8 Surprising Traits of the Best Presenters

We were recently contacted by Alli Matson, an Inbound Growth Specialist at HubSpot, about her consulting project PresentationWit. Her focus on humor as an engaging presentation tactic aligns with our own here at Big Fish Presentations. She thought her article about surprising traits of the best presenters would be a good fit for our blog, and we agreed. Check out her guest post below, and visit her page for more tips on using humor in your presentations.

I think that we’ve all read one article or another about characteristics of the best presenters. These mythical creatures are exemplars of confident, relaxed, passionate, eloquent, and inspiring leadership. They can bring an audience to tears with one small anecdote, and simultaneously motivate the crowd to go out and make a personal impact on the world.

Yeah. So, I’ve never seen a presentation like that. Those presentation demi-gods are about as common as, well, demi-gods. Fortunately, most of us don’t have to make a speech to inspire the masses; most of us just need to present a Quarterly Business Review in a way that doesn’t induce sleep. Here are 8 surprising traits of the best presenters that we can all embody.

The best presenters are:


8 surprising traits of the best presenters

This trait is definitely the most counterintuitive. I mean, how can you be confident and vulnerable? Also, isn’t vulnerability a bad thing? No, it most certainly is not. While there is something to be said for the uber confident presenter, realistically, most of us aren’t going to be able to do that. Rather, a sneaky way to seem confident is to be forthcoming with your emotions. Admit to some nerves, tell them how excited you are to be presenting, blush at a compliment, etc.  Just be human! Confidence isn’t about being some extraverted socializing machine, it’s about being comfortable with who you are, and emotions are a huge part of that.


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A great presenter knows how to read an audience. They pay attention to the body language, eye contact, and reactions of those in the audience and adjust their delivery and, if possible, content accordingly. In addition to observing the audience mid-speech, it’s important for a good presenter to cater their content to their anticipated audience. Sorry for saying audience so many times.


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Don’t be annoying about how great you are. The more you say it, the less people believe it.


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People love when they feel like they could get in contact with you (even if they really can’t). This is why managers have “open-door” policies and CEOs of large corporations tell their employees to “email them anytime.” It doesn’t matter if either of those are real; they make people feel good.


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This one is pretty self explanatory, but often forgotten. Make sure that you aren’t alienating anyone in your audience with word choice, labels, or stereotypes. It’s just unnecessary and easily avoidable.


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Even the most serious presentations nowadays involve some sort of humor. It’s a stellar way to grab the attention of your audience and maintain levity throughout your speech. Be careful to avoid any humor that could cause offense (be considerate). Fortunately, there are zillions of jokes that offend no one!


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Make sure that you have some concrete, easy to remember takeaways from your presentation. If listeners were to only remember one or two things, what would those be? Reiterate those takeaways several times throughout the presentation and be sure to end with it for maximum impact.


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Great speeches usually involve some growth on the part of the speaker. That could be learning from your failures, successes, regrets, etc. You should use personal anecdotes and what you learned from them to justify any advice or takeaways for your audience. This makes you seem like a much more mature and credible source.

Any other surprising traits that were left out? Comment below and let us know.

Alli Matson is an Inbound Growth Specialist at HubSpot. This blog is from her personalized humor consulting website, PresentationWit. Alli grew up in Seattle, WA and attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for undergrad. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Studies, and uses her knowledge of social psychology and behavior in organizations to inform the content and delivery of her office humor. Presently, she lives in Cambridge, MA and participates in sketch comedy, improv, and musical improv at Improv Boston.

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