What different types of presentations are there?

If I were to mention the word “presentation” what comes to mind? One might be the world famous TED talks. Another person might imagine a mind-numbing PowerPoint presentation by some corporate suit. A very few number of people might even imagine a sales pitch that captivates the audience and their wallets.

As you can see there a variety of presentations and each one requires a different approach in order to carry it off well. If you know what kind of presentation you want to conduct and the result you are of to a good start. But each has its pitfalls and special requirements. Let’s take a look.

The major five types of presentations

Types of Presentations

As you can see that there are five different types.

The five different presentation types.

  • Informative
  • Persuasive
  • Entertaining
  • Motivational
  • Special Occasions

Informative presentations are the most common type and also the easiest to screw up. That is because most people just think is all you have to do is give information. But, not many people are good at packaging information in a way that is usable or easily consumable by the listener.

The next type is persuasive presentations. People often try harder with these. They look for the tips and tricks to get the other side to agree. This usually works only so far. Sometimes more effort needs to be spent understanding possible questions the listen will have than polishing off your best barb.

Then there is the entertaining speech. This is not about lining a good couple of jokes in order. Presentation nor public speaking is not stand-up comedy. Good storytelling tends to help here as well as a good sense of humor.

After that are the motivational speeches. Sometimes you need to rally the troops. But, even here there is a formula. You don’t just start spouting positive things to get people excited. While emotionally heavy, you may need to put more thought into it than you think.

Finally, there are the special occasions speeches. These are the ones that don’t fit neatly into the four categories above. Maybe you ask to give a speech at a wedding or a funeral. Maybe it is to say a few words a farewell or Christmas party. If you don’t read the room right on these occasions you could very well annoy everyone.

Informative: Not just for your information

One of the most common both within the corporate world and also outside is the informative presentation. Good examples of informative speeches would be those that you find on TED. There are all kinds of informative speeches, from good ones to mind-numbingly bad ones. Here are a couple of good ones:

Here Hans Rosling does a good job in taking abstract numbers and turning it into something visual. Not only that he simplifies what seems to be a complex topic using ideas and words that any average person can understand.

Specifically, he uses a box to represent a billion people. He uses simple objects like shoes and cars to stand in for the different classes. Also he starts with what people think they know then proceeds to show how things have change. Finally he does a good job of following up his assertions with data. If he started with the data, people would tune out. These are good practices.

  • use simple metaphors for abstract concepts (large numbers, etc. )
  • start with what people know
  • use data to back up claims, but don’t over do it.
How can a presentation be informative and entertaining?
How can a presentation be informative and entertaining?
If you have seen any number of TED talks, you might be struck at how some are ju.....

Here Tim Urban does a great job of weaving humor, storytelling, and an explanation of why people procrastinate. While you do not need Tim Urban’s artistic creativity, it can be very useful to pick up his other good qualities in this presentation.

You also do not need to be as good as the two mentioned above but can be something to model and shoot for.

If you are starting out, here are a couple main things you need to keep in mind when you are working on informative presentations.

Three beginner’s tips for informative presentations
  • Avoid jargon
  • Use PREP
  • Connect with what they know first

Avoid jargon

When you are explaining things some people can use too much jargon. Maybe it is because they want to show the audience that they really know the topic. Or maybe they are so into the topic they forget that the average person doesn’t know what the word means. You really want to limit your jargon because it confuses people. A confused mind will grab for their smartphone.


If you want people to understand you, it is a good idea to package it in a simple format. One of those formats is PREP. PREP stands for Point, Reason, Example, Point. It has a cousin in the debate world called AREA, but I cover that in other blog articles.

  • Point: Your main assertion
  • Reason: Why you think so
  • Example: A specific example to back-up your reasoning
  • Point: A restatement of your main assertion

A simple example would go like this:

  • Point: “You should use PREP.”
  • Reason: “Because, it makes your reasoning clear and logical.”
  • Example: “For example, if I state that you should watch this YouTube video without saying why, the other person may think that it is just a personal preference, not a valid reason. But if you say you should watch this YouTube video because of X and Y, then you sound clear, logical, and perhaps persuasive.”
  • Point: “Which is why you should use PREP.”

Please note that PREP is not almighty. It is simply a good first step for making a good informative presentation.

Connect with they know first

As I have mentioned when dealing with the “Curse of Knowledge” and in the example by Hans Rosling, starting with what people know is the best way to inform them. First of all would you start listening to a person who starts like this:


ACT is a cognitive architecture. Cognition ….

The “Curse” That Will Seriously Hurt Your Presentation
The “Curse” That Will Seriously Hurt Your Presentation
Have you ever been in a situation where you were very excited about something? T.....

For the average person, the first sentence alone is a complete turnoff. You can imagine what kind of questions would run through a person’s head. For example, “What is ACT? What is cognitive architecture? What the heck do buildings have to do with thinking?”

In this case you could say, “ACT is Adaptive Concept of Thought.” However, if you stop there people will still not have a clue. What does is an “adaptive concept” mean?

So, I would probably better to start with saying that:

“Our actions do not come out of nowhere. We think and then act through a series of steps. Just like you would follow a set of instructions to build a paper airplane, your brain has a process to follow to allow you to act on your wish to make that airplane. We call one way to explain this process ACT.”

This example is slightly better than the first. At least we do not start with a whole bunch of unknown words. Instead, we ease into the concept then we say what it is. This tends to be easier to understand if done right.

Informative presentations are about more than just presenting information. It is about promoting understanding. It is about getting people to care about that information. And, ideally, it can also be about packaging it so they easily remember it.

Persuasive: To sell is a human

Persuasive speeches are useful for either convincing someone of an idea or getting them to buy something. There is a tendency to for some people to look for best technique or persuasion trick to convince the other side they are right. However, I find that if you stick to the basics, you should do OK in most situations.

The art of persuasion is as old as the dead Greek guy, Aristotle, if not way older. Human beings have not changed over the thousands of years, so most sales techniques, formulas, etc. are just reformulation of old ideas.

Just to give you an example. Aristotle wrote the book on persuasion. Except it was called “Rhetoric.” Most people’s idea of “rhetoric” is something done by a blowhard politician. While this was way before Richard Cialdini, Aristotle’s Rhetoric is worth a read. Just be warned it can be dense.

The three things any persuasive speech needs

To give you just a taste, Aristotle introduced that any persuasive speech should consider pathos, logos, and ethos. If you were to say what each of these means simply, you would get the following:

  • Pathos: Emotion
  • Logos: Logic
  • Ethos: Credibility

Actually there is more to pathos, logos, and ethos than that, but at least you get the idea.

In any case, Aristotle is saying good solid logic, data, and science by itself is not persuasive. If you run into people who are not convinced by your impenetrable logic you may be missing one of the other two.

If you want to convince people you need to establish credibility with the audience. Most people translate this into showing that you need to be a “thought leader” or some guru. But if you do well on likability and show that you are competent that usually is enough.

Also, since people are also driven by emotion, you are going to have to reach their emotions. There are a variety ways you can do this. But at the very least you need to show that you care about them or they will not care about you.

Two out of three IS bad

Thus, if you have logic and emotion on your side, but no credibility they will not listen to you in the first place. If you have logic and credibility on your side, but no emotion, they may agree with you but for some reason “it won’t feel right.” Finally if you have emotion and credibility, but no logic, they may initially say yes, but afterwards talk themselves out of it. You need all of them.

Knowing that check out this video by Russel Brunson. It is a very good persuasion presentation. See where he uses the three different elements.

Persuasion is as old as human civilization. Most stuff you see nowadays is just repackaging the three key elements of using emotions, logic, and credibility.

Entertaining: Sometimes people like to laugh or cry

Not all presentations are serious business. Sometimes we just want to entertain people. I think one of the best examples of that is this TED talk.

If you follow his formula with actual content you will have a killer TED talk. 😉

In any case, there are going to be times when we need to be entertaining. The common question is how does one go about being entertaining? Unfortunately, there is no secret formula to that. But there is something fairly easy that you can do.

The simple thing to do is just “steal” an good entertainers material.

Good artists copy, great artists steal

Pablo Picaso

Of course, that doesn’t mean literally copy the material word for word. If you do that in business you will get in trouble. But you can incorporate bits from other people. You can make modest modifications.

However, if you are starting off and you are not entertaining whatsoever, I would practice mimicking one story word for word. Then you just change a few names when you have to make it public. After a while, you figure out which details you can change that will not impact the entertainment value. However that takes time.

There are going to be times when you have to be entertaining. If you are not a natural entertainer, “steal” from the best.

Motivational: Inspire the troops

Some either in business or at the local NPO you need to inspire people to do something. This is different from persuading a group to doing something. When you think of motivational speeches you may think of Les Brown or some sports coach during half-time.

Here is Les Brown. It is long, but good.

Here is one from a coach from the wonderful movie “Any Given Sunday”

There is a lot that can be said of motivational speeches. Some of it flattering. Some of it not so good.

In the case of business, it is common to hire a professional motivational speaker. But in a more practical setting it is hard to squeeze a one hour speech in the work day. So the more practical solution is usually the pep talk variety of speeches. These can be as short as two minutes.

The basics of a P.E.P.T.A.L.K.

One of the best overview of the pep talk was done by a Japanese, Yoshizumi Iwasaki. In his book, “The Principle of Pep Talk,” he goes into a lot detail, but the basic flow is as follows:

  • Accept
  • Remark
  • Encourage

That by itself may not make complete senses to you, but first let’s look at an example translated from the book. The author uses a different frame work, but I just summarized as the three steeps above.

  • Prologue: I see you hands are shaking.
  • Example: That`s OK. My hands have also shaken at times.
  • Predict: That is just proof that you’re serious about this.
  • Teach: It’s proof that you can give your best performance as you have practiced so hard.
  • Action: Don’t I say, “If you get as serious as a heart attack, you can do anything?”
  • Lead: It’s your turn. Go out and show them your serious!
  • Kick off: Now get going!

You might think that getting all the elements to fit into the word P.E.P.T.A.L.K. is a little forced. That would be true in this example.

The evaluating the example P.E.P.T.A.L.K.

But as you can see he “accepts” that the person’s hands is shaking and doesn’t criticize it. He goes so far as to say he felt the same way too. This is to show sympathy.

Then in his “remarks” he shows that the shaking hands is not as bad as the person thinks. In fact that very positive. He also reminds the person the advice he has always given before.

Finally, there a last few words of encouragement to get the person out the door and onto the stage.

There is a lot more to this than this basic structure, but I hope this can get you started when you need to come up with a short motivational speech.

If you want to be a like a professional motivation speaker, people like Les Brown are good to model. Otherwise short and good pep talks can do the job individually. Just focus on accepting their emotional state, remarking on the positive truth, and finally sending words of encouragement.

Special Occasions: Just one of those days

Then there are presentation that do not cleanly fit into a specific category. There are going to be times when you have to speak at a funeral or a wedding or some special occasion. These often call for short speeches. But many people are at a loss as to what to say.

The thing is to understand what is the purpose of the occasion and what are the audience’s expectations. Often this is not a time to show how great of a speaker or storyteller you are. Nor do you need to show off a bunch of jokes or sob stories. Let`s look at a few common cases.

Wedding Speech

In a wedding speech, the focus should be on the bride and groom. Most speeches are done at the party where everyone is enjoying a good meal. To be considerate of everyone’s time, keep your speech short. 2-3 minutes is fine.

There are a lot of people involved from the parents to the best man and bride`s maid. Each one has their part and what seems appropriate for their role. A decent explanation of each one is on the Wedding Forward site.

The cliff notes version is:

  • Mother of the Groom: How proud you are of your son, something about the bride, and well wishes for the future
  • Father of the Groom: Wisdom about marriage and no dad jokes
  • Mother of the Bride: (if needed) How proud, energetic and strong the bride is
  • Father of the Bride: Memories of the bride and advice to the groom
  • Best Man: Being funny and memorable are keys
  • Bride’s Maid: Well wishes of the bride, and any fond memories

Christmas Speech

In the case you have a Christmas party, especially if it is the company’s Christmas party, there is going to be a speech towards the beginning or end. The idea is to be short, sweet, and to the point.

You can try a few bits of humor. However, I would try them out first before delivering them at the party. You don’t want to bomb at the party because that would be very awkward.

Typically you want to focus on topics like: gratitude, giving, remembrance of the past year, family and the organization, unity and hope.

This is not the time to remind people of quotas and targets for next year. Instead focus on the big wins and even small victories by each and everyone over the last year.

Plus, since it is a Christmas party also try to tie your speech to a Christmas quote or saying. Something like this:

Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind.

Mary Ellen Chase, educator and author

Funeral Speech

Funeral speeches can be hard. Especially if you are still grieving from the loss and have little experience in delivering a speech in the first place. It can be difficult to know where to begin.

There is no one “right” way to deliver one. But if you were to give one, here are three basic things to keep in mind:

  • Thank people for coming
  • Mention what you learned and include episodes
  • Be positive but don’t force it

First off, thank the people for attending as we all have a lot to do these days. You can make a few comments as to what you, the audience, and the deceased person have in common. Answer the question, “What is the bond the ties everyone together in this place at this time?”

Then you can move on to any personal episodes where the person had an impact on you. What did you learn? How what things or actions from the deceased had a great impact on you. If possible try to paint it in such a way that the audience can get something out of what you learned as well.

Also, try to be positive, but don’t force it if you cannot. I feel the point of a funeral is to celebrate the life of the person who is now gone. If you can focus on the light side of the person’s life then that is great. But if sadness and sorrow are still very strong, then do not force a happy face. It will only make things worse for you.

There are going to be points in our lives where we will have to deliver a speech for a special occasion. These could be for a wedding, a party, or even a funeral. It is a good idea to consider who the attending, what do they want to hear, and what you want to say. The key is to find a good match for all three.


We do speeches and presentations for all kinds of reasons. If we want to deliver a good one, it is a good idea to decide what our goals are and what kind of presentation we want to deliver. Then once we have that clear in our mind we can then start selecting the right frameworks and techniques to use.

Each presentation type has its own quirks and problem points. I hope that the above helps you get started on making your presentation no matter what type it is. If you still need help please look at the other article or leave a message on the contact form here.

Matthew Ownby

Previously worked at NASA, Cisco Japan, and other large IT Corporation. Spent more than 15 years training businessmen and women to be better presenters. Good enough at Japanese help native Japanese speakers win speaking contests. Was fortunate enough to give a TEDx Talk in Kyoto also in Japanese ;). Also aims to build the toughest communication contest ever. That will not only include being good at business presentation skills, but debate, meeting facilitation, negotiation, coaching, and more. Also runs an online communication dojo where the focus is on practical skill application not listening to a sage on a stage.

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