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How to Present: 7 Steps to "Own" Your Deck

Categories: Persuasive Speaking, Business Presentations

Whether you are delivering a presentation that you designed yourself – or a message created by someone else – your role as a presenter is to bring the message to life for your audience. When you take ownership of your presentation, you are able to emphasize the key points, use transitions to create a smooth narrative flow, incorporate examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points, and plan a powerful opening and conclusion.

You can also want to build in opportunities for audience interaction, anticipate questions you may get, and consider your overall timing based on content, interaction, and Q&A.

Follow these seven steps to take ownership of your slide deck and deliver an engaging – even inspiring – presentation:

1. Develop a Strong Introduction

Your audience members can easily be distracted by their own thoughts: the events of the morning, what to cook for dinner, their growing to-do list. If you want to get their attention, your presentation should open in a way that will generate immediate interest.

How can you cut through the noise and grab the audience’s attention?

● Start with a question and poll the audience.

● Offer a thought-provoking piece of information.

● Share a quick but compelling story.

● Start with a quote.

What’s in it for Them (WIIFT)?

Once you have their attention, show them how their continued attention is going to pay off. If they continue to listen to your message – rather than succumbing to distractions – there is something valuable in it for them.

Demonstrate that you can follow through on this promise by establishing your credibility as a source of information and expertise. For more details, review our earlier blog on “How to Start a Presentation.”

2. Identify the Key Messages

Your audience will only remember a few points from your presentation – and that’s if you present effectively! What is most important for them to remember? As the presenter, you decide which key points to emphasize and reinforce.

When you create your own presentation, you can put a single important idea on one slide. But what happens when someone else created the presentation and put way too much information on each slide? Direct your audience to what is most important. Use a combination of verbal and visual direction to emphasize the key point on each slide. Doing this will enable you to deliver a meaningful and memorable presentation.

3. Know the Structure & Plan Your Transitions

Knowing and understanding your presentation’s structure will enable you to introduce the agenda in the beginning and describe the flow of the presentation. During your introduction, you’ll be able to provide a concise preview of the content that gives your audience a road map to follow along.

During the presentation, develop smooth transitions between each section and each slide to ensure a continuous narrative flow.

We’ve all seen presentations where each slide seems to be a surprise to the presenter. These transitions usually sound something like: “Oh! And now we’ll move on to…” Or the endless repetition of, “And, next… and next… and next…”

You may have found yourself in this position before. Without understanding the structure of the presentation, it’s difficult to help the audience understand how each piece fits together. Make sure the flow of the presentation makes sense to you so that you can bring your audience along on the journey with meaningful connections between each piece of content.

4. Create Moments of Interaction

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” In other words, telling your audience your message isn’t always enough. In some situations, you may need to invite your audience to interact with the information you’ve shared. For example, if you share data about the percentage of patients that are compliant with their treatment plan, you may want your audience members to consider how many of their patients are getting the full effect of their treatments. This approach really brings your data to life.

When preparing your presentation, identify places where it would be meaningful to interact with your audience. Interaction could include polling, open-ended questions, an opportunity to ask you questions, or even to ask each other questions. Just be sure to take timing into consideration when you plan moments of interaction. How long will your planned interaction take? How will you bring the audience back to the presentation?

If you plan your interaction effectively, it will help to reinforce your key points and increase your audience’s engagement!

5. Anticipate Questions

As you review your slide deck, try to place yourself in the shoes of your audience. Consider what knowledge they already have about the topic and what might be new to them. Is any part of your presentation particularly complex or confusing? What questions did you have personally when you were first learning this information? Are there parts of the presentation that might cause disagreement or conflict with pre-existing ideas?

By asking yourself these questions, you can begin to anticipate what questions your audience may have. Be prepared to answer these questions if they come up. You may also want to pre-empt certain questions – especially challenging questions. If you know some audience members have a specific concern with your message, acknowledge the concern and then provide a resolution or alternate perspective.

Of course, you probably can’t anticipate every question that’s going to come your way. Consider your response to unexpected questions! Some possible responses to unexpected questions include:

  • Offering to research the information and send it (by a specific date) after your presentation
  • Opening the question up to another expert in the room
  • Acknowledging that a question is outside your scope of expertise

Anticipating questions will help prevent those awkward moments when someone catches you off-guard. Instead, you can be prepared for any scenario – even unexpected questions.

6. Time Management

There’s no better way to leave a bad impression than to rush through the end of your presentation because you did not time it properly. When your presentation begins, it can feel like you have an endless amount of time – but if you allow your agenda to run off course, that time will quickly disappear when you need it most. The next strategy – a strong conclusion – is where you have the chance to powerfully reinforce the key ideas of your presentation. Without proper time management, you may never get that chance.

Enough said about the importance of time management! How do you do it?
  • Practice your presentation at the same speed you will deliver it to your actual audience so you can see how long each part takes.
  • Based on your anticipated timing, determine in advance when to take note of the time at multiple points throughout the presentation.
  • Consider what parts of your presentation you can edit out if something throws you off schedule. For example, you are scheduled to start at 1 pm, but everyone does not get seated until 1:15 pm – and you still need to finish by 2 pm. What will you cut out?
  • Allot adequate time for any planned moments of interaction. This part is often where your timing can go off-track. Also, consider how you will reign in the discussion if it starts going on too long.

7. Develop a Strong Conclusion

Your conclusion may remind the audience of your key points and may also include a “call to action.” Is there anything you want your audience to do after hearing your presentation? Now is the time to tell them!

For a strong conclusion, follow these steps:

  • Summarize and reinforce your key points.
  • Decide whether or not to take final questions. These questions will follow your review but precede your closing message.
  • Craft a closing message that leaves the audience with an idea or a “call to action.”

Remember, your closing message is the last thing your audience will hear, so make sure you save it until after the Q&A.

For more information on conclusions, read our blog, "Planning a Strong Conclusion.”


Whether you deliver a presentation you created, or one that is handed to you, taking ownership of your material will ensure that your presentation is meaningful to your audience. To increase engagement, you can also refine your delivery dynamics – the way you come across visually, vocally, and verbally. Once you have mastered these skills, you'll be able to engage and influence your audience with any presentation.

For expert coaching or training to help you deliver compelling presentations, contact us today.

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