Workgroup report: What’s critical to a great presentation?

Sometimes one presentation can boost your career a step—or bail you out of a disaster. It’s a skill that’s never perfected, always an opportunity. These 15 experienced presenters from The Center’s Workgroups created this checklist of the critical skills. Miss one, and you might blow your chance.

If nothing else: DON’T BE BORING.


  • Nathan Bares
  • Tricia Baker
  • Keith Berry
  • Kyle Buerger
  • Bob DeVita
  • Susan Dineen
  • Pattie Epstein
  • Bryon Johnson
  • Steve Johannsen
  • Tony Lawson
  • Bill Mitchell
  • Kristi Thering
  • Tim Stewart
  • Carolyn Tretina
  • Derrick Van Mell

Topic question: What’s critical to a great presentation?

Discussion questions

  • When was one of your presentations a career turning point?
  • What makes a presentation great for either a large or small audience?
  • What’s the one thing you’d like to improve in your presentations?


  • Know your audience: Ask them what questions they have on your topic
  • Know your stuff: Organize your thoughts and stick to the Rule of Three
  • Pick a theme and stick with it: “The main thing is to stick to the main thing.”
  • Rehearse: Making a video of yourself is painfully effective.
  • Be authentic: To thine own self be true.
  • Consider a coach: Your career’s on the line, after all.

(Should our checklist include a category for “Marketing”? Might include how to write a great headline and summary, how to choose an image, the need to repeat and restate the invitation…)


  • Be interesting, not entertaining: A clown gets laughs, but not respect
  • Open with a story: “I remember the time when…”
  • Pick a story that shows you care about your topic, your personal “Why”
  • Show that you care about your audience: Ask question and really listen. Offer to help
  • Use a prop: Could be an object, or a writing on a flip chart
  • Have a few slides, and only with images: Set the mood, capture the emotional content
  • End with a strong close: Ask, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned today?”
  • End early: Thou Shalt Not Run Late

Relevant Terms

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