different laptops or devices.

Set up the room appropriately. Cabaret style around tables is nice for informality, where as cinema style creates a more formal environment. More formal still is the boardroom table format and most casual is the horseshoe or circle. See what works.

Make sure you have notes and handouts available at the end of your presentation, never before as attendees will just read through them while you speak.

Controlling the Audience

There are lots of different personalities amongst the audience; I like to think of them in three ways.

  • People who want to be there.
  • People who have been told to be there
  • People who are paying you to be there

By establishing the priority reason for being there, it is possible to anticipate certain behaviours that can come from the audience.

  • The Cynic – Always ask them for their suggestion for an alternative, make them feel included
  • The Nit Picker – Focus on what is truly important to them and ask why without confrontation
  • The Power Tripper – Give them the floor, sit down when they speak but look for openings to take back the stage
  • The Underminer – remove any elements that can be used against you or to under mine you, be sure of facts and figures and have evidence to hand
  • The Butterfly Mind – Make sure you keep to the focus of this person’s attention before it flits to another subject.
  • The Expert – If they are genuinely more expert than you, include them or even speak to them before and ask them to contribute, therefore avoiding confrontation and creating support
  • The Hider – Do not show them up, keep them included by using gestures of inclusion and eye contact, do not engage them unless you have a group discussion going on.
  • The Apathetic – They don’t care, not about you or the material, so give them a reason to be there and make it personal to them. They will soon sit up and take notice.

Controlling the Stress

It is inevitable that nerves and stress will kick in. This is perfectly natural and ideally a presenter should welcome it as part of the process. After all, actors get stage fright and would worry if they didn’t!

Dealing with stress can be helped in some simple ways.

  • Avoid any dairy on the day of the presentation, it creates mucus and can make you catch your words in your throat. Clear fluids especially black tea with lemon.
  • Learn to relax your facial muscles using tongue twisters to help get them moving. Say them loud, say them quiet, say them fast, say them slow but above all say them over and over.
  • Vowel sounds, AEIOU say them three times each in order out loud then do it again but with an ‘H’ in front of them so HA HE HI HO HU, do this three times over three times per sound, so HA HA HA, HE HE HE, HI HI HI, HO HO HO and HU HU HU, see? These are laughter sounds and when you laugh, you relax the muscles in your chest.
  • Throwing up, it happens deal with it and do not worry about it.
  • Shake your body out, go for a run or swim, this will keep you supple and relaxed and stop you twitching and fiddling.
  • Have something to hold, either a pen, or a clicker it stops you putting your hands in your pockets or fussing.
  • Make sure you feel your feet in your shoes; this will help you stay planted on the spot and stop your legs fidgeting. Oh and on that watch your audiences feet too if you can, if they fidget with their feet, then they have had enough.

Post Event

Once your presentation has been delivered, look for feedback, on the material, on you and on anything else that is important. If you have been recorded then even better as you can see what you look and sound like and correct any errors for further presentations and improve on those things you did really well.

Do not worry if you made mistakes, everybody does, and often people in the audience are none the wiser. Just don’t do it again, but if you do, then you do, just accept it and move on.

Delivering a presentation can be daunting, but these simple tips can help you, it is as simple as ABC, in presenting this stands for Assured, Believable and Converted.   If you sound assured then your audience will be assured, therefore you come across as believable and credible. Get this right you will then covert the audience to the outcome you built the presentation around, that being to Inform, Educate, Persuade and Change Opinion.

Now, over to you, are you ready for your close up?

Thank you for reading this ramble. This blog forms part of the Presenting Magically Presentation Skills Course offered by Simon Hares SerialTrainer7. To find out more about this course or to book please call Simon on 07979 537824 or email

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