Most business presentations are boring! They must be endured rather than enjoyed.

Causes of poor presentations include:

  • Insufficient preparation.
  • Insufficient practice.
  • Text and data heavy slides.
  • Poor audience engagement.

This presentation preparation template is designed to help you avoid these mistakes so that your presentations stand out for all the right reasons.

This template combines best practice as advocated by Carmine Gallop (Talk like Ted), Graham Davis (The Presentation Coach), Richard Hill (Brilliant Presentation), Andy Bounds (The Jelly Effect) and James Borg (Persuasion).

Practical usage

You can use this 2-page template (found at the end of this document) to prepare for any presentation you may give including:

  • Team meeting presentations
  • Pitching to senior management
  • Industry talks

There are five key phases to giving your best presentation.

  1. Prepare
  2. Practice
  3. Warm-up
  4. Commit
  5. Reflect

Print off the template tool at the end of the toolkit. Follow the following notes for each phase.

Step 1. Prepare

Give yourself as much time as possible to plan your talk. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Before you start working on your content, use this basic checklist to consider the context, your audience, and your objectives.


  • Do you know the venue and the room configuration?
  • What AV equipment will be available?

Audience and context

  • Who are they?
  • How many attendees will be there?
  • What is their current thinking about your presentation topic?
  • What are their motivations, ‘pains’ and ‘gains’?
  • How might your presentation address those pains and gains?
  • What do you want to change in terms of their understanding?
  • What action do you want them to take at the end of your presentation?
  • What might interest them (statistics, insight, technical detail, ROI etc.).?

Objectives and Content ideas

  • ‘Afters’ - What one thing do you want your audience to remember in 3-weeks’ time?
  • Controlling Idea and Headline - develop one big idea / image / metaphor that will hold your talk together.
  • Narrative Rule of Three - Create 3 key points / arguments to support your controlling idea. For key each point, develop 3 supporting points. See Figure 1.
  • Storyboard - If you are a visual thinker, ‘storyboard’ your talk.
  • Data - What supporting data do you need? How can you make the data compelling?
  • Adding emotion. Stories are critically important. What stories could you use? Remember, every point should have a story and every story should have a point! If you are fortunate enough to be funny, be funny.
  • Spike and Loop - Think long and hard about your opening ‘spike’. How will you gain your audience’s attention? Think about your close. How will you finish on a high? How can you loop back to your opening? Draft sentences for both.
  • Duration - Ted talks typically last 14-18 minutes. This is the optimum time frame. When creating content think in terms of 20-minute maximum ‘blocks’.
  • Slides last! - If you think slides will be useful (not always the case), only now should you start drafting the slide deck. Creating a storyboard can fast track the process. Remember no slide should be self-explanatory. If it is, you are superfluous. Use photos and videos to add visual interest.

Step 2. Practice

Give yourself as much time as possible to practice. If you are short for time, as a minimum practice your opening ’spike’ and your closing ‘loop’. Doing so will help you gain the confidence of the audience.

Find every opportunity to practice, preferably aloud. Get feedback from others. Speak into a mirror. Better still, record yourself. The more you practice, the more confident you will appear, even if you don’t feel it.

We recommend the following sequence:

1st run-through. This will be very rough and ready. Don't worry. You need to start somewhere!

  • Recorded Talk through your presentation using a recording device. You will find that you will generate some great content just by talking out loud. Recording will help you to capture some useful phases and ideas.
  • Create a very basic script. It doesn’t need to be perfectly crafted. You are capturing your core arguments and useful phrases. This script acts as an aide memoire. You won’t read this script aloud at any time. You should revisit an update your script as part of the phase 5 review process.
  • Craft your spike and loop Rehearse them so that you can recite them without conscious effort. We suggest practicing a minimum of 6 times each.
  • Rehearse with an audience who don’t understand the technical content. Ask for feedback. Edit and refine your narrative and slides.
  • Final rehearsal – at least one day before your actual presentation.

Step 3. Warm-up Routine

Elite sports people and actors run through a rigorous warm up routine in the hours before they perform. So should you. Find a routine that works for you. You can use the following list to help you build your own routine.

In the final hour leading up to your presentation, find a quiet space.

  • Practice deep breathing to both energise and relax your body.
  • Stretch the muscles in your mouth by making it as wide as possible. Rolling your tongue around your mouth strengthens the muscle and will help you enunciate better.
  • Speak out loud your preferred ‘tongue teasers’ – e.g., ‘she sells seas shells by the seashore’. Repeat 4-6 times.
  • Speak out loud both your spike and loop sentences.
  • Raise your hands above your head as the winner of a running race would do. This ‘gorilla pose’ will change your physiology (See Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – Fake it ‘til you make it’).

Develop a warm-up routine that works for you so that you are ‘in the zone’ ready to give your best performance.

Step 4. Commit

When it is time to present, you must commit fully. You owe it to yourself and your audience to give the best version of yourself. So, commit!

The Lion Gaze

Look around at your audience before you speak your opening line. Slowly work your way around the room anti-clockwise, making eye contact with individuals as you go. Smile.  Doing so will relax your audience.

Breath in

You have practiced you opening line so much that no thought is required. Speak your opening line on an out breath. Doing so will ensure your voice is deeper and more authoritative.

You are off and away!

Be Present

Find opportunities to engage with your audience. Be sensitive to their energy levels.

Very your pitch, pace, and tone of voice.

Don’t be frighted of silence. When you have made a good point, pause, and allow it to sink in.

Don’t be frightened of going ‘off-script’.

Try to bring some levity, even when the subject is serious.


If your mouth runs dry, or you want to pause for thought, do not worry. Always have a bottle of water and a glass. Take your time to pour your water and take a sip. If you seem relaxed, your audience will feel relaxed as well.


Build your energy towards the end of your talk so that you finish on a high. Many poor presentations ‘fizzle out’ towards the end.

Summarise your key points.  Thank your audience.

Close with your ‘loop’ sentence. Look up. Smile.

Step 5. Reflect

This is by far the most neglected phase, but in some respects the most important.

No performance is ever perfect. You can always improve. The reflection phase is critical to ongoing improvement.

Allow yourself a night’s sleep to allow the adrenaline to fall away and your subconscious to get to work.

Find some time the following morning to reflect on what went well and what you could do better.

If you can, record your talk and play it back. You will most likely be surprised. What you thought was terrible will be better than you thought. What you thought worked brilliantly still has room for improvement.

Write down your reflections on the preparation sheet.

  • What went well?
  • Did you achieve your original goal?
  • What could be improved for next time?
  • Update your script and slide deck.