6 Rhetorical Techniques To Help You Present Like A Pro

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When it comes to preparing a presentation, most people devote the lion’s share of their prep time to putting together their Powerpoint slides. But think about the last presentation you attended, and tell me what you remembered. The slides? Nah. The presenter? Right. The best slideshow in the world can’t make up for bad delivery, but a good presenter can hold an audience without using a single slide.

In an increasingly commoditised market, a memorable presentation gives you an edge over your competitors. So forget about Powerpoint for a while, and let’s look at 5 rhetorical techniques that can help you deliver memorable, enjoyable and persuasive presentations.

1. Onomatopoeia

A long word, but a simple concept. Words like BANG! WHAM! WHOOSH! POW! KER-CHING! etc. are all great for emphasising key points, and also for waking up a drowsy post-lunch audience.


o Our sales figures were pretty flat in 2005 but in 2006 we implemented a CRM solution and WHOOSH!!! they really took off!

o As soon as we started advertising online, KER-CHING! The money started flooding in!

2. Rhetorical Questions

Asking questions to which you already know the answer is a more engaging way of presenting simple statements as it involves the audience and gets them thinking. Compare these two ways of delivering the same information:

o Our software can save you as much as $50,000 in just one year.

o How much money can our software save you? As much as $50,000 in one year!

A pause after the question creates anticipation and ensures people listen to the answer.

3. The Rule of 3

Experienced public speakers – be they lecturers, teachers, politicians or comedians – all know the power of the Rule of 3 (how many jokes begin with three people – an Englishman, an Irishman & a Scotsman for example – walking into a bar?). Lists of 3 are more memorable than lists of 4 or more.


o Our service is swift, efficient, and professional.

o How do we reach our goals? By building new factories, employing more workers, and reducing production costs.

o A good presentation should be concise, informative, and memorable.

4. Machine-Gunning

Machine-gunning is the opposite of the Rule of 3, in which you quickly run off a long list of items – you don’t care how many the audience remember, you just want to impress them with the number of things on your list!


o Our product is cheaper, newer, faster, bigger, cleaner, safer and better than anything else on the market.

o We can supply software to handle accounts, reporting, POS, hospitality, web design, ERP, CRM and e-commerce.

5. We’re all in the same boat

…or ‘creating rapport’. This technique builds a bridge between you and your audience. Using words like ‘we’, ‘us’, or ‘all of us’ (instead of ‘you’) shows that you understand your audience’s pain points, as you’ve experienced them yourself.


o And we all know what problems that can cause, don’t we?

o The importance of global marketing is clear to all of us.

o We need to ask ourselves what we can do about this.

o Like me, I’m sure you are often too busy to reply to all the emails you receive.

6. Turn Off/Shut Up

Want the audience to pay attention to you? Turn your slides off! Mute the projector or hit ‘B’ on your keyboard, and the screen will go black, leaving the audience with nothing to look at but you. Cast the crutch of Powerpoint aside and learn to stand alone!

When you want the audience to look at a slide, shut up! Silence is all too rare in presentations and it will indicate to the audience that you want them to pay particular attention to what’s on the screen.

So you don’t have to be a rock star, an actor or a stand-up comedian to present well – just use a few of these techniques during your next presentation and you’ll engage your audience, keep their attention, and make sure they remember you. And as with all presentation techniques, practice makes perfect!

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