Top 10 Most Important Presentation Etiquette to Follow

First impres­sions are crucial. A presen­ta­tion is about impres­sions. But is there a rule book on the etiquette you should follow?

In general, we model ourselves and our beha­viors based on what we have seen in past presen­ters. Our teachers are forever a go-to on how to deliver. Some bad. Some good. Either way, you have seen an example of presen­ta­tion etiquette which works, as well as an example which doesn’t work.

In helping write and design presen­ta­tions, I also help coach people in their deli­very. These 10 aspects of etiquette remain true in every manner of presen­ting, some of which apply to both in-person and online presen­ta­tions. They are simplistic, but crucial to the impres­sion you send.

1. Arrive Early and Prepared

You should arrive about an hour before you deliver your presen­ta­tion. I know this may seem like an extreme amount of time, but it’s not. There is parking to consider, finding the presen­ta­tion loca­tion, equip­ment set-up and testing, etc. – the list is actually enough for another article. You also need to be prepared. Showing up early can ensure your prepa­red­ness. You have the time to triple check that ever­ything works and you have what you need. If all this becomes unne­cessary, at least you are there early enough to improvise.

Clocks from different cities

2. Dress Properly and Eat Well

The way you dress will reflect not only you, but ever­ything you are repre­sen­ting. Dress for the event, but don’t over do it. Consider your audi­ence and the purpose of the presen­ta­tion to best select your dress code. Eating well is two-sided. Firstly, you need to main­tain your energy supply and I advise that you include foods high in complete protein. On the other side, have you ever heard a speaker’s stomach growl? It can be off-putting and distracting.

3. Be Respectful and Thoughtful

Being an expert does not give room for being conceited. Know your manners: ‘Please.’ ‘Thank You.’ Wait for other’s to complete a thought. You also need to under­stand that their time is valu­able. Some members of your audi­ence may feel you’re wasting their time before you get started. Respect their time and make sure that in exchange for the time they give you, that you are provi­ding constant value throughout your presentation.

4. Don’t Be Too Quick To React

Fast reac­tion seems like you are on the defen­sive side. Allow a brief second for ques­tions or reac­tions from the audi­ence to set in. There is magic in a pause. A brief 3 second pause is never noticed by your audi­ence and it gives you time to breathe, think, and react. Reac­ting too fast can cause fillers, like ums and ahs, or make you seem rash.

5. Be Aware of Your Word Emphasis

The way you add emphasis to your words convey meaning. Exci­te­ment in your voice is great, but empha­sising certain words changes the whole meaning of your sentence. Like “Does SHE have to come with us” versus “Does she have to come with us” sends a diffe­rent message. In the first example it seems like the speaker has some dislike for the person in ques­tion. The second one is a simply stated ques­tion. You can’t really tell if there is added meaning to the state­ment. Be aware of how you empha­size words.

6. Own Your Stage and Watch Your Body Language

Sticking to one spot makes you look stiff. If you look stiff, ever­ything you are repre­sen­ting is stiff. Own your stage. This goes back to arri­ving early and having time to know the space you have to work with. Move around it so you can address every part of the room. The body language you use on the stage also aids in conveying your message. Keep it precise and simple. Every move­ment should have a specific purpose. Don’t just move for the sake of moving.

7. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Unless you have psychic abili­ties and can see into the future, you don’t know when the unex­pected is coming. You can, however, be prepared for the worst case scen­a­rios. Know your mate­rial in case there is a problem where you can’t use your visual aid. Maybe you were going to present to a small group and now it is an entire audi­to­rium, what do you do? Relax and present to the indi­vi­duals. Make sure you can work without your primary presen­ta­tion file if required – even your backup files should have backup files.

8. Never Turn Your Back on the Audience

This is seen as disre­spectful by many. It should be a general “best prac­tice” rule to always keep your shoul­ders forward. Reading from your visual aid can kill your autho­rity with the audi­ence. Besides, the audi­ence is inves­ting their time into your presen­ta­tion, so don’t turn your back on them. In the case of an online presen­ta­tion when you’re broad­cas­ting yourself across the web, stay in front of your camera. If you’re not using your camera but instead just screen sharing to present your presen­ta­tion content, never step away from the mic. It is the equi­va­lent of turning your back.

9. Speak with an Educative Tone

The purpose of deli­vering your presen­ta­tion is to educate the audi­ence on your topic. They don’t know what you know. They don’t want to know ever­ything you know either. Keep it concise but explain any jargon you use. When deli­vering your presen­ta­tion you should do so with the assump­tion that this is the first time they have heard any of your mate­rial. The result is better enga­ge­ment with your audience.

10. Visual Aids Should Be Used With Care

This last point alone has a lot to be said about it. Thro­wing up para­graphs and terrible images will destroy your visual aid. You need to under­stand the basics of Human Spatial Cogni­tionand Cogni­tive Load Theory. They will help you under­stand how humans encode infor­ma­tion into their memory as well as the optimal amount of visuals for memory input. Less is always so much more. Use visual meta­phors in place of long-winded para­graphs. For example, you can actually replace the physical bullet point with a graphic meta­phor. This helps the audi­ence easily recall that infor­ma­tion. It’s magic, really.

These are just the top 10 that carry the most weight. You’ll find that by paying close atten­tion to these, other aspects of etiquette which could matter will be taken care of.

Discus­sion: Sharing is caring and we want you to share with us. What aspects of your presen­ta­tion etiquette have you found to be most important? Please share in the comments below!

About David Wilks:

David Wilks­PRO­JECT DIRECTOR AND CREATIVE ENGINEER
WOW PREZI

David is curr­ently Project Director and Crea­tive Engi­neer at wOw Prezi, an Inde­pen­dent Prezi presen­ta­tion design company. He is a trained copy­writer, former mili­tary, and an Asso­ciates of Applied Arts. His niche is in story­tel­ling and dynamic presen­ta­tion concepts that help deliver enga­ging conver­sa­tions instead of dull slides.

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