Delivering a Killer Presentation, By the Numbers

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps

Most of us fear presenting or speaking in public. No one is a born speaker. It takes discipline, practice and good habits to channel your nerves. Here are some guidelines and rules to help you on that journey.

Let’s count them down by the numbers.

55: Use great images. Visuals aid recall by 55%. (Great images for a dollar at or

36: Preparation is key. It takes at least 36 hours to create an hour-long presentation.

30: Minimum font size is 30 on a slide.

20: Don’t play 20 questions. Finishing your presentation with a Q&A tends to land with a veritable thud. Take questions, but then finish with a strong story/close.

16: The maximum number of words on any given slide is 16.

15: Less is more. Use a maximum of 15 slides for every 20 minutes of presentation.

14: Here are 14 fonts you should add to your arsenal. Baskerville, CantoraOne, Hobo Std, GOTHAM, Impact, Marker Felt, Montserrat, Open Sans, Oswald, Pacifico Regular, Proxima Nova, PT Sans Bold, Rokkitt and Ubuntu.

13: Beware of the number 13. Bad things will happen when you present. You can count on it. Practice without slides. Do an audio check before you speak.

12: The Baker’s Dozen. Always add a little something extra. Take a cue from the late Steve Jobs. He always had one more thing.

11: In the hilarious movie This is Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel describes a unique feature of his amplifiers. “These go to 11,” he says. Vary the pitch and volume. Make sure you elevate and lower your voice for emphasis.

10: The human brain can only concentrate for 10 minutes before shutting off. Plan breaks into your presentation by using video, role plays and group exercises.

9: Dress to the nines. Eighty-percent of our judgments about people are made in an instant, using two criteria: warmth and competence. Dress smartly to leverage both.

8: Leverage the magic of Hollywood. Use great storytelling techniques like the eight steps of the hero’s journey. These techniques include: Call to Adventure; Revelation; Transformation; Atonement and Return.

7 : When communicating feeling, understand that only 7% communicated are the words you use, while 55% is body language and 38% is tone.

6: Use your sixth sense. Be engaged with the audience. Look for clues for what’s relevant to them. It’s not about you.

5: Five fingers. Gestures are key. Use your hands purposefully to emphasize points. Don’t be afraid to go big.

4: Learn from photographers to avoid the center. When placing an image on a slide, use the four power points of emphasis. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. Draw the eye of the audience to one of the four points at the intersections.

3: People remember things in threes. Use this powerful memory heuristic to your advantage when presenting.

2: Two seconds of pause. When you make a point of emphasis, pause and let your audience have a chance to let it sink in.

1: S.T.O.P. - Single Thought, One Person. Deliver a single thought to one person. This practice eliminates annoying filler words (and, so, um) and allows you time to breathe.

0: Zero. The number of bullets you should use in your entire presentation.

Perfect public speaking is a myth. There is always room for improvement and learning. Use these tips and travel safe on the never-ending journey.

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Stan Phelps is the founder of 9 INCH Marketing and author of the Amazon Best-Seller, “What’s Your Purple Goldfish? 12 Ways to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth.” He can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the August 18, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.