Lindsay LaNore: The art of presentation

By Lindsay LaNore, ICBA

Thomas Jefferson, it is said, gave only two public speeches during his eight years as president. Both were his inaugural addresses, and they were, reportedly, barely audible. He was posthumously diagnosed with social phobia, or what we might now call stage fright, a condition that many otherwise accomplished leaders have been known to suffer from. These include businessman Warren Buffett, who credits his success in part to a Dale Carnegie public speaking course that helped him get over his fear.

Making a presentation live on stage—or even on Zoom—can be nerve-racking. As a leader, heading up meetings and giving presentations is an essential part of your role. Here are a few ways to make the best of your time in the spotlight.

  • Start by being prepared. It may be tempting to wing it, but the worst time to determine what you’re going to say is while you’re saying it!
  • Know your audience. Think about who you are speaking to, and tailor your message accordingly.
  • Be present. Look for cues from, and make connections with, your audience. Use examples that they can relate to.
  • Put energy into your performance. There is nothing worse for an audience than knowing their presenter’s heart isn’t in it. It may seem like a cliché, but remember to smile.
  • Breathe. Literally, just breathe. Write the word breathe in your notes during the first two minutes of your presentation.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t rush through your presentation. But equally, don’t ramble. Be aware of your timing. And don’t forget comedic timing, too. A little humor goes a long way!
  • Take your audience on a journey. Start with an intriguing piece of information. It could be a story, a statistic, a photo or something surprising. But make no assumptions that your audience knows the journey that you’re taking them on.
  • Make sure your guidance is practical and useful. Keep your language simple and direct.
  • Use visuals. Incorporating visuals in your presentation can speed up understanding and function as a memory aid.
  • Create a call to action. Leave the audience with strategies, tips and information that adds value long after the event.
  • Make yourself available for questions. Opening yourself up to questions will provide you with invaluable feedback, which is exactly what you’ll need for the next time you take to the stage.

If things don’t go entirely to plan, remember that success requires practice. Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.

Make your next speech better

For resources related to the art of presentation, check out Community Banker University’s online training courses. Examples include Enhancing Your Speaking Skills, Presentations That Work, Communicating Persuasively and Running Effective Meetings.

Lindsay LaNore ( is group executive vice president and chief learning and experience officer