For my last blog post of 2015, I’m inspired to update a post I did a few years back.

I.Thou shall speak authentically, avoiding all marketing BS and self-serving promotion. Thou shall sound as little like an American presidential candidate as possible, not trying to promise all things to all people.

II.Thou shall focus on the audience. The success of a communication ultimately belongs to the audience, not to the speaker.  Thou shall realize that in the end it is the audience that is important, not the speaker.

III. Thou shall not use Power Point as speaker notes. No, nor Keynote, nor Prezi, nor any other slide software, as glitzy as it might be.

IV.Thou shall not begin thy speech with a joke*. Thou shall remember that humor is personal, local, and as likely to offend as it is to please. Especially political humor. Thou shall derive thy humor spontaneously from the situation and the audience in front of thou, not from one-liners.

V.Thou shall speak with all appropriate passion, and not be boring. Thou shall refrain from the dreaded information dump. Thou shall help the audience by sharing the high points of thy wisdom, not the entire body of knowledge thou possess.

VI.Thou shall tell stories and not kill thine audience with endless data. Thou shall tell stories with a minimum of detail, and a maximum of drama. Thou shall tell real stories and refrain from retailing anecdotes with little point and no excitement.

VII.Thou shall not make a sales pitch for thy company or thy services. Thou shall not sell from the stage in any shape, form, or way. Thou shall be content with implicit selling of the sort that comes from doing a good job.

VIII.Thou shall not begin with talk of thyself. Nor shall thou begin with an agenda or an agenda slide. Nor shall thou begin with aimless chitchat about the color of thine tie or thy relationship to the organizer of thy talk.

IX.Thou shall not speak through thy nose, or at the floor, or while advancing thy slides. Thou shall not speak while regarding thy slides with admiration. Thou shall not argue with thy slides. Thou shall not need to interpret the thousand numbers on thy slides, because thou shall not have a thousand numbers on thy slides.

X.Thou shall not exceed thine allotted time. Thou shall not complain about the technology. Thou shall not exhort thy audience to respond more loudly than they have the first time thou addressed them. Thou shall not answer thine own questions. And thou shall never, ever say, “I can’t hear you,” in response to the audience’s “good morning.”

(*unless thou is really, really funny.)

Looking forward to 2016, readers of this blog should save the following date: April 22, 2016. I’m going to put on my first public master class in how to create and deliver a great presentation – in Boston, MA. We’re going to keep the group size small to allow for individual attention, so when we open the registration, you’ll want to grab one of the spots quickly. We’ll have lots more details early in 2016. Happy holidays, everyone.


  1. Love it:

    “Thou shall not use Power Point as speaker notes. No, nor Keynote, nor Prezi, nor any other slide software, as glitzy as it might be.”

    I am able to keep my slides very spartan because I rehearse and use the notes feature in PowerPoint. Unfortunately, many speakers just put their notes on the slides and blitz their audiences with far too much information.

  2. X1 Thou shall continue to share wonderful insights again throughout 2016…….. Please!!!!!!!!!!

    I wish you, your family and your team a Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Dhuit (Irish) or Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Best wishes
    John Keating
    Cork – Ireland

  3. Here’s another commandment you inspired Nick:

    Thou shall not emphasize style over substance. In the end you must deliver real value and a meaningful experience.

    Too many speakers are like candy floss. They look appealing at first and then evaporate leaving no meaningful content or message.

  4. These are excellent, common-sense tips every presenter should memorize. Your tone is perfect for a presentation. It is engaging with a dash of humor but does not start with the dreaded dry joke. Exceeding thine time is the kiss of death and who isn’t irritated when someone complains about the technology? Of course, speaking through thy nose or to the floor is a clear no-no. Fantastic stuff!

  5. Terrific post Nick. I’m glad cluttered slides got a mention – it’s something I’m hoping to write about in the coming weeks. I also appreciate the note on the importance of keeping to time – there is nothing more frustrating to an audience than somebody who rambles. Thanks for the article! Dave, CommunicateYouBlog.

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