Better Public Speaking


Public speaking is becoming an integral skill across most career paths. With the success of organisations such as TED and the importance of online multi-media, quality oratory has been thrust to the fore as a mark of leadership, management and success. To this end, our learning professionals have combed the information landscape seeking the best tips and suggestions for nailing a talk or presentation.

Making Slides

1. Understand your audience. What you say, and how you say it will be influenced by who you're speaking to. 

2. Identify your location/language. Is it overseas or domestic? Be sensitive to cultural and language differences.  

3. Flow is important. Write your talk out first in bullet points, to be later weaved into a flowing story.

4. Creatively use images to convey your point (not just random "fun" images). Audiences can both see and hear your talk. Google image search (and filter labelled for reuse) is your friend.

5. Use a consistent, standard font that is not Comic Sans. Multiple different fonts is a design "no, no".

6. Don't write an essay. Keep your slides simple and go into details using your voice. Less is more, and this keeps their attention on you.

7. Use spell check. Nothing is more distracting to an audience than a spelling mistake!


8. Rehearse the flow of your presentation and time yourself. And leave time for questions at the end.

9. Make sure disaster doesn't strike on the day, and have multiple backups of your presentation (on a flash drive and/or in the cloud, i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive).

10. Identify whether you have any annoying speech habits, like a word you use too much or stumble over (rehearse those away!).

11. Beware of unprofessional faux pas, such as giving your audience a view of your computer's desktop (use a blank slide). Try and keep their vision seamless and undistracted.

Just Before

12. Arrive early and make sure all your technology works, and get a feel for the location.

13. Make sure that nothing on your computer will jump up as an alert during your presentation (close or switch off alerts, e.g.  Facebook, Windows Update etc).

14. Ensure your device is plugged in or running on full battery (you don't want to have to stop to plug in).

15. Use your phone to track your time (stop watch app) and place it within your view for quick time reference. Don't rely on others to time you.

16. Come with material to hand out, including plenty of business cards etc. You might not be able to stick around, but your material certainly can.


17. Open your presentation with a confident and slightly confronting statement or question. Avoid unsure language like, "I hope this goes well" or expressing your nervousness.

18. Humour is great, but any humour at another's expense (even against yourself) should be avoided. It can only serve to undermine your presentation.

19. The temptation can be to read your slides and speak while looking at them, but avoid this like the plague. Always speak to the audience directly, and stop only to glance briefly at your material. 

20. Avoid "umms" or "ahhs" when you pause. Train yourself to stay silent if you require a pause to think, which is hard because it's intuitive to fill periods of silence.

21. Feel free to move around, but keep it natural, and avoid swaying or shuffling woodenly in one spot.

22. If you need a drink of water mid-presentation, choose a good moment to do so that doesn't ruin the flow.


23. Engage in conversation with the audience afterwards. It's a networking opportunity, and also the chance to delve into and drive home your points in clarification.

24. Ask others what they liked and what they would have liked to see more of from you. 

25. Try and get more opportunities to speak and present, even outside your sphere of influence. Practice makes perfect!

26. Talk to the event organisers as to their feedback. They can be an ally in future speaking opportunities and testimonials.

Peter Smith, eLearning Librarian