More Presentation Zen – Six More Tips For Presentation Mastery

Posted by

Six Pixels of Separation has been getting lots of link love and attention courtesy of Garr Reynolds. Garr is the author of the amazing book, Presentation Zen, and has a Blog by the same name. I had a conversation with Garr in episode #102 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast (which was posted yesterday), and Garr followed up with an overly exceptional and nice Blog posting, Six Pixels of Separation: A Conversation About Presentations. So, I’d like to welcome all Presentation Zen followers. I hope you’ll stick around or subscribe and follow us in your feeds.

In yesterday’s episode of Six Pixels of Separation, there was a special Six Points of Separation titled, Six Ways To Presentation Zen, where Garr walked through his top six most important rules to creating (and delivering) a great presentation.

I thought I would take this opportunity to drop a six more tips in terms of body language that may (or may not) seem obvious (in no particular order):

1.  Leaning – a common thing you might see a speaker do when presenting is to lean on the podium. Don’t do this. As a speaker you may think it gives off the body language of "hey, I’m relaxed, and we’re just chatting here," but it really does make the person look lazy (watch for this next time someone presents).

2. Pockets – keep your hands out of them. What might seem like a common gesture, looks really, really bad from the audiences perspective. I’m not sure why. Maybe it gives off a more "closed" message, but keep your hands out of your pockets. Same goes for crossing your arms… also a no no.

3. Back – don’t turn it away from the audience. It might seem crazy, but watch how actors "work" the stage. Even when the move from side to side, they shuffle instead of turning their backs to the audience. It’s an obvious one, but watch others presenting, and you’ll see how often it gets done… and how bad it looks.

4. Third wall – this is when you are looking at people, but not really making eye contact. Have you ever been to a concert, and you would swear that the lead singer is staring right at you (for the record, everyone in your sections thinks the same thing). That, particular, lead singer was good at making eye contact. If you look at the audience but don’t really make eye contact, that’s the third wall… and people can tell. If you do this, you will not connect with your audience. Other bad eye movements – don’t look at the floor, off to the side, etc… make (and keep) eye contact. Not enough to be creepy, but keep your focus on someone for one thought, or until you finish a sentence. Don’t break eye contact mid-sentence either… that’s like the third wall.

5. Podiums – ditch them. There’s nothing worse than watching a speaker cling on to either side of podium like they are stuck in the middle of the ocean, and that podium is the life preserver. You don’t (or shouldn’t) need a podium to clutch on to. Know your content, know your story and speak from your heart.

6. Reading – don’t do it. Reading a speech sounds like you’re… well, reading a speech. If you can avoid doing this, I would recommend it. I recently watched the head of a very large corporation in Canada speak passionately (without a podium or written speech). He used great images with sayings at the bottom of each slide that acted as his guide. You could tell that his employees were loyal, listening and engaged. It’s hard enough to read a speech and sound convincing when you’re a trained actor, so imagine how the majority of read speeches comes off? I know this is something that is sometimes, necessary, but – whenever possible – don’t read… speak.

I’d also recommend smiling – but not if it’s inappropriate. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid to emote, smile and even laugh (where appropriate).

Did I miss any? Do you have more? Please share.


  1. These are great tips – ones that are often not mentioned. As a public speaker who strives to learn and improve each time I speak, I work hard at doing all of the things. Some items are easier to master than others.
    I have not listened to Ep 102 yet, so I’ll save my tips for now, except tol add that “be yourself” is always good advice.

  2. I would add one more point. I have seen people apologize, make excuses (e.g. “this is the first time I’ve done this presentation, so I guess we’ll see how it goes..”) or otherwise signal lack of confidence at th e beginning of a presentation. The speaker might as well tell the audience “Stop listening now; I have nothing worthwhile to say.” Even if someone is speaking in less than ideal circumstances, he or she should never look for the easy cop-out.

  3. John – that is a great one. I once saw a person get up in front of several thousand paid attendees and say, “I’m not a professional speaker…” and you could feel the air in the venue get sucked out.
    I think people do this as a way to live with themselves in case it doesn’t work out. Sort of like an, “I warned you!”
    You’re right… it’s terrible.

  4. I know most of the time people dont realize they are doing this but try to stop saying the same word over and over. Here are a 2 words I always hear
    1. Basically
    2. Absolutely- this I usually hear during the Q & A period. Does anyone agree this word is over used? Unless you are positively sure- nothing is absolute

  5. Good tips!!! Thanks.
    Would like to add a few minor tips:
    1.Hand clasping- Negative body language
    2.Excessive movement- of hands or shuffling around distracts audience
    3. Blowing into the mike- looks rather rude, tapping with fingertips is more stylish!!

Comments are closed.