Tools and Tips for Presenting and facilitating Impactful Sessions

Posted in : HR Updates on 23 October 2019
Paolo Ruoppolo
Think People
Issues covered:

Presentation and facilitation skills are an essential talent to master for many different situations. It doesn’t matter if it is for business updates, learning sessions, meetings, conferences or the dreaded best man speech, some principles and good habits can be learned and best be followed. In this article, Paolo Ruoppolo, Senior Consultant at Think People provides some guidance on how to prepare for and deliver meaningful presentations. 

Presentation and facilitation skills are an essential talent to master for many different situations. It doesn’t matter if it is for business updates, learning sessions, meetings, conferences or the dreaded best man speech, some principles and good habits can be learned and best be followed.  

Let’s get the elephant out of the room and out of this article 

Even the most experienced public speaker feels nervous when the time comes to face the audience. This is a natural physical reaction - our body releases a mix of adrenaline and cortisol into our systems, which is the equivalent of having several cups of coffee at the same time.  Heart racing, sweaty palms, temporary loss of memory, all very exciting indeed.  The audience can be perceived as a threat, triggering in our brain one of the most primordial reactions - the flight, fight or freeze instinct (amygdala highjack).  Now I don’t suggest for a second that you” fly” away from the scene, that won’t go down well with your audience nor I presume the organisers of the event.  Moreover, the other alternatives (fight or freeze) will make poor options given the task at hand. 

So, what can we do?  

Paraphrasing a notorious saying, ‘there is nothing wrong with having butterflies in our stomach, as long as we learn to make them fly in formation’. Easy to say, you may think, so how do we become a skilled butterfly tamer?  

Firstly, the key to success is about your preparation and knowledge of the content you want to present. Being in control of this will help your confidence and reduce your nervousness, apparently by up to 75%.  Rehearsing the content will also decrease the likelihood of avoiding errors by 95% (Presentation statistics from Fred Pryor Organisation).  

Usually, most of the audience will be on your side, the majority want you to do well, they are investing their time to listen to what you have got to say, so it should be a win-win situation. However, if you are poorly prepared, the audience will be asking themselves ‘if he/she hasn’t bothered to prepare and invest his/her time, well then why should I’? 

Think about what you want your audience to hear, learn, do, change, support or buy and work your way backwards, everything you say should support the aim of the presentation.  The message must be tailored to your audience’s needs.  But be careful not to be perceived as self-interested.  If your presentation sounds like a long-winded sales pitch you will lose your audience’s attention and worst of all their trust.  

Tell me a story, be genuine, courageous and generous 

Storytelling has been a way to pass knowledge through history, the hero, the villain, the quest and the grand finale.  Furthermore, if the story is relevant to your current situation and challenges, you will be all ears.  Even more effective is when we use a true story from our own experience, genuinely and courageously recalled, then we will be perceived as truthful, generous even vulnerable.  This approach has the effect of increasing pathos and intimacy with the audience increasing their trust in what you are saying. However, take note that the story must be relevant to the topic and short enough to keep the audience’s attention. One common pitfall is where the presenter goes into too much irrelevant detail and ends up losing the audience. Your story should bring the audience on your side and help to persuade them to your argument.    

The Greek philosopher Aristotle describes the Rhetoric modes of persuasion as the Ethos, or the credibility of the presenter, the Pathos which is an appeal to the emotional side of the audience using passion in your delivery, and the Logos, the logic of your argument, fact, figures to support your presentation. These key concepts should be the pillars of your presentation.  

Presenting is not a monologue  

Let’s not forget that after 20 minutes of listening, our attention starts to drift off.  It is essential, when presenting, to involve your audience, get them doing things, such as group/table discussion, questionnaires, mini-competitions (for example a pub quiz type activity relevant to the topic), flip chart/brown paper activities, relevant video content or the feared simulations (a sexy way to call the good old role-plays). 

Tony Buzan, an English author and educational consultant, the promoter of Mind Mapping, stated that the figures on retention of information are: Read 10% - Heard 20% - Seen 30% - Heard and Seen 50% - Said 70% - Said and Done 90%. With this in mind it should be obvious how to approach the design of your presentation and the mix of activities needed to make it effective and memorable. 

Finally, am I a stand up performer? 

Yes and no! 

Yes - in terms of the energy, the warmth, the interactions with the audience, our positive body language, the knowledge and authority displayed about our content of choice, the vulnerability, will to give, generosity and if appropriate, bringing humour to a situation.    

I remember a time in my career when I thought participants had to have fun at all cost.  Now with many years of experience I know this approach was wrong.  If I do all of the good stuff described above, then the responsibility is also on the participants to actively be part of the experience.  In my opinion it is an equal relationship, the audience engagement, questions, interest and participation will give me immense energy and stimulation to do an even a better job.  

I had to learn that not everybody will like me or what I am saying, I can’t make people learn or listen if they don’t want to and this is their choice. I can only deliver my best presentation and do my very best. 


This article is correct at 23/10/2019

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Paolo Ruoppolo
Think People

The main content of this article was provided by Paolo Ruoppolo. Contact telephone number is 028 9031 0450 or email

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