Written by 00:15 How to, Linkinbio, Public Speaking

How you make a killer presentation (Part 1/2)

Public speaking is an essential skill. But you won’t be heard unless you’re telling stories. We show you how to do that.


The latest James Bond movie “No Time to Die“ was supposed to come to the cinemas in April 2020. Due to the Corona Crisis it has been postponed to November. But isn’t each and every Bond franchise basically the same? Bond is being chased by villains – gets captured, but always manages to escape before he defeats the villain in an epic battle. How is it possible that the creators still manage to make millions of people come to the cinema and create a world hit each and every time?! They have a foolproof recipe – a recipe you can also use for your next presentation. 

Tell a story to be heard

To deliver an effective presentation, to share ideas or concepts, to fascinate an audience or to simply present some numbers of the recent project stages: Delivering them in a way that they actually be remembered or create momentum is a very important skill that can make the difference between failure and success. The importance for business leaders cannot be overstated. This is also what the expert Nick Morgan, an American author and speaker says: “Business leaders won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories”.

In most cases when we have to give a presentation the first thing we do is to start with the tool. We open up PowerPoint or any other piece of software and start filling the slides with information. We know it’s not the best practice but we still always come back to it. It’s just so very convenient. We put in an agenda that shows all the content that we are going to address. We fill countless of slides with graphs and numbers – we copy and paste cool looking pictures or drawings to make our presentation more compelling, and accompany all of that with text. 

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with doing it this way. It suits the purpose in most cases. It is just that this approach will most likely not lead to an effective nor outstanding presentation at all. Where this approach is very good for documentation means, this will make your presentation just average.

Starting this way will lead to a presentation where we are not presenting but rather showing our slides. This has become the norm in most business settings. But there will be times when this is not enough. When there is a lot at stake. When you lobby for your project, when you pitch to a customer, or present your study results at a big conference. Then your presentation has to be more than a simple status update. It has to rock!

Make your message clear

I would like to give you an example on how important it is that you deliver an effective message rather than just sowing some nice pictures. In 2012, London – the capitol of the United Kingdom – hosted the Summer Olympics. London delivered great games and used them also to develop the city’s east. It was the only city until now to host the summer games for the third time. London was competing with some strong rivals: Moscow, Paris, Madrid and New York. Eventually the list of the five competitors narrowed down to just Paris and London. To convince the Olympic Committee the two rivals produced a video. It was meant to summarize their overall concept and to deliver the winning argument. These type of marketing presentations are very important because in the end every decision is made by real people with real feelings, thoughts and short attention spans. The Parisian team decided to shoot what looks like a travelog: pictures of the cities landmarks. Each sequence of the four and a half minute long video (you find this video at the end the article) is devoted to the message that the Parisians really want the games. 

You don’t have to be a marketing genius to see that this is not a very compelling argument. If you’d hire someone for a job and her only argument is that she really wants the job – would you make her part of your team? Probably not. But still, someone has thought „Great concept! Lets make it so!“, and signed off on it.

London Olympic Opening ©Flickr

The London video (also at the bottom of the page) could not have been a bigger contrast. It had a story to tell. An inspiring story. David Magliano, the marketing director for the Olympic bid said:

We were not the only ones who could tell the story of how the games could inspire young people to choose sport, but we were the only ones who did tell that story.“

While Paris wanted the Games, the London team submitted their message with a clear cause everyone could identify with. Their message was “We will inspire the champions of tomorrow“. Important to know is that the Olympic Committee is made out of mostly elderly men, seniors at the last half of their life. At this stage most people care about their legacy. Something that is going to live on. Inspiring the athletes of tomorrow is a great legacy.

Customize your presentation

But how do you even start to get to a concept for your presentation? Before your begin filling your slides first ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Purpose: What is the purpose of my presentation? What is the actual message I want to bring across? Is there a call for action? Do I want my audience to adapt or to change behavior?
  2. Audience: Who is my audience, and what do they expect?
  3. Context: What is the setting? Meeting, Webinar, Lecture? Have there been recent events that can have an influence?

Depending on how you answer the above questions your presentation will have a totally different structure. By now you should have understood that the ultimate goal is to engineer your presentation according to the overall purpose.

Years ago I attended a training on effective presentations. It has been a week long seminar where I still remember every detail today. What I lernt there was the concept of FOFIR:

  • Fact
  • Opinion
  • Feeling
  • Intended Action
  • Repercussion

It’s a concept that is widely used in convincing argumentation. Before you make a claim (Opinion) you start with some relevant piece of information you and your audience can both agree on (Fact). To continue convincing your audience you have to connect both with emotions (Feeling).

In the HBR Article How to Tell a Great Story Carolyn O’Hara writes:

Stories create sticky memories by attaching emotions to things that happen

This is where story telling becomes so very essential. It means that you have to trigger emotions by addressing something that is important for each of them. Something your audience really cares about. Then you invite your audience with a clear call for action (Intended Action). The short Repercussion at the end then is only the home run that concludes your presentation.

An opening to hook your audience

But there is more to it. Where FOFIR is great for any setting, such as public speaking and negotiation, learning from Bond can really make the difference. Every Bond movie starts the same. In the first couple of minutes there is great action. Bond is being chased by some bad guys, dodging bullets but still looking smart. Then there is the intro. Great Theme Music that always becomes a world hit. But the first scene after the intro is when the story actually starts. It is key to following the script, but it is never really thrilling.

Now imagine if the movie would have started without the opening sequence. While it wouldn’t do any harm to the storyline we would find it less entertaining, and hop channel.

A-10 releasing flares

To cross-read it to public speaking take Simon Sinek’s Video “Why Leaders Eat Last”  – a great video by the way. Sinek opens his presentation with two A-10 Warthog pilots who are supporting troops on the ground that have come under enemy fire. Even if you don’t know what an A-10 looks like, pictures of the scene will start appearing in your head. You have no idea what it has to do with Leadership but you hang on to every of his words. You are like a child that is being tugged in at night by a good night story. But this time you are grown up and desperate to know what Jonny Bravo has to do with all of this. So you will stay until the end of the video. Sinek’s opening is exactly two and a half minutes long and it is a very effective hook.

A hook has the purpose to keep your audience excited over the course of your presentation. It is short and must be delivered perfectly to create pictures in the mind of your audience. It is only effective when it is connected with the Intended Action and the Repercussion. When you watch Simon Sinek’s Video until the end (or fast forward to the last minute) he is coming back to Jonny Bravo and connects all the dots for us.

This is how you engineer an effective TED style presentation. This is also how you design an argument and convince your audience that might even have been initially against to what you have to say. I deliberately don’t want to use the term winning an argument, as this technique can also be used in negotiation. I don’t want to imply that there is a winner and a loser. I am interested in inviting my audience to share my point of view, to change behavior, and to support my cause. I don’t want to trick them. My audience would have to want to support me. Because this is how you design a Win-Win.

This has been part 1 of a two-piece article. Stay tuned for part 2: We’re going to talk to an expert, and tell you how you can stand in front of a crowd and rock your live presentation. Sign up for our newsletter today, and don’t miss a post.

Start preparing your killer presentation today with our Presentation Concept Template!

The Olympic campaign videos

The Paris Application Video for the 2012 Olympics 

“Who wants the games?”, asks the singer, but is missing to answer why.

In contrast, the London Application Video for the 2012 Olympics

The London campaign shared a clear and convincing message: “We inspire the athletes of tomorrow.”

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