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Competency Framework

A Checklist for Presenters – Our New FREE Questionnaire is Here

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The team at Presentation Guru has been developing a comprehensive presentation skills questionnaire to help people assess their current level of skill in presentation and public speaking. It’s a life-changing ability. Do the questionnaire for free and get a detailed, individual report that identifies your strengths and shows you how you can develop yourself into the best public speaker you can be.

John Zimmer and Jim Harvey developed the questionnaire (and the competency framework behind it) because there wasn’t one that we could find that we believed in. We use the framework and the questionnaire in our work, helping people become the best presenters they can be.

What Do Great Presenters Do?

We built the competency framework around the three things that great presenters and public speakers do better than the rest.

The very best public speakers FIT their message to their audience; FOCUS on the most important things for that audience; and have real FINESSE when they speak.

Here are those three qualities in a little more detail:


The ability to create a message that is relevant to your audience for the presentation.


The ability to make a presentation short, logical and persuasive.


The ability to make a speech interesting, engaging and memorable.


Each competency is then broken down into smaller elements of skill, knowledge, attitude, and habit, which we think is a comprehensive set of behaviours followed by the very best presenters in business. We then describe each behaviour with positive or negative examples of such competence to illustrate the point. Here is an example of how it works from one competency. In this case ‘Building empathy for the audience’:


Major area



FITBuilds empathy for their audience+ve Contacts the audience prior to the event to understand their wants and needs
-ve  Uses the same presentation for multiple audiences with few if any changes


Here is the whole competency framework, and notice how the full set of competencies describe the skill-set of the very best speakers. It’s unlikely that all of us possess all of the skills at the highest level, each of us will have specific strengths (and specific development areas), but having a ‘Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive’ set of competencies gives us all the chance to understand our strengths and build on our weaknesses.



Every lock has it’s key

(NOTE – These are not pairs of positive/negative indicators, they are lists of separate positive and negative behaviours.)


POSITIVE Indicators

NEGATIVE Indicators


Builds empathy for their audience

Contacts the audience prior to the event to understand their wants and needsUses the same presentation for multiple audiences with few, if any, changes
Conducts independent research about the audience to understand their challenges and goalsApproaches preparation for the presentation solely from the angle of what message they (the speaker) would like to convey
Researches the cultural and linguistic norms and expectations of the audienceSpends the majority of the preparation time researching their own topic area and very little on their audience
Reaches out to colleagues who have presented to this audience or culture previously, to better understand themOften surprised on the day of the presentation with new information about the audience that they should have known beforehand

Understands themselves

Knows their strengths and weaknesses as a speaker Does not routinely seek feedback after presenting
Understands how the audience perceives their competence, trustworthiness, authority, expertise and works with that information to build a positive relationshipCannot remember the last piece of actionable feedback they received
Can describe and explain their own biases on the subjectMakes assumptions about how the audience views their credibility, trust, authority, expertise
Unaware of potential bias in their own argument or point of view

Understands their subject

Recognises gaps in their knowledge and acts to address themEvidence used in presentation is out-dated or invalid
Is honest about the extent of their knowledge/experienceMisrepresents their experience or expertise

Understands the relevance of their subject for the audience

Understands the audience’s level of knowledge about the subjectDoes not consult the audience (the group or individuals) prior to the presentation
Understands how the audience feels about the subject (favourable, opposed, afraid, confused) and whyMakes assumptions about what the audience knows about the subject
Understands how open the audience is to change (persuasive techniques?)
Develops a clear message about the subject that is relevant to the audience

Defines the presentation objective

Concentrates on the desired resultsOutlines specifically what the audience needs to know, understand, and do at the end of the presentationDoes not have a clear objective before starting to prepare content
Summarises and tests the messageCan summarise the message in a single sentence before starting to prepareDoes not have a clear idea of the message to the audience before starting to prepare
Tests the message (with colleagues, audience members) to make sure it is clearCovers too many ideas, which makes the message confusing for the audience
Outlines the storyIdentifies the logical path (the “red thread”) that holds everything in the presentation togetherHas multiple “red threads” in their presentation that confuse the audience
Has received feedback from audience members that they did not understand the message




Shorter is better than longer



POSITIVE Indicators

NEGATIVE Indicators


Identifies the key points of the message

Understands that a presentation is, often, a message for or against an issueTries to cover every point related to the issue without editing for conciseness or relevance
From a list of everything they could talk about, picks the most important points for this audience in this contextIs unclear about the relative importance of different parts of the presentation to the audience
Understands how each key point supports the messagePresents information without a sense of making a message for or against an issue
Is aware of the  weaknesses in the messageFails to show an understanding of the opposite point(s) of view
Understands and addresses opposing points of view to build a stronger case

Organises content

Uses story structure to shape the presentationUnderstands the fundamentals of story structure: beginning, middle and endStruggles to organise content into a coherent structure
Prepares an opening that engages the audience and tells them the purpose of the presentationPresents the content without context and leaves the audience confused
Organises the key points of the presentation into a logical sequenceFails to link key points to each other
Concludes by summarising the message and focusing on appropriate actions to be taken as next stepsDoes not ask the audience to do anything at the end of the presentation – misses out that ‘call to action’.

Sharpens the message and adds supporting evidence

Removes unnecessary detailFocuses on one type of support (e.g., numbers) for each key point
Supports key points with a mix of evidence (facts, numbers, expertise, stories, humour, etc.)

Tests the draft presentation

Tests the tone, logic and argument with colleagues, and is open to making changes based on the feedbackAssumes that the presentation draft will work for the audience
Tests the tone, logic and argument with audience members/key stakeholders to check relevance and tone, and is open to making changes based on the feedback

Creates support materials

Creates simple, effective visuals (where required) for illustration and emphasis during the presentationCreates visuals to serve as comprehensive notes for the audience
Creates simple handouts (where required) for the audience to use after the eventReuses old visuals without assessing their appropriateness
Adds appropriate props, activities and demonstrations to help the audience understandCreates visuals that detract from the message/speaker




Final preparation



POSITIVE Indicators

NEGATIVE Indicators


Understands and uses rhetorical tools

Uses interesting and powerful languageUses rhetorical tools to add power to the messageUses metaphors, jargon and acronyms without explaining what they mean
Adds relevant quotes, data, and facts to make it memorableSpeaks in vague generalities without concrete examples
Uses relevant stories and examples to illustrate and emphasise key points and messagesDoes not consider how to involve the audience in the presentation

Engages the audience

Encourages audience participationPlans for audience involvement and participation, where appropriate and based on the audience’s needs
Where appropriate, invites the audience at the outset to participate actively either through comments or by using interactive technology
Answers audience questions effectivelyEncourages the audience to ask questionsDoesn’t make time for questions or runs out of time before questions
Encourages the audience to ask questions at the right timeBluffs if doesn’t know the answer to a question
Anticipates and prepares for likely questionsAllows people to monopolise the Question & Answer session
Recognises when a question isn’t a question (or isn’t relevant) and responds appropriately
Acknowledges when they don’t know the answer to a question or are not at liberty to say
Offers to follow up if doesn’t know the answer to a question

Rehearses effectively

Rehearses to build confidence and fluencyRehearses for fluency and timingOften goes overtime or significantly under time
Uses simple notes, if notes are requiredCannot move away from the prepared script

Speaks with skill

Uses one’s voice skilfullyArticulates clearlyDoes not pause between key ideas
Uses pauses effectivelySpeaks too quickly or too slowly
Can change the pace of delivery at appropriate moments for the audience and the speechSpeaks too softly or too loudly
Speaks at the right volume for the room, the audience and the microphone, when usedReads from a prepared script
Emphasises keywords to increase understandingSpeaks in a monotone

Does not adjust (simplify/modify) one’s language when speaking to non-native speakers
Uses one’s body with purposeStands in the right place for the audienceFidgets and moves without purpose
Moves with purpose when speakingMaintains a closed body position (hands together; hands in pocket)
Uses appropriate gestures for emphasisDoes not make eye contact with the audience
Makes effective eye contact with the audience throughout the presentationOnly looks to one section of the room, or to a limited number of individuals
Uses facial and physical expressions that support the words and the message

Is aware of and uses own emotions

Controls one’s psychological and emotional stateTakes steps to manage nerves before and during the presentationAllows their nerves to negatively affect their performance
Focuses on the audience instead of themselvesIs distracted by audience behaviour and doesn’t respond to it
Notices audience body language, facial expressions and engagement and responds appropriatelyDoesn’t notice the audience’s non-verbal behaviour
Notices audience body language, facial expressions and engagement and responds appropriatelyDoesn’t notice the audience’s non-verbal behaviour
Uses and expresses their emotions consciously to add impact to their message
Gets feedback to improve as a speakerChecks in with audience during the presentationMakes no effort to gather feedback after the presentation
Gets feedback after the presentation
Identifies improvement after the presentation



The Questionnaire is built upon the Competency Framework

The questionnaire links to these competencies and tests a person’s skills and knowledge against them. From each person’s responses we assess their skills and identify their strengths and specific development needs. The software then sends them a tailored report that details their individual strengths, identifies their specific development areas, and offers learning resources for them to use.


The questionnaire is completely FREE for the next 3 months

We’re now in the testing phase for the questionnaire. We need people to complete the questionnaire to help us prove it in the real world. For 3 months up until January 1st 2022, you can complete the questionnaire and get your tailored report for FREE. If you’d like to try it, click the red button below.


Start the Questionnaire Now




Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is a serial entrepreneur and the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps international and FTSE 100 companies sell themselves, and their products more effectively. Jim has many years of experience speechwriting, presentation coaching and motivational speaking, all over the world.
Jim Harvey
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