The four Ps you need to focus on for your next presentation

At the end of our presentation skills courses, we give our delegates a guide to help them continue their learning.

Why? Because we believe that learning and skills development should not stop when you leave the training room or the Zoom session comes to an end.

The guide is called ‘The Four Ps’, and we thought we would share it with you in our blog.

So, what are The Four Ps?

We believe there are four key steps to communicating with confidence, cohesion and clarity:





Good presenters put most of their effort into the first three – planning, preparing and practising – because, once you have got that right, the presenting part is much easier.



The only way to ensure an effective presentation is through careful planning and preparation.

Every memorable speech that has compelled, educated and entertained audiences has done so thanks to good preparation.

Mark Twain famously said: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

And that is how we feel about public speaking.

Bullet points, mind maps and message preparation sheets will all help you to plan an effective presentation.

Always think about your audience and your message. Can you come up with a one-sentence description that describes who you are talking to?

For example - Senior managers of a large university hospital, aged 40-55, mostly male and all with business degrees or MBAs

Once you are clear on who you are talking to, you can focus on what you want to tell them.

What is the main point you want them to take away? How can you make what you say relevant, captivating and memorable?

It is essential to think of ways to engage your audience and illustrate your message with examples – a good anecdote, fact, or analogy, will help bring a message to life.

Also, think about the structure. When a presentation is structured well, the audience can follow what is being said and are more likely to leave inspired, motivated and clear on what they should do next.

But when that structure isn’t there, they get lost as they are bombarded with uncoordinated facts, figures, thoughts and messages. And when that happens, they inevitably switch off. You can find out more about presentation structures in this recent blog.



Preparation and planning might sound similar. But the preparation stage is where you develop that initial plan and consider how to make what you want to say resonate. It is where the fine-tuning takes place.

And it involves saying AMEN.

That might sound like an appeal for some divine inspiration. And many of us have been asked to give a presentation where that might have felt like a good option.

But AMEN is an acronym we use on our presentation skills training courses (and during our message development and testing training) to help people get their messages right.

It stands for Audience, Message, Example, Negatives.

Let’s take you through it:


Who are you talking to? Is it an internal presentation? Are you talking to existing customers? Potential new customers? An industry group?

It is crucial to be clear on who you are talking to.

If you are presenting to people within your organisation, you can refer to common ground. And use more technical language and acronyms.

But a wider audience is unlikely to understand much of this, and the content would need to be simplified.



What key message do you want to get across in your presentation?

What do you want the audience to remember about what you have said?

What do you want them to do as a result?

Or, how do you want them to feel?

What is the call to action and how can you close your presentation with a bang

Hopefully, you notice we are talking about one message. It’s because, as harsh as it might sound, few people will remember more than one major point you make.

That message should be capable of being spelt out in a single sentence of fewer than 20 words, otherwise, it is likely to be too complex for people to remember.



What examples can you use to support your message?

Tell stories to bring the message to life and make it resonate with your audience.

Entertaining and moving your audience through storytelling is vital to giving a great presentation.



Are there any negative angles to what you are discussing? 

Could anyone dispute or question what you are suggesting in your presentation?

Has your sector or organisation been in the news recently?

Has a competitor made a big announcement?

Spend a little time anticipating anything that could detract from the message you want to get across.

You can download your AMEN messaging template here.


Missed out on the second intake of the Media Team Academy?

Don't worry, we have another cohort starting in the summer. Find out more.


Practice makes perfect.

You must keep practising your presentation skills. Like any good athlete, we need to keep our brain and muscle memory fine-tuned. Don’t wait until that crucial next presentation is on the horizon

Pick up a video camera - or use your smartphone - and practice with colleagues, friends, family, and even the dog – if it will listen.

The more you practice, the more confident you will become and the better you will come across when it is time to present for real.

And, those skills will help you with more everyday interactions, like meetings.

Practice should also include thinking about your personal branding and image.


Personal branding and image

We know it sounds shallow.

But the harsh reality is that when you are public speaking and presenting, your audience will form an almost instant impression of you.

And they will only pay attention if you sound and look like you know what you are discussing.

Generally, your impact in the first 30 seconds is determined by: 

  • Body image - 55 per cent – what you wear, posture, gestures and eye contact
  • Voice - 38 per cent - your tone, volume, accent and clarity
  • What you say - just 7 per cent.

First impressions are formed almost instantly. And then, in the subsequent few minutes, the audience will be looking for proof that their initial assessment is correct. This is called confirmation bias, and everyone is susceptible to it.

So, how do you create the right first impression?

Start by considering how you want to be perceived. As someone knowledgeable, professional and experienced? Or someone who has integrity and is approachable, decent and trustworthy? Or a combination of all these qualities?

The audience will tend to assume how you have presented yourself in terms of your appearance reflects your state of mind. So, it’s vital to consider the tone you want to set and reflect that in your dress.

As the speaker, you want to be about 10 per cent smarter than your audience.

You should also look to make eye contact with the audience and smile – smiling will make you appear confident and suggests you are happy to be there.

If you are presenting in a room, avoid starting by tapping the microphone and asking whether people at the back can hear. Not only is it boring, but it also doesn’t create the impression of someone who is going to communicate with confidence and clarity.

Similarly, opening with phrases like “I haven’t had a lot of time to prepare”, or “I’ll keep it brief”, does not suggest you are taking the opportunity seriously or that the audience will get much out of the presentation.

Any negative introduction or self-deprecation will alert your audience to look out for flaws in your presentation that they may never have noticed had you not drawn attention to them.

But what should you wear?

Well, this gets trickier all the time. Fashions change constantly, and many presentations now take place online.

So, rather than tell you what you should wear, we will highlight some pitfalls we think you should avoid and offer a few tips.

1 Don’t try something new – the presentation stage is not the right time to find out if that new outfit looks as good as you thought it did in the fitting room, or whether it is as comfortable as you imagined.

2 Choose comfort – of course, you want to look professional. But don’t make yourself uncomfortable and unable to move freely. Choose clothes that don’t feel restrictive.

3 Choose clothes that make you feel confident – most of us will have ‘go-to’ items in our wardrobes we turn to when we need to feel good about ourselves. If they are appropriate for the situation then choose them for your presentations. If you feel good, you will appear more confident.

4 Avoid clothes that might distract – you don’t want the audience to go away thinking about what you were wearing, so avoid distracting clothes. Glittery outfits can be particularly distracting, as can loud socks, anything with large writing on it and comedy ties. If in doubt we recommend choosing items with solid colours, rather than anything with patterns.

5 If you opt for a dark suit, match it with a lighter shirt or blouse to provide a little contrast.

6 Be careful with jewellery and accessories. If it makes a noise when you move around, or continually knocks against the microphone, it will take the attention of the audience away from what you are saying. Jewellery can also reflect light at the audience, especially on TV, which is distracting.

7 Similarly, avoid shoes that make a noise when you walk around.

8 Think about the audience – if you know it is a formal event, then you need to dress smarter. But, in many countries, the business suit is not as popular as it once was. Many people go to work in jeans, for example. If you turn up in a suit to talk to an audience wearing informal clothes, you may seem old-fashioned and out of touch. Speak to the organisers and venue before the event and bring an alternative option just in case.

9 Many presentations now take place online, and its ease and convenience mean it is likely to remain a popular option. 

If you are presenting online, you can usually relax the dress code a little – no one expects you to login wearing a suit and tie. Choose something you will be comfortable in, but still consider the impression you want to get across to the audience. 

Remember that block colours look good on camera, and avoid black and white because they are harsh and can make you look stern or washed out. Patterns and stripes should be left in the wardrobe as they can create a strobing effect with many TV and video cameras.

As you will be on camera, avoid wearing anything that will distract from what you are saying (such as large dangly earrings) and make sure your hair doesn’t need to be constantly brushed away from your face. 



It's time to take a deep breath.

Let’s assume you have planned properly, prepared carefully and you are confident you look the part.

The final part of the Ps is presenting. And getting your body language right can make a massive difference to its success.

So, let’s take a look at it and how you need to adapt it for different presentation formats:



Standing in front of a seated audience is probably the presentation format that causes the most fear. The good news is there are simple steps to help you appear composed and confident.

When you are on the stage, plant your feet hip-width apart. Now imagine your feet are on a clock, and your toes are pointing at 5 minutes to 1. This maximises your floor coverage and makes you look as if you’re standing on solid ground - even if you’re behind a lectern.

Draw yourself up to your full height. Shoulders should be relaxed.

Everyone’s favourite actress Dame Helen Mirren says she bases all of her characters on one part of the body: the elbows. The more confident her character, the looser she is at the elbow. So, you want those arms away from your body. Allow the energy to come up and out to the audience, forget about your hands and use your whole arms to help get your points across. We promise your hands will follow.  

Gesture to your slides and visual aids (if you’re using them – more on this later) and out to the audience. The bigger the stage, the bigger the gestures need to be. Fill that stage.  

If you like to move around to encompass the whole audience, that’s fine. But always stand still with your feet planted when you make a crucial point.

As part of that all-important preparation, we spoke about earlier, practice delivering your presentation in front of a tall mirror, so you can see if you are standing confidently and using your arms and hands to emphasise particular points.  

Presentation and personal impact skills

Learn how to overcome your nerves and present with confidence and clarity, whatever the format, with this online course.


What about if you are sitting down?

Well, traditionally sitting down to deliver a presentation has been frowned upon.

But, in the real world, there are many times when we present sat on our bottoms.

Boardroom meetings, team meetings and even some conferences or panel events call for speakers to be seated. 

The key is to not become too relaxed in this slightly less daunting format – body language remains crucial if you want to show authority and capture the attention of the audience.

It’s crucial to make sure you have your feet flat on the ground. And position yourself as far back in the chair as you can.

During our presentation skills training courses, we use the acronym BBC to help people remember to sit with their Bum to the Back of the Chair. One tip to add here is that speakers should opt for a stationary chair, as moving around on a swivel one will prove distracting. 

Draw yourself up to your full height, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Then lean forward, placing your forearms on the table in front of you, with arms separated. TV directors call this ‘bringing the face into shot’. The light catches your cheekbones, you appear authoritative and full of integrity – and you haven’t said a word yet.

From here, you can lean back, removing your arms so you can listen to others comment. And then, when you want to assume charge again, you go back to that position of authority.

Who is the most important person in the room? The answer is everyone. So, make sure you engage in eye contact with all those around the table – including the people on either side of you.

Next time you watch TV, notice how presenters use open gestures towards the guests on either side of them. It looks dynamic and is very engaging and inclusive.



Many presentations and meetings take place online.

While there are some similarities to sit-down presentations, online ones do have their intricacies and requirements. 

The most important thing is maintaining eye contact with your audience. Poor eye contact and wandering eyes can make you look shifty and uncomfortable, and your audience will wonder what else you are looking at.

Look into the lens and maintain that contact.

But, also consider whether you would be better standing. You have to work harder online to get your message across, so sitting down hunched over a laptop may not be the best solution.

Why not put the laptop on a shelf so it is at eye level with you when you are standing? That would give much more energy to your performance.



Your voice is also vital, whether you are presenting in person or online.

You need to add energy to your delivery to keep your audience engaged.

Balance is vital - don’t shout, but vary the pace and tone of your voice. Even subtle changes can dramatically improve the attentiveness of an audience.

Remember your volume and tone should be driven by your content. There are moments when you will want to sound inspiring, times when you will want to sound more like a friend, and points at which you will want to challenge your audience. Your voice needs to change to reflect the goals of your message.


If you have a presentation coming up and want to look back on your training with us in more detail, our online Presentation and Personal Impact Skills course enables you to refresh your knowledge and hone your skills whenever and wherever you need it.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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