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Presentation Skills: Five things TV taught me

Most people I meet still dislike presenting.

Especially if they believe their talents lie elsewhere.

But rather than an inborn gift, it’s a learned skill.

And television presenting taught me most of my presentation skills.

So here’s five things I learned as a TV presenter.

They transfer to any presentation you’re likely to make.

Presenting to a conference.

Or presenting to a meeting.

Presenting in front of colleagues.

Or presenting in front of friends.

So what are my top five tips?

Read on.

Rule one: be clear on what you’re saying

Presentation skills, How to Involve Your Audience, Bill McFarlan, the format

It may seem obvious.

But many people are unclear on their message.

So get your message to the top of your speech.

Just like the news does.

As a BBC presenter I always started with the most important point to my audience.

So should you if you want to hold their attention.

Confidence comes from feeling well-prepared.

So prepare your points well.

Simple and clear.

So everybody gets them, first time.

Rule two: be convincing

presentation skills, man at conference, be convincing

We have to sound convincing and look convincing for people to be convinced.

So be enthusiastic in sharing you message.

By speaking slowly, loudly and clearly.

With emphasis on the most important words in each sentence.

Now keep strong eye contact with the audience.

Just as a newsreader would.

Stand or sit upright.

Just like a newsreader would.

And use your hands to illustrate the point in a natural and authentic way.

That adds another dimension to your presentation.

Rule three: expect success

Presentation skills, expect success, woman at conference

Here’s where it goes wrong for many.

You dread the presentation.

You imagine the audience being bored.

You expect to fall all over your presentation.

You’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So put that negative thinking into reverse.

Expect success.

Tell yourself you’re excited to be presenting.

Tell yourself the audience will be interested.

Because you’ve prepared the message aimed at them.

Expect to deliver it well.

Because you’ve rehearsed it until conversant with the script.

And keep expecting success until you’re finished.

Rule four: minimise mistakes

Presentation Skills, Colin Stone, minimise mistakes

Pink Elephant senior trainer Colin Stone reading the news on STV.

I read the news and sports news on radio and TV for 25 years.

I made thousands of mistakes.

But mistakes that felt career-ending in the early days became insignificant latterly.

Because I refused to let them bother me.

I changed my attitude to making mistakes.

And the more I relaxed, the fewer I made.

Avoid drawing attention to them.

Carry on without apology.

Because the audience wants the information you’re sharing, rather than an apology.

Rule five: finish strongly

presentation skills, camera man, finish strongly

It’s true of top teams and individuals in sport.

The winners finish strongly.

They may have wobbled in the middle, but they know how to see out that awkward patch.

The same goes for presenting.

Make sure you finish strongly.

Often with a summary of what you’ve said.

Always with a call to action.

Telling the audience what to do next.

When you finish strongly, the audience has more belief in what you’ve said.

Putting principles into practice

Presentation skills, How to Tell A Story, What's Your Story, Pink Elephant

We’ve been sharing these rules for three decades in 25 countries around the world.

And at our Glasgow-based studios.

Our presentation skills courses.

Our communication skills courses.

And our assertiveness skills courses.

So, rely on these tips.

Put them into action.

And watch your confidence grow.


Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Photos by Media Evolution / CC BY-SA on
Images of Bill McFarlan and Colin Stone courtesy of BBC and STV News.

31st October 2019 Featured in: Blog, Presentation skills training blogs By:

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