Presentation Skills – The ABC and XYZ

Let’s face it, if we are serious about our third level education there will come a time when we will be required to make presentations to either peers, tutors or faculty members during our time in university or Open Learning institutes. We may be required to make presentations during module workshops or deliver our findings from a group discussion, or maybe to show the findings of research we have carried out. Whatever way we look at it, presentation skills are a requirement throughout our third level studies.

When referring to the planning and preparation of presentations we generally refer to the three M’s; Method, Media, Materials as a guide in the planning process, so that all bases are covered so to speak. Method refers the type of presentation we are going to use, for example; will we be conducting a lecture, demonstration, discussion or playlet. Media refers to the type equipment that we might use during the presentation, which may include one or more of the following: Flipcharts, Overhead Projectors, Data Display Cameras and Computers with Microsoft PowerPoint to name but a few methods currently in use. Materials refers to the additional information we might give our audience, for example; we might issue handouts, CD ROMS, printouts of the PowerPoint Presentation or samples of our product. The subject of presentation skills can fill volumes of text in libraries and bookshops for the interested student, but that is not what we are about in this article.

To get started with presentation skills let us commence with the basics, which for ease of reference has two parts, ABC and XYZ. These two parts can act as a foundation on which to proceed with learning how to deliver professional presentations during our academic studies. The ABC and XYZ of Presentation were adapted from a series of lectures given by Professor Hubert McDermott of the National University of Ireland, Galway. ABC is a mnemonic for the phrase ‘Always Be Covered’ which refers to the planning and preparation we should undertake prior to the delivery of any presentation. The following are some practical suggestions we should incorporate into our preparation phase of our delivery:

Know the material well (Be an expert).

Practice our presentation with rehearsals (Emphasis on the first five minutes, this helps calm the initial nerves).

Prepare handouts.

Introduce ourselves (Short Bio).

XYZ is a mnemonic for the phrase ‘Examine Your Zipper’ which although funny, stresses the importance of leaving nothing to chance, starting with ourselves, the room and finally the equipment. The following are some suggestions to get us started:

Check that we are dressed correctly with trouser flies zipped up or missed or undone buttons exposing bras or underwear put right. (Ourselves)

Have you brought the laser pointer and markers for the flipchart? (The Equipment)

Check and test all electronic equipment in advance. I mean do a test run…. are the slides in order? are the pictures and links prepared? (Have you got a back-up plan such as a pre-prepared flipchart if the AV (Audio Visual) equipment goes south for the winter?). (The Equipment)

Check temperature and ventilation of the room (Is there enough seating? Are the emergency exits obstructed?). (The Room).

The list could be endless but I hope you get the idea of how important it is to be fully prepared for all presentations. Remember!!!! When you have prepared well for a presentation this will add to your confidence and in turn this confidence will shine through in your professional presentation. The best of luck with your future presentations.

Preparation Prior to Starting Development of the Presentation

When a marketer gets a request for developing a presentation, this is what he/she should be asking. You can treat this as a briefing questionnaire prior to the start of the development.


  • What is the objective of the PPT?
  • Why is it needed and whats the benefit?


  • Who are the intended audience for the presentation?
  • What are their designation?
  • Which departments do they manage and what are their locations?


  • How will it be used – is it for public use or is it for a specific confined audience?
  • Will this be presented in a conference/published online/presented to leads or prospects or customers or some other audience?


  • How much time do you have for the presentation?
  • What is the format of the presentation – will it include a question and answer session or any specific introductions/agenda that needs to be included?


  • Is there any legal compliance surrounding the development?
  • Logos to be used in the PPT? Have they been approved or is it available public?
  • Quotes to be used and its approval?
  • Mentions of projects/ customers/ any other facts that needs review and approval
  • Attachments that needs to be inserted and relevant approval on it
  • Any other assets that needs explicit approval?

Brand representation

  • Is the presentation solely developed in-house and will only represent your brand / one or multiple brands belonging to same group/ will it be a joint effort with some company or speaker from other company?


  • Has the narrative draft been prepared?
  • Who is responsible for giving the raw content?
  • Names of the subject matter experts who will give the content?


  • What are the design consideration?
  • Any preferences on formats/ animations/ color usage/ typography and so on?
  • Does it needs to be presented or will it be supported by background narrative which will be timed?


  • Who will be driving the development of the PPT – process owner/coordinator?
  • Who will review the content, including the logos and other legal assets used?
  • Who will approve the design?
  • Who will approve the entire PPT?
  • Who are the contacts to be kept in loop at each process?


  • Is there any notes/script that needs to be prepared along with the PPT?
  • Any handouts to be given? Any other collateral to be given and in which format (soft copy/hard copy)?

Distribution/ Communication/ Social

  • Post development circulation of the deck – in case the PPT needs to be circulated to teams or kept in a central location with limited or public access – this needs to be clarified
  • Who are to be communicated and given what kind of access to the deck?
  • Central location where the asset is stored – for authorized marketers to pick up and edit in the future if need be?
  • On which social channels should it be distributed?
  • Should there be a mail communication around the completion of the deck – if yes, then to whom?
  • If the deck (non-editable version of the deck) needs to be embedded in a mail campaign or the portion of the content needs to be used in a campaign – it needs to clarified and relevant team needs to be kept in loop for the same.

How to Make an Effective 10-Minute Presentation

You only have 10 minutes to present before your Chamber group, networking organization or BNI (Business Networking International) group. You’ve never spoken before a group of diverse business peers before and don’t know where to start. If you do your job well, you’ll be well-remembered and well thought-of, but if you don’t…don’t worry – you’ll do fine, as long as you don’t turn your presentation into a sales pitch and you practice what you’re going to say beforehand.

Ten minute presentations can help build your platform, and they can establish your credibility and visibility in your profession, as long as you don’t sell directly to your audience. Of course we’re all in business to make money, but instead of throwing everyone a sales pitch you need to choose a topic that will engage your audience that will prompt them to ask you questions. Your networking peers will then refer people to you who have questions without the fear of being “pushed” into anything. You want to be known as the go-to expert in your field and the resource who helps other people find answers to their problems. You don’t want to have the reputation as the pushy person who keeps hounding you for a sale. Maybe people within your group will buy once from you, but they won’t send you outside referrals and they won’t become repeat customers.

What Should I Talk About?

You should present a topic that you care about and that’s important to people in need of your product or service. You will find these topics by researching blogs in your field, by attending presentations, by conversing with experts in your field and by reading the business section of the newspaper. Have a folder on your desk that is your “idea factory” where you place your topic ideas on slips of paper. Build a habit of carrying around a notepad or index cards (this is good for the car) on which you jot down ideas as they hit you or when you’re on the phone with colleagues or clients. Many professionals swear by using a digital tape recorder and they speak into it when an idea hits them.

As you’re preparing your talk, also prepare a bio that is three to four sentences long. Talk about your experience in your field, your education, where you grew up and what you makes you different from others in your field. Give your bio to whoever is in charge of introducing you so they are prepared and can give you an enthusiastic welcome to your group.

It’s also helpful to write up a handout with bullet points along with your contact information so your group can take notes and has a handy reference sheet to take home with them. Pass this handout out before you begin speaking and copy it on colored paper to make it more eye-catching.

Presentation Tips

When you do get an idea, make sure that your idea is not too big for the presentation. The way to counter going over your time is to give five or seven tips to share with your audience. Use five index cards, write on both sides if you need to and practice your talk before the mirror. Time yourself! Did you go over ten minutes? Did you stumble on passages or specific words?

When it is time to give your talk, relax! You’re among peers who want you to succeed! Remember to smile, maintain eye contact and pause for taking a breath so your voice doesn’t become small and thin. When you’re finished, know that you are well on your way to give more talks and increase your visibility. Now that your peers know your expertise, they’ll be able to give stronger referrals, which will ultimately lead to more business. Congratulations and now prepare for your next ten minute talk!