National Capital Chapter

Speaking & Presenting with “Presents”

By Susan Matthews Apgood, President & CEO, News Generation, Inc.

On Friday, June 21, PRSA-NCC held a workshop at Oglivy in Washington, D.C. named “How to Present to Senior Executives and Clients.” It was presented by Sarah Gershman from Greenroom Speakers.

Sarah outlined that there are three kinds of presence: 1. Presence of Self, 2. Presence of Message, and 3. Presence of Delivery. She explained that when you address an audience, you need to break down a wall. How do we do this? First, we have to create a shift in the way we prepare for a presentation. Instead of starting with the topic, start with the audience.

For each presentation you give, you have to look at what the audience’s needs are. Needs come in two forms: spoken and unspoken. Many prepare to present with a focus on all of the knowledge they have as a presenter. Instead, shift that focus to what the audience needs to know. What do they need to get out of the information you are presenting?

As you prepare to present, outline three items: 1. What do you want the audience to know? 2. How do you want them to feel? and 3. What do you want them to do after listening to your presentation? From this, you have to break through and become part of the audience’s story to get them to engage and listen to your story.

Many people HATE to speak in front of any audience, large or small. Gershman’s take on that? People are not worried about the presenter. They are thinking about themselves. What do to they have to this afternoon? What about dinner tonight?

Ninety-three percent of content delivered comes from voice and body language. With only seven percent coming from words. That does not mean that words are not important, of course they are. We just have to make sure that what we are delivering to the audience matches the tone of what we are saying. People typically don’t remember the words you said, they remember how you make them feel.

Ears will lose focus if the speaker is presenting in a monotone voice. How do we create contrast as a presenter? You can talk louder and then softer, you can change the tempo in your delivery, you can update the pitch of your voice, and you can change your tone, presenting more practically and then mixing in with emotional tones.

In terms of body-language, there are three ways to keep the audience engaged. First, by movement. For example, lean into the audience when a question is being asked, and then step back to address the entire audience when answering the question. Second, by visuals. Make sure that your Power Point is not too busy where you are making the audience work for what you are presenting. Too much text on a slide will make the audience focus on two things: you and the slide deck. Keep it simple. Third, eye contact. Instead of looking at a presentation as addressing 50 or 100 people, look at it as having several short conversations in a row. One person at a time.

Sarah closed her presentation by outlining the difference between charisma and presence. Charisma is when people are drawn to a person because of their natural attributes. But presence is when the speaker is drawn into the audience. Sara concluded with the idea of always having gratitude towards the audience, and making sure you provide them with the gift of your presence or providing “presents.”

If you would like to connect with Sarah and have her come to your team and present, you can email her at or visit her website at