How to Give Great Presentations, Talks and Speeches: 3 Essential Ingredients

Presentation Skills | Hari Kalymnios | The Thought Gym

Over the last 6 years I have both witnessed many talks, presentations and speeches and given a fair few myself. Not to mention the countless amounts of business, work or university presentations I’ve witnessed or given in the last 20 years.

And I have to say, a lot of people do a really bad job at them. The people at the highest level of their game, the ones who yield the most influence, incorporate most, if not all, or what I’m about to share.

My years of research and study into presentations, talks and speeches has led me to believe that the very best ones – the ones you should strive to deliver – have three key ingredients in them.


or more to the point

S.P.A.R.K. , S.P.I.C.E. & H.E.A.R.T.

If you know me at all by now and read other blogs of mine ( then you’ll know that I teach a lot of concept and ideas using acronyms. They help create a framework and focus the mind on the key elements. Whether that’s The Leadership B.E.A.T. Model, P.A.N.L.O. 80/20, O.W.N.-ing your health, ABC for Success or any of the other teachings. This is no different.

So let’s start with S.P.A.R.K.



We have evolved as a race by telling each other stories. The best teachers and influencers often explained their messages via story. Jesus anyone? One of the best storytellers out there. History was told through story. His-story, why not her-story, I don’t know, other than it tells you something. Maybe if we look at herstory instead we’ll get a different view of the past? Why do you go to the movies, read books? We like the story. We don’t just want the ending. Boy goes to new school, discovered a wand, defeats a bad guys, becomes a magician. THE END. That wouldn’t sell me the same number of books that J.K. Rowling sold, would it?

So tell your message as a story. Even (if not especially) if it’s a dry business presentation. What does it really mean. These sales, this feedback from customers, this strategy. Can you put a real person to it? A real customer journey? Story.


What is the purpose of you even talking or presenting. Each talk or presentation must have  a purpose. Is it to entertain (like a comedian), motivate (a motivational/inspirational speaker), create some kind of action (Martin Luther King Jnr), persuade (politicians), educate (a teacher or trainer), or some other purpose. If there’s no purpose, then best just sit down and stay silent.


The best speakers are authentic. Their words, actions and intentions are all congruent. They are not trying to be something they are not. They are the same person off ‘stage’ as on ‘stage’ (although naturally there will be more energy and perhaps theatrics to get points across and keep people’s attention). But their essence of who they are is the same. It’s far easier to be authentic too, as being anything else just takes too much energy, and you’re bound to slip up. Be who you are, because who you are is enough.


Can the audience relate to you or your message? If they can’t then you’ve lost them. Make sure the examples you give they can relate to you. Maybe they can’t relate to you now (as this CEO or Mult-millionaire) but you may have once sat where they now sit. How can you relate who you are now, and the message you are sharing with what will resonant to them. Make sure you know your audience before speaking so you can really focus on this part.


Start strong and finish stronger. Often what happens in the middle is forgotten. How can you end the presentation to make it memorable and drive the message home? Provide a killer ending.

Next up we have



Your talk will have more impact if you can provide some simple, impactful stats, numbers or data points. These needn’t be complicated (in fact, shouldn’t), but just make an impact. Supporting your case with numbers, data and stats will add credibility and impact. When appropriate include.


Having a phrase that sums up you speech, talk or idea is a powerful thing. In a talk I gave about how to get through anything, the phrase I used over and over and sums up the talk and philosophy is This Too Shall Pass. In fact, it’s a mantra of mine for life. You can see the full talk here: Martin Luther King Jnr had “a dream”. Barak Obama campaigned in 2008 on the idea of “Yes, we can”. Winston Churchill – “Never surrender”, John F. Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Give your talk a phrase that pays and it’ll be remembered long after you’re done with the applause.


It’s far more effective to engage the audience in some kind of interactivity, as opposed to just talking at them. Whether that be with rhetorical questions, or even actual questions, getting them to put their hands up or agree to something. Maybe it’s even doing some kind of interactive exercise. Make them part of the conversation. In fact, think of the talk more or a conversation and you’ll find that the audience will react positively. Make them feel that you are talking directly to them (as an individual).


If you can call back to something you said earlier in the speech or talk, it’s a master skills. Comedians are extremely good at this. They create many “open loops” too. These effectively start on a path, but leave it unfinished, so the brain of the audience members stays open and attentive, because we like closure. Then when they call back to the start, we feel satisfied. Of course, you don’t need to call back to just elements of your talk. You can also call back to events that have happened earlier in the day, or week, or if you are delivering a presentation and are part of a series of presenter, then call back to something they might have mentioned. It shows that not only you were fully present with the other presenter, but can show relevance and also build on any foundations already laid by the previous presenter.


Deliver your talk with emotion. People don’t want to sit through a dry presentation. Doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. You can add more emotion to it. Maybe it calls for passion, or joy. Maybe it calls for sadness, or lamenting. Whatever it is, it needs emotion that the audience can recognise in it.

That was S.P.A.R.K. and S.P.I.C.E.  All that’s left is to include some



Ultimately we all like to be entertained. If you want to educate people, try to “edutain” them instead. Humour is a great way to relax the audience, make yourself seem more approachable and give people a way to be bought into your talk or presentation. Of course, it’s not always appropriate, but even many serious issues can be made light off depending on how recent the subject matter is to you or how personal. One of my favourite humour ridden takes on a serious topic – gun control, is this one from comedian Jim Jefferies (worth a watch if you have 7 minutes to spare for part 1).


If you want to make your message stick and have an impact then you must elevate your audience to some other ideal. Or inspire. Show them where they are now, but more importantly, show them a way out. A brighter future. Whether you’re delivering a sales forecast or year end results. Look to elevate your audience to a higher goal and show them a brighter future and you will have the audience engaged and enrolled into your mission (or simply idea).


If you can use analogies or metaphors in your talks and presentations it will help the audiences grasp both new concepts but also the impact of what you are trying to say. For example, if everyone in the USA went vegetarian for one day the US would save greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the total amount of CO2 produced by France (1.2 million tons). Or you save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for 6 months! It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, while producing 1 pound of tofu only requires 244 gallons of water. By going vegan, one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year. For the population of London to go vegan (10 million people) they would save the equivalent to 3.3 millions Olympic-sized swimming pools of water each year. A lot!

If you really want to explore some great analogies and metaphors then just look up some of the benefits of going meat-free just part of the time.


Most people will forget what you say, unless you repeat it. Repetition is needed in many skills in life. Speaking and listening is no different. If you can repeat key themes, messages, phrases, ideas and concepts and even express them in different ways, you will get the message across. You can use different stories to make the same point. Use the same phrase across different stories or any manner of ideas to introduce repetition.


Lastly, remember to stick to the time allocation you’ve been given. It won’t win you any favours with organiser or audience members if you run over. If anything, coming in earlier and giving them back a bit of extra time or time for Q&A will be greatly appreciated. When you run over you are saying (subconsciously) that your time is more valuable than theirs. Your ego on stage is more important. Of course, that’s not always the case. You might just be wanting to get them as much information as possible so they can have massive value. But still. If they expect 45 minutes and you’re there for 55, 60 minutes or longer, they most likely won’t thank you for it. There are a few exceptions I’m sure. Just thinking of musicians and encore sets and great motivational speakers I love to listen to. If the audience needs to get a train home though they’ll either miss the train, or feel they have missed out on the crescendo by leaving “early”. Best to get your message down to the time allocated.

So there we have it. If you want to deliver powerful presentations, tantalising talks, superb speeches and terrific training, then remember to include some

S.P.A.R.K, S.P.I.C.E. & H.E.A.R.T.

What do you think? Does this help you with your next talk or presentation? 

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