The 5Ps of Presenting

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Follow this model to gain confidence in creating and giving presentations explains Lindsay Taylor

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Let’s start with identifying those presentations that have made an impression on you. Which ones are the most memorable? And what are they memorable for? Do you have a favourite presenter? What are your reasons for picking them?

Identifying the “dos” and “don’ts”, “the good, the bad and the ugly” of presentations will help you set a benchmark for identifying the most successful and memorable (for the right reasons!) presentations.

Then you can put into practice the “5Ps of Presenting”.

1. Purpose

Identify the Purpose of your presentation. You are, in effect, setting yourself a goal and outcome.  To inspire and motivate yourself and others, you need to make sure you are using “towards” language, rather than “away from” language when setting goals.  Here’s a simple table to illustrate the difference.

Away From Language Towards Language
Don’t want… Do want…. Will do ……
Can’t Can……. Will….
Problems, pitfalls, risks Solutions, opportunities, challenge
Hard, difficult, struggle Challenging
Lose, eliminate, get rid of Gain, get achieve, attain
Can be considered “negative” and draining Can be considered “positive” and inspirational
Shaking of head Nodding of head

“Towards” language promotes forward movement and momentum in order to achieve what you need and want. It is considered more motivational and inspirational due to its “can do” approach, energy and resulting inspiration.

2. Plan

Firstly, remember that famous quote “Failing to plan is planning to fail”!

Use the “Open Questions Model” below to answer as many questions as you can to aid your planning – How, What, When, Where, Who and Why.


You will notice that “why” questions have a warning triangle on them.  The reason is that when we are posed with a “why” question we may receive it as an accusation.  Our resulting response can be defensive.  “Why” questions never really get to the “crux” or “heart” of the response we are seeking.  A better way of asking a “why” question is to ask “what’s important (about….)?”.  This is our optimum question.

Here are some example questions – by no means an exhaustive list and I’m sure you can think of more:

How……
How many people will I be presenting to?
How will the room be set up?
How much time is allocated to my presentation?
How many other people are presenting before/after me?
How will I gain/seek feedback on my presentation?
How do I want to feel at the end of my presentation?
How do I want my audience to feel at the end of my presentation?
How do I “need to be” to present?  (identify the internal resources you need – for example focus, determination, self-confidence……)

What……
What is the purpose of my presentation?
What information do I need or want to share with my audience?
What do my audience already know?
What do my audience expect to learn or take away from this presentation?
What are the benefits to my audience of listening to this presentation?
What do I already know about my audience? (are there are any special needs/considerations…..)
What would be good to find out about my audience? (job titles, challenges, their expectations, any special needs……)
What do I want or need my audience to do with the information I share with them?
What time do I need/want to arrive at the venue before I present?
What format will my presentation take? (interactive, use of AV equipment, handouts….)
What resources do I need?  (include “Internal Resources” which are things like determination, focus, self-confidence….)
What else do I need to know to ensure my presentation is a success?

When…..
When am I presenting (date, time)….?
When do I need to pull together a draft/final presentation?

Where….
Where am I presenting (geography, in the world!, venue)?
Where am I presenting (on stage, at boardroom table……)

Who….
Who is “on stage” before/after me?
Who do I know that could help me with my presentation?
Who has presented on a similar topic to me?
Who do I need to submit my presentation to?

What’s Important (about)……
What’s important about this presentation?

3. Prepare 

Split your presentation into a Beginning, Middle and End. Some people find it useful to write up a full “verbiage” or script for their presentation. Others like to write out “cue cards” with select words on.  Cue cards are particularly useful to have with you when you present as they will keep you on track.  Think about whether you’re going to be holding the cue cards when you present or whether there’s a table/lectern to place the cards on and which you can head to if you need prompting.  Remember, you want your cue cards to be a help rather than a hindrance.  Use a system that works for you.

The Beginning
90% of first impressions are made in the first 90 seconds of meeting someone.  Based on these statistics, you need to engage your audience right from the word “go”.  You can do this in different ways.  You may ask a question of your audience and ask for a show of hands or you may use humour to introduce your topic.

Then share with your audience who you are and your credibility (imagine your audience are asking “Why should I listen to this person?  Who are they and what do they know?”).

Share with your audience the purpose of your presentation (which you have absolute clarity on from the first 2 Ps of course!).  What is your audience going to learn from your presentation and what benefit will they gain?   You are more likely to gain and maintain their engagement if they know what they’re going to get out of listening to you.

You can also tell your audience the format that your presentation will take.  If you’ve included time in your presentation at the end for Q&A let your audience know that you’re happy to answer any relevant questions at that point.

The Middle
Use “The Power of Three”. This principle implies that things that come in threes are more satisfying, effective and memorable. It’s fun, thought-provoking and, more importantly, when applied can add real impact to your communication. Use “signposting” to keep you (and your audience) on track – “firstly…..secondly….thirdly or finally……”.

The End
You can end your presentation with humour (linking it to your humorous comment at the beginning).  You could ask for another show of hands.

Ask if your audience has any questions.  Share your contact details and thank everyone for listening/interacting/involving themselves in the learning.

4. Present

You’re ready to Present!

Align Words, Tone and Body Language
Based on the research of Harvard Professor Albert Mehrabian, face-to-face communication when sharing your thoughts and feelings can be broken down into the words that we speak (7%), the tone that we use (38%), and the body language that we use (55%).

You need to be aware of the tone and body language you use in your face to face communication and when you are presenting.

When words, tone and body language are aligned or “congruent”, when you “speak the meaning, not just the words”, you are ensuring your message has more impact thus contributing to the engagement of your audience.

Use Sensory Language

We all process information in different ways and record it for future use. Your world is processed through your senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) and generally everybody has a primary sense that they use to establish an experience within their conscious or sub-conscious mind.  Usually that primary system is either visual (sight), auditory (sound) or kinaesthetic (touch or feelings).  Of course, you will access all five senses, but your behaviours, language, and creation and memory of experiences will be prevalent either in a (V)isual, (A)uditory or (K)inaesthetic way (VAK system).

Of course, when you are presenting to a group of people, there will be a mix of Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic preferences.  Therefore, use a mix of sensory language and presentation styles that will optimise engagement with your audience.  Your Visual audience members will notice your presentation slides or any handouts or visual aids.  Your Auditory audience members will be listening intently to you.  Your Kinaesthetic audience members will like any movement or involvement in the presentation (asking them for a show of hands for example).

Use Props and Visual Aids
Think about the use of props and visual aids – ensure these are used to optimise any learning or message you want to share.  They need to act as a help rather than a hindrance to the learning and message you want to impart.

Q&A Session
It’s happened… an audience member has asked you a question that you don’t know how to answer!
– Say “thank you for that fantastic question”
– Put the question out to the rest of your audience.  Say “What do the rest of the audience think about this?”.  Whilst gaining input from everyone else you will have time to formulate your own response.
– Rather than provide an incorrect answer, be honest.  Say “I don’t know the full answer to your question.  I am going to find that out for you and promise to get back to you”.  Make sure you keep your promise of course to maintain your credibility and reputation.

5. Progress

Every situation is an opportunity to progress and learn. Use progressive feedback models to ensure the next time you present it is even better than this time!

My favourite models are detailed below. They are simple to implement and incredibly effective.  They can be used individually or together.  Give them a go!

3, 2, 1
What 3 things went well?
What 2 things didn’t go so well?
What 1 main point can you identify for improvement?

More of……Less of….
Next time I present what will I do more of?
Next time I present what will I do less of?

Stop, Start, Continue
Next time I present what will I stop doing?
Next time I present what will I start doing?
Next time I present what will I continue doing?

I wish you every success with putting these into practice!

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About Author

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is Director of Your Excellency Limited, an executive coaching and training organisation in the UK. Your Excellency Limited have an extensive portfolio of learning and development offerings including Administrative Professional training, coaching and qualifications. As a former PA herself, Lindsay has first-hand experience of the diversity of the Administrative Professionals role and the challenges faced. Lindsay delivers training and coaching across the world in fun, down-to-earth sessions that provide memorable and practical learning and skills. Lindsay is the proud author of the award-winning book “A-Z Pearls of Wisdom for Executive PAs”. For more details please contact Lindsay on +44(0)7930 194147, email [email protected] or visit www.yourexcellency.co.uk.

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