By Sherry Knight

Wow! You’ve just been asked to make a presentation on Career Development. It’s exciting! It’s the first time anyone has asked you to make a formal presentation to a group of people.

Now, you’ve had time to think about this wonderful opportunity and suddenly you realize; you have to put this whole thing together and stand in front of these individuals who will look to you for guidance. Slow down now. You have the skill to do this; all we need to do is help you take that skill and organize it. First off:


Your presentation needs a beginning, middle and end. Just like you heard when you were writing essays in high school. The difference is when you have a job to do, your presentation needs to be on an emotional level that allows the audience to experience a deep down desire to make adjustments to their lives. Some questions to ask:

  1. What do you want people to do when they leave the presentation?
  2. What stories do you have that will impact your audience?
  3. What information do they need to have?
  4. How do you want to get the audience involved in the presentation?

Consider your presentation plan:


Start with something that will have impact – a story that will touch their hearts

Do not start with “thank you, glad you are here” or any other wasted words

Tell them what you want to tell them


This is where you want to include the specifics of your topic

You might use statistics, quotes, stories – as long as the content is relevant


Tell them what you told them

Close with a story that shows HOPE – hope your audience can also be successful

Ask your audience to take action when they leave


You’ve planned your presentation. And now it’s time to add the specifics to help your audience learn what you have to tell them. Think about how you will make that information stick. This portion of your presentation needs to ensure sufficient background in the sense of documentation and stories to back up what you tell people.

In this part of your presentation you will want to ensure you provide information to show people how they can be better tomorrow than they were today. Will you use:


  • Good for groups over 25
  • Only 6 lines of type and only 6 words per line
  • If the lamination is not strong enough your information may not be visible enough in a room full of sunlight
  • Remember, when you use Power Point you are no longer the focal point, the Power Point is
  • When you need to have people focused on you then use the “B’ button to black out the screen – when you are ready to continue with the Power Point touch the “Enter” button and you’ll have your screen back

Flip Chart

  • Good for groups under 25
  • Write in letters 3 inches high
  • Do not write on the bottom 3 inches of the page
  • Use a pencil to write your notes lightly on the page
  • Write only on every second page so they do not show through

Hand Out Material

  • Good for groups of all sizes
  • Adult learning suggests people learn best when they write – allow the audience to fill in the blanks and do remember to leave room for note taking

Group Interaction

  • Consider ways to involve the group and your audience will leave feeling they have more information than when they arrived
  • Some approaches to getting people involved
    Individuals – ask people for their opinion
    Pairs – ask people to practice together
    Small group – create exercises for small groups


Your close is the second most important part of your presentation – the most important is your beginning. This is your time to wrap up your entire talk and get your audience to do something with the information they have heard.

Your presentation is critical! Treat it as such – remember the entire purpose of your presentation, whether it is a full day, three hours or an hour, is to touch the hearts of your audience and get them to do something different.

If you only provide the information, without touching their hearts, you will have wasted your time and your audience’s as well. Today, time is of the essence! You do not want to spend your time putting together something that will not cause people to do something constructive.


Presentations need to involve some fun! When people smile, chuckle and laugh they are more inclined to attach learning to the emotion of having fun.

Allow the emotions to be part of your presentation and you’ll have people who actually want to adjust their behaviour.


Some people say you have as long as 2 seconds (yes you read it right! 2 seconds) to make a first impression. That means a good first impression or a bad first impression. Not long, is it?

One of the biggest challenges we find in presenters is people who want to dress the same as their audience. Now I ask you – when you are looking to gather information from someone do you look for the person that dresses like you or do you look for the person who dresses up a notch?

I am going to say the same thing here you possibly tell your career development clients – don’t dress for the job at hand, dress for the position you want to achieve! There, I have said it. Dress for the position you want to hold in the eyes of your audience – the expert they come to for assistance in finding the right job for them.

What do you want to consider in your appearance – well, there is the aspect of a shirt (not a knit shirt) with a collar and long sleeves, socks or nylons, leather looking shoes that are polished and do not have run down heels (after all, run down heels, run down everything!). These things provide you with more credibility than if you did not have them.

Men, you want your pants to come to the top of the shoe so they “break” just over the front of the shoe – that’s a little crease in the pant leg before it hangs over the top of the front of the shoe. Women, you will often get more credibility in a skirt just below the knee than in any other length and even rather than pants. If you get cold you might want to add a jacket, you will get more credibility with this than a sweater.

There you have it – a few tips on building a strong presentation. Some of you reading this article will know all this, some of you may get a few pointers to add to your existing knowledge. Regardless, just remember people want to hear your stories, your experiences – that’s what grabs them. And yes, even at the beginning you only have a few seconds to have your audience decide if they will give you the time you require to assist them. Make those few seconds count! Start with a “grabber” and end with a “grabber” and people will come back for more and more of your knowledge.

One client was looking for a way to end his presentation with a bang! He did. He wrote a few things on the flip chart as he was talking with is audience. Wanting to move everyone to making a choice he asked, “And so which of these ideas will you start on by noon tomorrow?” And, he slammed the flip chart with such a loud bang of his fist that the flip chart when reeling. Everyone remembered they had made a commitment to do something!!!!!!


Sherry Knight, author, coach, media personality, speaker and trainer can be reached at .