10 Fun and Interesting Presentation Ideas

interesting presentation ideas

By Mark Schaefer

At some point in every business person’s life, you will have to give a presentation and if you’re like me, it can still be an anxious experience.

I have given hundreds of talks and presentations and here are 10 ideas to help you get over the nerves and into some presentation sizzle. At the end I have a little video clip to pull it all together for you …

1. Local color

No matter where you are, find some interesting or funny comment about the town you are in or the group you are with. A reference to the weather, your last visit, a local sports team, or a news event can be fun. Find something to bring people in, get their attention and maybe have a laugh.

People feel warm when you take the time to bring in a story about their town or organization.

2. Getting over the nerves

Here’s a secret. You just need to get through the first two minutes. If you can get through the first two minutes, you will relax and be fine.

So here is a trick. When you find your “local color” piece to open your talk, memorize it. Just say it over and over and over again so when you get up on the stage, you have your first two minutes down cold, people will laugh and you are on your way.

3. Be visually profound

Many speaking coaches recommend that you get rid of slides altogether. Sometimes that’s OK, but images can also help you create a more fun and interesting presentation.

Whenever I do a talk I challenge myself to add something visual and cool that will help make the audience remember me. With all the sources of free or low-cost visual elements on the web today, this is easier than ever. For less than $20 you can even buy animations to embed right in your powerpoint. Is there something you can do visually to make them go WOW? Laugh? Sit up and take notice?

4. Visual prompts, not bullets

By now, there should not be a presenter on earth talking from a list of bullet points. That is so 2005. But to help you get through 45 minutes of talking, you might need some visual prompts so use large photos and images to accompany your story, not derail it.

5. Involve the audience in a low-impact way

There is nothing more awkward than asking your audience a question and then getting total silence. Instead, ask a question that simply calls for a raised hand, like “how many bloggers in the audience?” This gets people involved without putting them on the spot.

6. The 7 minute intervention

Here is a test. The next time you are listening to a great speaker, count how many times your mind starts to wander back to the office or the upcoming lunch break.

Of course this varies by person and even by setting, but on average people start to fade away about every seven minutes — even if they are interested in your talk!

So every seven minutes I have an intervention to bring them back to me. I’ve already mentioned a few ideas like introducing something visually profound or asking the audience a question. Other ideas might be to say something funny, physically change my position, dramatically raise or lower my voice, or shifting the emotional tone of the talk.

Every seven minutes, do something to shake them a little in their seats.

7. Rule the slides

I recently rolled out a brand new speech on the future of social media. I practiced that thing so many times I was sick of it. But I’ll tell you what. When it was showtime, I was smooth as silk without even looking at the slides.

By the time I was on the road with this talk, I could hit that 45-minute time limit on the button without looking at a clock. Organizers appreciate that, believe me. It’s OK to be a little under, but never go over the time limit.

Rule the slides, don’t let them rule you.

8. Entertain to teach

When I first started speaking I approached it as though it was as an extention of my teaching. That was a mistake.

When people attend a speech, they expect some entertainment. At some point I crossed a line and I became more of an entertainer than teacher … but it makes me a more effective teacher. Make sense?

9. Assemble stories

Many of the best speakers rarely create all-new speeches. They collect different stories from their careers and then assemble them in a way to make it relevant to an audience. I was told that former US President Bill Clinton, one of the highest-paid speakers in the world, keeps a stack of note cards with his “stories” and then assembles them right before his speech.

I am getting better at this. I have enough stories now that I know which ones really connect to different audiences but this only comes from experience.

Start collecting now!

10. The two minute warning

Most standard talks include a Q&A period and you don’t want to face dead silence!

Here is a trick to keep that Q&A session lively. Two minutes before you are through, say this: “I’d like to move to my final point before taking your questions … so start thinking about your questions now.”

This gives the audience a task and a signal that they need to formulate a question now. This trick works with every audience except college undergraduates. People who ask questions are keeping the rest of the class from leaving the room so it normally doesn’t happen in a college classrom! : )

Putting it all together

Here is a two-minute video clip of my recent speech on the Future of Social Media at a conference in Minneapolis. Watch for how I incorporate some of the interesting presentation ideas:

1) Visuallly powerful animation

2) Well-rehearsed local color

3) Asking for a raise of hands

4) Entertainment value

5) A physical intervention in the form of an extended pause.

Click here if you can’t see the two-minute video of keynote speaker Mark Schaefer.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.


All posts

  • One of my biggest fears is public speaking. I totally agree with your points above especially where relating to directly engaging/involving the audience 🙂

  • “Cadence” is so important in great story-telling, but what a dry word! I love “the 7-minute intervention” for its insight into human behavior and a framework for so much else. Great post, Mark!

  • drjrogers

    This came to my inbox at a great time! I am working on a Presentation to other faculty on the use/benefits of using Social in HigherEd. Great idea to add stories and humor… I neglected to include that in my original write up. Those two qualities draw me in with your “talks”. I love using humor with students but in this presentation I think I was focusing too much on “teaching” other faculty and presenting data/evidence to support. Once again, Thanks Mark! Heres to hoping I can cram it all into one hour :/

  • Steve Woodruff

    Have I ever fallen into the “teaching” trap! It’s so easy to get too caught up in the bare information transfer aspect, without engaging emotionally. One thing I find helpful early on in the talk is to introduce a high-level metaphor or illustration, to make sure that people can bridge to the main point within the first few minutes. If I’m going to lose someone after 7 minutes, I still want them to walk away with one striking image!

  • Apparently my future success in marketing will require a continual supply of kittens. At least I’m not allergic!

    Appreciate the presentation tips, thanks for sharing Mark!

  • Dorien Morin-van Dam

    Excellent tips, Mark. Looking forward to implementing some (or all) of these next time I take the stage!

  • Pingback: 10 Fun and Interesting Presentation Ideas | Dig...()

  • Glad this connected with you Barry. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Good word. An intangible, isn’t it?

  • That was such a big learning for me. No way to hold attention for 45 straight minutes teaching style ,… At least I can’t!

  • I was in the same trap. I felt obligated to give a data dump of everything I know!

  • Kittens never fail. Never.

  • Awesome! Good luck!

  • Rebecca

    Mark, this is one of the best posts on the topic of presenting I’ve seen – and as a presentation designer, I’ve seen many! My favorite is #6. People DO get restless right in the 7 – 11 minute timeframe, so your tip about interjecting something to change things up – even a little – is excellent. I also run presentations for clients at events, so I can personally vouch for the importance of #7, especially at an event that includes a number of speakers in a row. All of these are really super tried and true ideas from an experienced speaker. I’m going to save this to share with future clients!

  • drjrogers

    True — I am hoping I can illicit engagement. I think in this instance (this particular presentation) it is paramount and will lead to a richer experience for all.

  • Wow thanks Rebecca! You made my day!

  • Pauline Baird Jones

    That was hilarious! Loved the start and the post. It’s so interesting when you talked about the 7 minute limit. I remember reading a book years ago, a speechwriter for presidents and she talked about drift and how to build in down time into your talk, but I like your idea better. Pull them/invite them back into the talk with something interesting. I also like #7. In my line, I mostly do panels and wow, some people are such time hogs. I’m seriously tempted to bring my knitting. LOL No, I don’t allow myself to be rude, but inside my head I’m screaming to get out. LOL If you get to Houston, I’d love to hear you speak in person.

  • Glad you enjoyed it Pauline. I am at a point where I really love presenting and can have a lot of fun on the stage!

  • Hey Mark, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently getting ready for a talk in late September AND am putting together small talks (and workshops) … well, actually you gave me more work, because I’m now rethinking the structure of my talk 🙂

    Thank you.

  • MaureenMonte

    Oh my goodness, I am SO LATE to the party but wanted to extend my gratitude as well – I have seen you present, first of all, and you are AMAZING. I never would have guessed there were any nerves whatsoever (and didn’t you tell me the slides were wrong in the prompter you could see? We never knew because you didn’t let it show.) You ruled the slides, to your point. I am presenting wed to a new client (president of a bank and the members of his 13 person leadership team) on Strengths & Client Engagement. I’ve worked on the pitch all day, and I’m good with the foundations, but will now give it rehab based on your input. One change I will make instantly is to show engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged employees by using images I’ve taken from the zoo. 🙂 THANK YOU!

  • Herb Silverman

    Thanks for the tips, Mark. I especially like #6 – when I was a DJ in college, it’s like turning the record every several minutes to change the beat!

  • Pingback: When Chomping Down Software Leads, at Least Learn to Chew! | B2B Leads - Software, Cloud Computing, Telemarketing, ERP, Mobile()

  • Pingback: When Chomping Down Software Leads, at Least Learn to Chew! – Content Marketing Insider()

  • Pingback: When Chomping Down Software Leads, at Least Learn to Chew! | The Marketers Mega Toolkit()

  • Pingback: 10 Fun and Interesting Presentation Ideas - Sch...()

  • mose

    Brilliant Mark! As always! Did I say brilliant! Yeah I did. Kudos.

  • Just seeing this post but the ideas are timeless

  • jennifer lehner

    Mark this is a GEM of a post. Thank you! You rocked the Content Marketing World 2014 Twitter session and I actually think about it often…it was funny and even though I knew most of the stories from the Tao of Twitter, the way you brought the connections together with that mosaic piece at the end was excellent. Keep up the excellent work!

  • Thanks. Yes, that speech in Ireland was a learning experience. It showed the previous person’s slides in the teleprompter! Just a little … distracting!!! But it worked out. Something always goes wrong! Glad the tips helped you!

  • Thanks for your very kind comments Jennifer! I remember that as a challenging speech. How do you make Twitter fresh for a bunch of social media experts : )

  • Thanks for another helpful post, Mark. I have minimal experience in public speaking and its one of my goals for the new year to develop a program and start getting out there and delivering it. Your post answered some questions I had and gave me some new encouragement that I CAN do this. I just need to get after it. Thankyousir!

  • Maurice DeCastro

    A brilliant article Mark, thanks for sharing, I really like your approach.
    I hope you don’t mind but I have a slight issue with the last point, the two minute warning; as I believe all that does is switch your audience away from you when in fact in the last two minutes you really want their full attention so you can really leave them with a strong close and something to remember.
    I believe the challenge is for the speaker to just be comfortable with the silence and wait for the questions, if there are any they will come. It takes courage and practice but it works.
    Great post.

  • Glad I could give you a little inspiration my friend. Thanks for commenting!

  • This is a very interesting point. I do recognize the possible disruption to the flow you mention here. The issue is not necessarily my comfort with silence but the host jumping the gun before questions the questions start to emerge. I can see both sides. Thanks very much for the alternative viewpoint.

  • kashmala zain

    will you please help me for my presentation mr mark w. schaefer

  • kashmala zain

    actually i m the student of b.s (economics) and i have a task to present some new presentation for my computer class i have already present some power point slide but i didn’t got a good response therefore i was so drained and will you please suggest me for my new presentation i shall b very highly great full to you for this favor for this kindness

  • I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to do your classroom homework for you. : ) Relax, be yourself, be prepared and concentrate on being interesting and helpful. Good luck.

  • kashmala zain

    ok 🙁

  • kashmala zain

    ok thank you 🙂 i ‘ll follow you Mr Mark 🙂

  • Pingback: 10 Fun and Interesting Presentation Ideas – Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow} | Social Media Strategies()

  • I had to give a presentation yesterday…..but it went horribly wrong.

    I have to give it again tomorrow…i’ll try these tips this time.

  • Aliaa

    hi Mr. Mark W. Schaefer , I’ve been looking for ideas for presentation and i found this article , it’s really good and has helped me thank you
    Next Wednesday I have a great presentation in presence of my Drs >< ( I am a pharmacy student ) and I need new ideas if anyone can help in this

    thank you again

  • Able Loyola

    Hi, Sir Mark. I am so glad I came across this site — the best ever! I am a trainer; somehow I handle my sessions the most enthusiastic and most lively way I can, but your tips give me a boost to enliven my presentations to the maximum. As of now, my superior is tasking me to prepare guidelines to be used in our presentation class. May I adapt these vital pointers of yours? I would be much honored should you give me a nod. Thank you, Sir.

  • Pingback: 10 Fun and Interesting Presentation Ideas - Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow} - Presentation Geeks()

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Tom Webster.

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details


Send this to a friend