Over the past three days, I’ve posted 3 blog posts with Presentation Ninja Tricks, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it – thank you :)

However, as Dennis B. Petersen pointed out to me, my posts, as any other he has read about presentation skills, are primarily focused on presentations for larger audiences. But, Dennis asked me, where are the tips for presentations with very limited audiences such as a meeting between a consultant and client, or a daily presentation in an organization? Presentations that to a great extent also function as a direct delivery of information and documentation?

And he is right; even though I think many of the tips in Plan, Produce and Perform can be applied to any kind of presentation, regardless of size and scale, when writing the series of posts, I was primarily focused on presentations with an audience of a certain scale – say from 10 persons and up.

It is a valid point to mention presentations for small groups (1-4 people). After all, many of us have these sorts of meetings/ presentations every day. So in this post, I will point out a few tips on how to improve these types of presentations.

First of all, I will say that all the tips you find in Plan, Produce and Perform apply to these types of presentations as well. So if you haven’t read those three posts, start by doing that :)

There are a number of issues that exist especially in theses small types of presentations that I would like to address:

1. Presentation slides have to work as hand outs

Often, the audience (client, co-workers etc.) expect to get some kind of written documentation to take home from the meeting. So often, your presentation slides also work as this kind of documentation/ “a brochure”/ information.

So how do you adapt your presentation slide so they can work as a hand out document as well?
The short answer is: You don’t.

Presentation slides do not work as a hand out document – or vice versa. We’re talking about two very different kinds of things here.

What you do is you produce 2 separate sets of slides, one for the presentation, and one for the audience that includes an elaboration and notes. And now you’re probably thinking: “But I don’t have time for this!” Granted, it will take you a bit longer, but if you are just being a little wise in your planning, it won’t require double the time to produce 2 sets.

The solution is, that while you plan your presentation (write your story, if you will) you write it in such a detailed manner that it is suitable for handing out. Create it in a simple document format rather than a slideshow manner, and that will work just fine to hand out. The next step is to create the presentation slides based on this manuscript, and here the trick is to only include keywords and illustrations/ visuals.


If you are presenting to a large audience, and you’re standing at a stage at a distance, it’s natural for the audience to keep quite during your presentation. However, if you present to a very limited amount of people, the situation is very different. They will often ask elaborative questions during your presentation, which could influence your flow.

One solution could be to ask your audience to write down any questions they might have and then ask them after you’re done with your presentation. Very often this is a good idea because they will see that you answer a lot of their questions along the presentation.

If you don’t want to ask them to wait with their questions, make sure you have a few keywords on a separate piece of paper or on your screen, so you can get back on track after the interruptions.

Presenting on your laptop

This is dreadful. Personally, I hate presenting on a laptop, because that means I can’t have my presentation notes visible on the screen. But it’s very often a reality if you’re presenting for a very limited audience who are all gathered around a table, and there are a few things you can do to make this work perfectly fine.

Firstly, don’t have your notes in digital form. Print them out on a piece of paper so you are able to have them close to you.

Secondly, know every single one of your slides, so you won’t have to look at them for support. The screen should be turned directly towards the audience, which means that it will probably be out of your visible reach. If necessary, print out your slides in mini format and put your notes on them so you know which slide comes next.

And thirdly, buy a remote if you don’t have one! This will create a much better flow in your presentation because you won’t have to physically click the next-button on the actual laptop.

There are probably more issues I haven’t thought of at this moment, so if something popped up while you read this post, please leave me a comment and I’d be happy to elaborate on them too :)


4 Responses

  1. Thanks Trine, I really liked your first entries and now I just have to applaud you for coming up with presentation advice that is tailored for a specific kind of presentation.

    I think that your approach of starting with a document is great for situations where your audience needs you to prepare information for them that they can take home and study. And I think you can take it even further:

    The communication situation you find yourself in when a lot of information has to be shared among colleagues rather than a concept explained and a “call to action” issued, lends itself to being open for questions. In fact, I feel it should be driven by the input of your colleagues who need clarification on questions of understanding what you are presenting to them. So I find it feasible to structure such a presentation as a moderated Q&A, where the document you prepared guides everyone through the process of understanding. This is, in fact, what Edward Tufte proposes to be a much better presentation than firing up powerpoint.

    Where I disagree with Tufte and agree with you though, is that powerpoint can actually help to structure the information flow. Where I disagree with you is that a slide show is that structure. I think you can instead make a carefully designed document to become the guiding structure. To do that, you need to abandon the slide paradigm and picture the presentation through the eyes of your audience, rather than what the slide layout of powerpoint tells you to see. Your audience does not see a slide, all they see is a projected image on the wall.

    What you could do is section your document into chunks of information, much like the infographics that have become a recent trend. You can then put detailed information into those chunks that are not legible on the screen, when the whole document is displayed. But you can make powerpoint zoom in on those sections, to make the details legible to your audience. Thus, the depth of information scales with the zoom you apply to your document.

    The upside in preparing this: You only need to create one document. You just have to design it in a way that the information on it scales from broad overview to detailed minutia. Your audience can discuss the contents of the document that everybody holds in their hands. But your moderation and choice of zooming sequence dictates the structure of that discussion, because everybodys attention is directed at the screen, if you tell them to.

    I wish I had an example for this in English already, but you will have to wait for that. In the mean time you could watch this video that demonstrates “zooming” in Keynote. Or, if you understand German, you could click through to a presentation that is designed in the way I tried to describe here.


  2. Jakob, thanks for your thorough comment – very sound advice. Structuring a presentation for colleagues as a moderated Q&A is an excellent idea. Indeed, whereas pitch like presentations have a certain form, so does presentations for colleagues. They very often ask more questions, so I think it’s a great idea to tailor the presentation around it rather than trying to limit and control it.

    I’m not exactly sure how the slide design you suggest would look, but I find the idea fascinating and fitting to the idea of a lesser structured presentation where input feed and to some extent control the direction of the talk. I would love to see an example at some point :)

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