The Confident Club’s top ten tips for creating high impact presentations


Presentations start long before you stand up to speak. Mental preparation is at least as important as physical rehearsal. The key to success is positive visualisation – picture yourself delivering a powerful and effective presentation. Master communicators also have a set of beliefs to help them, such as ‘you don’t have to be perfect you just have to be you’ and ‘there’s no such thing as failure, just the chance to learn’.

2. Exit

The most important part of your presentation is the end. That’s what people remember so don’t run out of steam before you get there. When you’re preparing, allow enough time to plan a big finish – and deliver it like you mean it.

3. Entry

The second most important part is the beginning. Don’t start by going through housekeeping. Ideally, get someone else to introduce you and make sure that you start by getting your audience’s attention.

4. Once upon a time

People like a good story. They want to know what happens next and, if it’s good, will pass it on. This makes personal stories a brilliant device. Plus you don’t have to remember what you’re going to say because it actually happened to you. It’s also a useful way of thinking about your presentation as a whole – what’s your story and what’s its point?

5. The kit kat

Make your audience wait. It’s your show so take your time and remember to take a break. Silence can be more dramatic than turning the volume up, so use it.

6. The drill

Remember to use pace – speed up and slow down. It’s important to create change for your audience and varying the tempo is a good way of achieving this.

7. The hammer

Don’t mutter a great point. Emphasise your words, but make sure that they’re the right words. Changing the emphasis can change the meaning so think not only about what you’re saying but also how you say it.

8. Touchy feely Only

7% of communication is what you actually say, 38% is tone of voice and 55% is physiology (original study Birtwhistle and Mahrabian).This is why using your voice and the right body language is so important. Props are powerful visual tools as they’re tangible and hit people between the eyes.

9. The right technology

Making a presentation isn’t about rushing to PowerPoint to write thirty slides of text-heavy bullet points. Technology can play a role however, especially if you use it for pictures rather than words. There are some sexy interactive tools out there which allow you to deliver leading edge presentations but still retain the personal touch. Plus if you want to get really inter active get your audience to tweet you during your presentation with their own contributions.

10. Look who’s talking

Presenting is about getting your personality across whether you’re in a room with one person, 100 people, or for that matter, several hundred people. Be confident about who you are and let it shine.

Confidence Trick – Get a role model

On our workshops we talk about having a magic mentor or role model and always encourage delegates to go away and study other brilliant communicators (but of course now with the advantage of noticing the techniques that before the workshop they weren’t consciously aware of).

Above – Leon judging on ITV’s Splash.

I once asked my good friend the retired high board diver, and one of the judges on the TV show “Splash”, Leon Taylor could he remember when he’d first decided that he wanted to compete at the Olympics. He said he could remember it clearly. He was seven years old and watching the TV with his Dad. On the screen came the image of a man stood on a podium. He was whistling the national anthem. Leon asked his Dad “who is that, what is he stood on and why is he whistling?” his dad said “Son that is Daley Thompson, he’s stood on the top of that because he has just won an Olympic Gold medal and the reason he his whistling is to stop himself crying because he is so proud”. Leon says it was at that exact moment he decided he’d like to go to the Olympics and win a medal too. And of course he did with silver in Athens.

So it should come as no surprise that one of the young diver Tom Daley’s mentors is Leon Taylor.

I highly recommend Leon’s book “Mentor” based on his experience of helping Tom and others develop amongst many other things mental toughness and confidence.

Talking of Daley this also got me thinking about Daley Thompson and what he had to say about confidence. His mental approach comes down to the viewpoint: “That I’m good at it until proved otherwise”. Most people he believes, approach things from the opposite end, feeling that they’re probably not going to be very good and hoping for a lucky surprise. Approaching everything you take on in the confident belief that you will excel is very different from the way in which most people face challenges. That’s what Daley Thompson does, that’s what Leon Taylor does, my question for you to consider is “do you?”

For find out more about Leon Taylor visit:

Confidence Trick – Ask a high quality question

A really quick way to change how you feel is to change your focus and a great way to change your focus is to ask yourself a great question. So next time something occurs to damage your confidence use one or all of the following high quality questions;

“What can I find that is good in this situation?

“What have I learned from this that will make me more successful next time?”

“How can I make this situation better?”

“What’s great about this problem?”

“How can I use this?”

Or maybe best of all “Am I enjoying this thought?” if the answer is a resounding “No” then change it to something more helpful (by the way you do know you have the power to do this don’t you? – it is your thought after all!)

Confidence Trick – Get a confident chum

My son Tom has a best mate called Andy. Andy rang Tom late one night last week saying he’s just had an enormous argument with his Mum. Things had quickly escalated to the point where Andy has said something untoward and as a result he’d been sent to his room (which is where he was ringing from.) Andy told Tom that he felt really angry and upset but didn’t know what to do. Tom immediately said that really it was no big deal and why didn’t Andy do what Tom had done when faced with the same situation and simply go and apologise. It had been hard to do at first (Because like a lot of teenagers Tom felt he was in the right) but he found that saying sorry to his Mum cleared the air. The conversation gave Andy that little bit of confidence he needed to take action. He took Tom’s advice, apologised to his mum, and rang Tom back a few minutes later to say it had led on to him having a brilliant conversation about loads of things and he now felt really good about it.

So next time you are a little unsure or lacking a bit of confidence why not speak to someone you trust about what they might do in your situation and what worked for them.

The good news is if you are a member of The Confident Club (you get free membership once you’ve completed one of our workshops) you can speak to us any time. It might be an idea on how to open your next presentation or a simple technique to further boost your confidence.

Confidence Trick – Focus on how you want the audience to feel

Whether you are planning a presentation, or even thinking about a phone call you are about to make, a great question to ask yourself is “How do I want them to feel when I start to speak and have finished speaking?”. Too often we put all the emphasis on the facts when it’s the feelings that will be remembered for far longer. Of course if all you present are the facts, especially with the use of hundreds of PowerPoint slides, then the feeling you are guaranteed to leave behind will be mind numbing boredom.

Let’s say you are about to run a training session. One thing you would want to consider is what kind of mood or state would it be good for people to be in when they are learning something. There are many you could choose but perhaps curiosity would be one of the most useful. So how do you get an audience to feel curious? Easy, you tell them a story that demonstrates that emotion (and you know how keen we are at the Confident Club on the power of telling a good story). You might start by saying “I don’t know if you can remember a time when you were really curious? This will immediately get them to go inside their minds to the ‘memory file’ marked curiosity. It’s also really important that as you tell the story you yourself display the emotion in not just the words you use but your tone of voice and even physiology.

One of my favourite definitions of leadership is the transfer of emotion. It’s also a great way to think about presentations. So next time you get up to speak what emotion will you be transferring?

Also when you 100% focus on how you want the audience to feel you forget to think about how you are feeling which is how it should be!

Confidence Trick – Use music to change your mood

You may have heard of Pavlov’s dogs or conditioned response. Something happens and it makes you feel a certain way. Stimulus followed by response. For example if, out of the blue, a colleague says “You are doing the presentation to a thousand people” how would that make you instantly feel? Excited, eager, proud? Or scared, fearful and worried? (If it’s the latter you might like to sign up for one of our workshops).

The point is how can you use this in built stimulus and response mechanism to your advantage, in a planned way, next time you want or need to feel really good? I suggest you find a piece of music that you already associate with a really happy time in your life. Something that every time you hear it just makes you feel great. Stick it on your iPod or a CD and play it just before you need to perform. I know from speaking to former diver Leon Taylor and other top flight sportsmen and women most use this simple but incredibly effective confidence trick to help get them into a resourceful state (The All Blacks ‘Haka’ is an extreme example).

By the way in case you are wondering mine is a wonderful piece of Northern Soul called ‘Better Use Your Head’ by Little Anthony and The Imperials.

Confidence Trick – Look up

Look Up.

It’s impossible to feel down when you are looking up. This is because when we are talking to ourselves, not feeling confident, or accessing our feelings we instinctively look down to the ground. It’s something everyone does but you may never have noticed before. So next time you need to boost your confidence look up to the ceiling with your eyes and for good measure put a massive smile on your face (even if you have to fake it until you make it). You will quickly feel in a much better mood.

Confidence Trick – If in doubt, be loud

Neil Mullarkey, a friend of mine, is a stand-up comedian, actor and founding member of The Comedy Store Players, an improvisation troupe who literally make the show up on the spot from suggestions shouted out by the audience – a bit like the TV show Whose line is it anyway? If you are the least bit fearful about giving presentations, can you imagine walking out onto stage without having any idea what you are going to say?

I asked Neil how he did it. He said, “Well apart from doing it every Wednesday and Sunday for over twenty five years, which helps, the advice I give anyone doing it for the first time is: if in doubt be loud. You see, when people are lacking in confidence they tend to speak in a quiet, faltering voice. It’s almost a physical thing, where being nervous makes the voice box constrict. I can talk utter rubbish on stage but still come across as confident just by projecting my voice”

So here’s a great tip: next time you are speaking in a meeting, or giving a presentation, and want to feel more confident, project your voice a little more than you would in normal conversation. This will help in two ways. You’ll fool your body and brain that you are feeling confident (because that’s how you sound when you are), and you’ll fool the audience because, on unconscious level, they’ll pick up the signals a confident person sends out.

For more information on Neil Mullarkey visit:

Confidence Trick – Act “as if”

Cary Grant (who was born Archie Leech) said “I pretended to be Cary Grant until I became him or he became me” this is a great technique next time you need a shot of confidence.

For example I was once asked to be a presenter on a sales video being filmed in an electrical superstore. Now this called for me to use an autocue for the first time (this is where the words appear in the camera, so you can read them without it looking like you are reading – just like news readers use). On the day of the shoot several things conspired to make me feel very uncomfortable and nervous. Firstly, no one told me the store would be open and would be full of customers, all staring at me. Secondly, just before we shot the first scene, the director asked me if I could make sure I hit all my marks. These were places marked on the floor to indicate where I should stop and, for instance, casually lean on a washing machine (the challenge with this is to do it without looking at the floor). Then he added, could I deliver my lines without my Yorkshire accent as the client didn’t like it. (Now this is a bit like casting Arnold Schwarzenegger and asking him to sound like Laurence Olivier.) And of course can I still do all this without it looking like I’m reading and have never used an autocue before.

So, as I stood there waiting for them to shout ‘Action’ I thought ‘Who do I know who is outstanding at doing this?’ Carol Vorderman immediately pops into mind (if you don’t know who Carol is, you have obviously never watched any British TV programme – she is in most of them). I know Carol in person, which helps, and have seen her many times on TV using autocue. I imagined stepping inside Carol’s body (not an unpleasant thought). As I did this I felt like I was looking out through her eyes and experiencing what was happening as she would experience it. Why did this help? Well, the first thing I thought was, ‘I’m the great Carol Vorderman, why aren’t more people looking at me?’ and ‘Is this all they want me to do?, what a breeze, I’ll get this in one take.’ That helped me relax and get through without appearing an inexperienced idiot.

So if you’ve never done something before just act ‘as if’ you have. Pretend to be someone else, over and over again. You may end up being as good as them. Or as Milton Erikson said ‘pretend you can do something then master it’