The 3 Pillars of Great Presentations

great presentationMany people ask themselves: What makes a great presentation? Is it in the way you create the content? Is it in the way you put the pieces together? Or is it in the way you deliver the presentation?

I know that you would agree that there have been times when you went to a presentation or a company meeting, only to walk away feeling that it was a total waste of time. It was not a great presentation. But why?

Actually, a great presentation is a combination of these three elements: content, design, and delivery.

These are the 3 Pillars of Great Presentations.

  1. Content includes the research and organization of materials.
  2. Design is the architecture of the slides and the graphical enhancements.
  3. Delivery is how you voice your message.

To make the presentation great, there must be synergy of these three elements. Each of these elements carries equal weight and importance. You will not deliver a great presentation unless you have all three of these elements.

For example, let’s say you don’t do a good job researching and organizing your content, but you spend hours designing the presentation with all the bells and whistles and hours practicing your delivery. What’s going to happen when you get in front of your audience? You’re going to run through your presentation and it won’t be interactive because you don’t know more than what’s on your slides. Your audience is going to pay attention to the next sound or wild animation. When someone asks you questions, you’re not going to know the answers, which will severely hurt your credibility. The audience will take little or nothing back from the content of your presentation and you will look unprofessional as a presenter. By properly combining content, design, and delivery, you’ll create a great presentation! Right?


The Process to Great Presentations

Believe it or not, there is a process to creating that great presentations. First, you must create your content. Then, you must design for that content. Finally, you must develop your delivery strategy and style.



There are some key steps to keep in mind when creating your content. First, you do your research. Then, group the information into logical categories. Finally, you create your outline.

Too often presenters don’t follow those key steps. The night before a meeting, they’re cramming information onto slides trying to create this great presentation. They may even be adding items to their presentation at the last minute.

To avoid the problems of late preparation and last-minute editing, think of creating the content of your presentation in terms of these three steps:

  1. Do your research and gather information.
  2. Group your information into logical categories.
  3. Create your outline.

But Don’t Wrap It Up!

Some people feel that properly preparing for a presentation means putting together a package that cannot change. But we’ve all attended presentations that came across as canned. Put your package together, but keep alert to any changes in the context of your presentation: new information, a shift in mood, a sense of greater interest or urgency. Don’t hesitate to adjust your presentation to make it more effective by being fresh and current.



Once you’ve prepared your content and outlined your presentation, you’re ready to create your slides and add graphics, charts, and animation, if needed. Regardless of the software you will be using for preparing your great presentation, principles of presentation designs are consistent.

One of the basic concepts in presentation designs (and it’s also related to content) is the necessity of the slide. Always ask yourself is this particular slide really necessary? Do not hesitate to cut out unnecessary slides that are irrelevant to your main points or are repetitive. Create hidden slides or hyperlinks to address questions that might be asked. Additionally, vary the slides. For example, don’t show six pie charts or six bullet slides in a row. Change slide style approximately every 3-5 slides.

Also, use the appropriate chart, table, or diagram. Ensure that the type of chart, table, or diagram you choose is the best way to display the data. In great presentations, the graphics accurately and appropriately represent the topic and message. Therefore, use appropriate graphics for your message. For example, for a reference to something, use a symbol or clip art; for an accurate representation, use a picture or video.

Furthermore, use an appropriate template or background. Ensure that the template matches presentation objective, presentation medium, and content. It should also match the situation and the audience. Determine how best to use sidebars, titles, and footers. Determine background color: light or dark. Use best contrast: light text on dark background. Use the proper font that matches the audience and the situation.

Moreover, use informative headings. Employ different headings that provide instant identification of the main point / content of the slide. Not taking care of font size is a common mistake in presentations.

Finally, use slides animations, transitions, or sounds wisely. Although I am not a fan of using excessive animations, distinct transitions, or noticeable sound in my presentation, I may use them but cautiously. An important principle here is not to let these effects deviate you or the audience from your main topic and message. If you want to use them, ensure that you only need to emphasize something out of them or draw the attention of your audience to the message not to the effect.



And finally, there is the delivery. You need to know the logistics of your meeting. You need to drive the attention of your audience. You need to understand how to make them retain your message. Just because you are talking and the participants appear to be listening does not mean there is knowledge being transferred from you to them!

You need to set clear objectives in the presentation as well as state your expectations for your audience. They need to find value in your great presentation, right? Your presentation needs to be such that what you present and how you present it causes a change in behavior of those who attend the presentation.

Maybe it’s a case of helping them to better understand the long-range vision of the company or your team; if you can get them to see it in a way that helps them embrace change, improves morale, and increases productivity, your great presentation has done a great job!

How can you deliver a compelling message in your great presentation? Well in fact, when communicating with other people, we use both verbal and nonverbal messages. Verbal messages are the words that you say; in other words, they are the contents of your presentation. Nonverbal messages are “messages without words” that you communicate through facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, gestures, appearance, posture, body language, and other nonverbal cues.

Nonverbal messages have a greater impact than verbal messages. They are what remains in your audience’s minds when you are done. Recent research indicates that more than 90% of the retained message is due to nonverbal messages. Huge, right?!

Moreover, consistent verbal message and body language project trustworthiness and reflect that you say what you truly believe. And any discrepancy between your verbal and nonverbal messages elicits distrust.


So these were the 3 pillars of great presentations: content, design, and delivery. Make sure that you give them proper and equal attention when you prepare your next great presentation.


If you like this article please like or share. All your comments are also welcome. You can always subscribe to my newsletter here to receive regular updates on interesting posts and articles.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.