Each time you give a presentation, you're putting your career on the line.  Few things are worse than making a fool of yourself in public–and few things better than a closing round of appause.

A while back, I discussed what makes a great presentation with presentation guru Terri Sjodin and Stephen M. Kosslyn, a psychology professor who's studied how audiences perceive presentations.

Based on those conversations, here's a yes-or-no checklist to ensure your presentation is the best it can be. If the answer to almost all of these questions is an emphatic "yes," you'll probably knock them dead.

  • Have you prepared thoroughly by researching the topic?
  • Are you enthusiastic about your message?
  • Are you confident that the presentation is on target?
  • Are you prepared to answer likely questions?
  • Have you rehearsed until you're comfortable?
  • Have you selected a slide background that's unobtrusive?
  • Does your cover slide correctly identify the event?
  • Do your slides highlight what's really important?
  • Are your graphics understandable (rather than confusing)?
  • Does each slide contain text than can be read in less than 30 seconds?
  • Did you use a simple font that's easy to read?
  • Can every detail of every slide be read from the back of the room?
  • Have you eliminated UPPER-CASE, underlined, and italicized text?
  • Does your opening statement capture attention?
  • Does your presentation persuade rather than lecture?
  • Are your statements and opinions supported by evidence?
  • Have you removed the biz-blab and jargon?
  • Will the presentation use the audience's time effectively?
  • Are your anecdotes or analogies vivid and memorable?
  • Is there a clear close or call to action at the end?

If you've only answered "yes" to a few of these: It's time to go back to work.

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