Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

Five Things You Need to Know About People to Give a Better Presentation

  • Print
  • + Share This
Just by knowing these five facts about people, says Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., author of 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, you can dramatically improve your presentations and the results they generate from your audience.
Like this article? We recommend

Every presentation has two sides. You're speaking, but your audience is listening. If you want to give a great presentation, you need to know about people. The more you understand about how people think, learn, hear, see, react, and decide, the better you'll be able to put together a presentation that informs, inspires, and motivates.

Following are five facts that great presenters know about people.

Fact 1: People learn best in 20-minute chunks.

When I'm coaching and mentoring people in presentations, I tell them to watch TED talks—short presentations by people accomplished in their fields. Interestingly, most TED talks are 20 minutes long. I think that's one reason they're so effective. These same presentations stretched out to an hour might not seem so brilliant.

In 2012, Maureen Murphy tested the idea that 20 minutes is the right amount of time for a presentation. [1] She had adults attend a 60-minute presentation, and then the same presentation broken up into 20-minute chunks. She wanted to see whether people's memory of the talk and reactions to the talk would differ based on the time of the presentation. When the presentation was chunked into 20-minute segments, people enjoyed the presentation more, learned more, and retained the information longer.

Most of us give presentations that are longer than 20 minutes. If your presentation is longer, see whether you can build in some kind of change every 20 minutes—take a break or a short stretch break, or include an activity or an exercise.

Fact 2: Multiple sensory channels compete with each other.

During a presentation, two sensory channels are the most active: visual and auditory. Your audience is looking at you and listening to you. They might also be looking at slides or other visual elements you're showing. If the slides are easy to understand, such as photos or diagrams that add extra context and meaning, these multiple channels are a positive experience for the audience. But if the slides are hard to read, complicated, or contain a lot of text, the visual channel is distracting—and visual trumps auditory. Humans are very visual creatures. When you present complicated information for people to read or view, they're not listening to you anymore.

In particular, text-filled slides combined with a speaker who's talking is just a bad sensory combination. If people are reading, they're not listening. You don't have to use slides in a presentation. First try putting together your presentation without any slides, and then decide whether any of your points would be enhanced by the use of a visual example or illustration.

You know what I call slides with a lot of text on them? Your notes! If you feel you need slides with text, it's probably because you feel you need notes—but you don't have to show the audience your notes.

Fact 3: What you say is only part of your message.

Psychological research over the last 15 years has revealed that people process information unconsciously, and they make very quick—one second or less—unconscious decisions about other people. People react not only to your message, but to your voice, stance, facial expressions, and hand movements. A special field called paralinguistics studies how information is communicated in addition to the words you say. Suppose I say, "I'd love to go to the store with you" with enthusiasm and excitement in my voice, or I say the same words with annoyance. The words might be the same, but the paralinguistics of the message are totally different. Think about how you're saying something—not just the words. A great trick is to record a video of yourself giving your presentation; see what your body language says, and notice what your paralinguistics say.

Fact 4: If you want people to act, call them to action.

I attended a fundraiser recently at which the speaker gave a pretty good speech (though I think he could have used a speech coach). But he didn't have a call to action at the end of his speech. He was trying to raise funds, but he didn't ask for the money at the end of the presentation. People were walking around after the presentation with jars to take donations, but no one had actually asked for the money. At the end of your presentation, be very specific about exactly what you want your audience to do.

Fact 5: People echo your emotions and feelings.

People imitate what they see. If you're smiling, they tend to smile; if you're energetic, they're energetic. When you're passionate about your topic, your audience usually will be passionate. People like to watch and listen to speakers who are animated and excited about their topic. If your topic excites you, don't hold back—show how you feel! That feeling will be contagious.

So there you have it! Five things you need to know about people in order to give a better presentation. If you're interested in more ideas like this, check out my book 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People.


[1] Maureen Murphy, "Improving learner reaction, learning score, and knowledge retention through the chunking process in corporate training." University of North Texas Digital Library, 2012.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020