Last updated June 27, 2024

Presentation skills activities for adults

If you are running a training session or a workshop on presentation skills, using activities will help your participants be more engaged.

Activities help to break the training up, with activities and trainer-led teaching a good mix to keep participants i.e. employees interested. Here are 15 presentation skills activities you can use.

Presentation Skills Activities for Public Speaking

1. Speak Nonsense

Speak nonsense activity game for trainers

Purpose: When we speak, we often overlook how important nonverbal communication and body language are. Yet, nonverbal communication constitutes a significant part of how we communicate and it can have a huge impact on your audience.

Nonverbal communication includes voice tone, volume and speed; facial expressions; position and movement of the body in general; hand gestures and more.

By leaving out the meaning of the words, this activity allows you to focus solely on the nonverbal aspects of communication.

This is one of the best presentation skills activities to do for those who struggle with the nonverbal side of communication.

Instructions: All you need to do is find some text in a language you don’t understand or write some text yourself that does not make sense. Use just a random collection of words as long as it has no meaning for you.

Then, think about a feeling you want to express or an effect you want your speech to have on your audience.

With this idea in mind, read the text aloud and try to express as much as you can through your voice (considering pace, intonation and inflexion) and body language.

If you are practising by yourself, video yourself and then watch the video to give yourself feedback.

If you are facilitating the activity for a group, have one participant deliver the speech. The other participants will be part of the audience and will give feedback at the end as to what they understood was the meaning of the speech (to check if the speaker achieved the outcome they wanted).

Equipment Needed: No equipment is needed if you run this activity in a group.

You will need some video recording equipment if you are on your own.

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: If you are facilitating the exercise for a group, you can allocate 1 minute for participants to write their gibberish text; 1 or 2 minutes for each participant to speak and 5 for the others to give feedback.

2. Thirty Seconds without Fillers

30 seconds activity

Purpose: This is one of the best presentation skills activities to help participants improve their public speaking skills by reducing the use of filler words (such as “um,” “uh,” “like,” and “you know”) during presentations.

Filler words can be quite annoying for the listener if used too often and are best replaced by well-calculated silences, if needed, for effect and to give you time to think.

So, this exercise aims to increase awareness of filler words to encourage your participants to speak more fluently and with more confidence.

Instructions: Ask each participant to prepare a short, 30-second speech on a topic of their choice. It can be something simple like describing their favourite hobby or explaining a process they are familiar with.

One participant at a time will deliver their 30-second speech to the group.

During the speech, other participants will listen attentively and note any filler words used by the speaker.

After each speech, provide feedback to the speaker, highlighting their use of filler words and offering suggestions for improvement.

Equipment Needed: You will need a pen and paper, for participants to write down their speech, and a timer.

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: 30 minutes on average, but it all depends on the number of participants.

Up to 15 participants would be best and usable as a presentation skills icebreaker.

3. Impromptu Speeches

Impromptu speeches activity

Purpose: An important ability to have, when speaking in public, is being able to think and speak on your feet and quickly.

This is one of the best presentation skills exercises to help your participants improve spontaneity, quick thinking, and public speaking confidence by delivering short speeches on random topics with minimal preparation.

Instructions: Before the training session, prepare a set of random topics that the participants will deliver a short speech on.

These topics can be anything from the concept of happiness to something mundane such as how to prepare a cup of coffee.

Write down or print each topic on a separate piece of paper.

On the day of the session, put these slips of paper inside a pouch or other type of container and invite each person to pick one. Whatever topic they pick is what they will have to deliver a speech on.

Give your participants 1 minute to prepare their speech and then ask each participant, in turn, to deliver the speech to the rest of the class in 2 minutes.

Ask the audience to listen carefully and to then give constructive feedback after the speech, regarding how engaging it was, if it was clear and any other presentation aspect they can think of.

Equipment Needed:

  • Slips of paper with random topics
  • A hat, pouch or bowl to draw topics from
  • Stopwatch or timer
  • Notepads and pens for feedback

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: Ideally, 10 to 20 participants would take part.

Timewise, allow 40 to 60 minutes for this activity, including delivering the speeches and giving feedback.

4. Story Circles

Story circles

Purpose: This activity encourages creativity and the ability to think fast.

Also, creating and sharing stories in a group setting helps participants improve their narrative techniques, such as how to create engagement in an audience.

Telling stories is a big part of presentation skills, as it is a great way to attract the audience’s interest. So, this is one of the best presentation skills activities you can use to help your participants hone their storytelling skills.

Instructions: Ask your participants to form groups of 5 to 7 people and then ask each group to sit together in a circle.

Give the class a common prompt to start their story. For example, “a memorable journey,” “an unexpected challenge,” or “a lesson learned”.

Instruct each group to decide which of them will start, so that the first person will start the story with one sentence, related to the prompt you gave them.

Then, each person takes turns adding one sentence to the story, connecting to the previous one. This process continues several times around the circle (with each participant contributing several times) until the group have created a cohesive story.

Allow 5 to 10 minutes for the group to form their story.

After the time is up, ask each group to select one person to tell the story to the rest of the class.

Finish the activity with a discussion about the storytelling techniques used, highlighting effective elements such as structure, emotion, and imagery.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for participants to jot down notes (optional)
  • A timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: Suitable for up to 35 participants divided into groups of 7.

5. Storytelling

Storytelling games

Purpose: This is another activity that focuses on the storytelling aspect of a presentation but this time participants work individually.

The aim is to help participants develop compelling stories, which can capture attention, convey messages powerfully, and create memorable experiences for the audience.

Instructions: Ask each participant to think of a short story to tell. This can be about work or their personal life such as their hobbies or travel experiences.

Allow participants 5 minutes to create an outline for their story and jot it down.

Then, ask each participant to tell their story to the rest of the group and allow 3 minutes for each speech.

Encourage the audience to listen carefully to each story and, at the end of each story, facilitate a brief discussion including feedback on aspects such as structure, delivery, emotional impact, and engagement.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for participants to outline their stories and take notes
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: Up to 20 participants and 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how many participants there are.

Presentation skills training materials

>> See the Presentation Skills Training Course Materials

6. Storytelling Using Pictures

Purpose: This is another one of those presentation skills activities that focus on storytelling.

This time though, you use images as prompts to inspire your participants to create more vivid stories. At the same time, this activity fosters creativity as your participants will have to create a story starting from an image.

Instructions: Provide a selection of images depicting a variety of topics such as landscapes, objects, people and places. You can print these images out or use digital versions (e.g. on a slide or other digital files).

Assign an image to each participant. You can allocate the images randomly or ask participants to select one image that inspires them.

Allow participants 5 minutes to come up with a story that is connected to the image. The story should be structured with a start, a middle and an end.

Have each participant take turns presenting their story to the group, using the picture as a visual aid (you can give each participant 2 to 5 minutes for their presentation).

After each presentation, ask the other participants to give constructive feedback and discuss various aspects of the storytelling, such as clarity, engagement and emotional impact, and how effectively the picture was integrated into the story.

Equipment Needed:

  • A variety of pictures or images (printed or digital)
  • Notepads and pens for participants to outline their stories and take notes
  • A timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: For this activity, 10 to 15 participants are a good number.

Timewise, you should allocate between 60 and 90 minutes depending on group size.

7. Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitch

Purpose: The focus of this activity is the ability to deliver short and to the point, yet effective presentations.

In business, networking is essential but people are busy and don’t necessarily have much time to connect and talk. So, you want to convey your messages quickly, effectively and in a way that is engaging.

The elevator pitch is one of those presentation skills activities that can help your participants develop this ability.

Instructions: Explain that an elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that summarizes an idea, product, service, or personal introduction in the time span of an elevator ride, typically 30-60 seconds.

An elevator pitch should include a strong opening, a clear articulation of the main idea, a compelling reason why the listener should be interested and a call to action.

Give participants 5 to 10 minutes to consider and draft their elevator pitch. This can be a business idea they have, a personal introduction for networking or a service they offer.

Participants will then take turns to deliver their elevator pitch to the rest of the group in 30 or 60 seconds.

After each pitch, ask the rest of the group to provide constructive feedback to the speaker on how clear, engaging and persuasive their pitch was.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for participants to draft their pitches and take notes
  • A timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the group, and 10 to 15 participants.

8. PowerPoint Karaoke

Purpose: For this activity, participants present a short PowerPoint slide deck that they have never seen before.

This presentation skills activity is designed to encourage participants’ creativity and ability to improvise.

Instructions: Before the presentation skills session, prepare some PowerPoint presentations, each 5 slides long, one presentation per participant.

Each slide can have an image, a graph or a minimal amount of text to generate ideas.

Randomly allocate one presentation per participant and give them 1 minute to look at the first slide and gather some ideas.

Then have each participant, in turn, present their slides (2 minutes per presentation), while the rest of the group listens and gives feedback at the end.

They should pay attention to how the oral presentation matches the slides and how the speech is delivered, including aspects such as engagement, timing, pacing and nonverbal communication.

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer with PowerPoint software
  • Projector and screen
  • Pre-prepared random PowerPoint presentations
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: 40 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the group, and 10 to 15 participants.

9. Construct a Meaning

Purpose: This is another one of those presentation skills activities that promotes improvisational skills and creativity.

The idea is for participants to create a narrative from an ambiguous word taken out of context such as “chaos”, “a blank canvas” or “innovation”.

Instructions: Before the training session, prepare a set of ambiguous abstract words.

Split the participants into small groups of 4 to 6 people and assign a word to each group.

Give the groups 10 to 15 minutes to build a narrative around their word. The narration needs to be logical and coherent. Also, they need to make sure that the story is presented in such a way as to be engaging.

After they have created a narrative, ask each group to select a spokesperson to deliver the presentation to the rest of the group.

After each presentation, the rest of the class will give constructive feedback.

Equipment Needed:

  • Ambiguous prompts or abstract concepts (printed or digital)
  • Notepads and pens for brainstorming and notes
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: This activity is ideal for classes of 20 to 30 people divided into smaller groups.

Allow 60 to 90 minutes to include preparation of the stories, presentations and feedback.

10. My Favourite Thing

Favorites activity

Purpose: This activity helps participants build confidence in their presentation skills by talking about a topic they are passionate about.

Talking about a topic they love will help participants come across as enthusiastic and engaging speakers. This can also act as a great presentation skills icebreaker activity to get your class started.

Instructions: Ask each participant to think about their favourite thing, such as a hobby, a type of food, an activity, a movie, a person, etc.

Give each participant 5 to 10 minutes to prepare a 2-minute speech about their favourite thing.

This should include the reasons why they like that thing, a description of it and some interesting details. The presentation should convey their enthusiasm.

Have each participant deliver their presentation in turn, while the others listen carefully and provide feedback at the end.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for preparation and notes
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: This activity can be run with 10 to 20 participants and it should take between 30 and 60 minutes.

11. Take over the Speech

Purpose: This is one of the presentation skills activities that focuses on the participants’ improvisational skills and quick thinking, even when they are not fully prepared.

In addition, it focuses on collaboration skills, which can be useful when presenting a topic as a team.

Instructions: Divide participants into pairs.

Ask each pair to choose a topic they are comfortable with and to create an outline of their opening statement, with just the basic points but without discussing the details.

Give them 5 minutes to prepare this.

Then, the first person in each pair starts talking for 1 minute. After 1 minute, the second person takes over for another minute and so on, taking over alternatively. Allow the speech to go on for 6 minutes per pair.

Each person, in taking over the speech, should aim to maintain coherence and build upon what their partner said.

At the end of each presentation in pairs, ask the rest of the class to give feedback and comment on how the pair did on aspects such as adaptability, coherence, engagement, and delivery.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for outlining initial thoughts
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: This activity is suitable for groups of up to 20 participants divided into pairs.

Allow between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on the number of people.

12. Questions for a Professional

Questions activity

Purpose: This presentation skills activity is about encouraging your participants to feel confident and learn how to speak with authority about a topic they know nothing about.

By removing the focus from the topic, the attention will shift towards all the nonverbal signs that help you convey authority.

Instructions: Select one of the participants to act as an expert on a topic that they know nothing about.

Instruct the rest of the group to ask questions to the “expert”. The expert will need to answer making the answers up while sounding confident.

This activity is not about the content that you are delivering, but about all the nonverbal signals that make you come across as confident.

Give each participant 5 or 10 minutes to cover the role of the expert. Then, rotate participants.

Equipment Needed: You can use a timer to set a time limit for each participant to cover the role of the expert.

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: 10 to 15 people and 30 to 60 minutes for the whole activity.

13. Create an Ad

Purpose: The intention in the activity is to guide participants toward being more creative, to present compelling arguments and to understand target audiences.

Instructions: Divide your participants into groups of 3 to 5 people.

Give each group an item to advertise. Make sure you provide a variety of topics, such as a tourist attraction, a new restaurant, a theatre show, a gym, etc.

Give groups 15 minutes to create an advertisement.

In the ad, they should focus on:

  • Deciding on the target audience.
  • Highlighting the key features and key benefits of the product/service.
  • Creating a clear and engaging message.

Each group will present the ad to the rest of the class as though they were talking to potential customers.

Give each group 3 minutes to present their ad and, after each presentation, ask the participants in the audience to provide constructive feedback.

They should pay particular attention to clarity, creativity, engagement, and effectiveness in targeting the intended audience.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for brainstorming
  • Optional: markers and poster paper for creating visual ads
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: Up to 25 participants split into smaller groups of up to 5 people each.

Time depends on the number of participants, so you can allocate between 60 and 90 minutes.

Presentation skill steaching materials for training facilitators

14. Promote a Topic You Dislike

Purpose: This exercise helps individuals develop empathy, adaptability, and the ability to find positive aspects in any subject (regardless of personal biases), which are crucial skills for effective presentation and persuasion.

Instructions: Encourage your participants to think about something they dislike (advise that it should be something non-offensive).

Give them 5 minutes to prepare a 2-minute presentation on this topic, trying to promote it. They should focus on highlighting its positive aspects, benefits, and why others should find it appealing.

Allow each participant to give their speech and, ask the audience to give constructive feedback at the end of each speech.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for preparation and notes
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: Ideal for 10 to 20 participants.

Allow 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how many people there are and how long you want to spend on feedback.

15. Origin Story

Purpose: This is one of those presentation skills activities that focus on storytelling.

The participants are encouraged to create a compelling and well-structured story about the origin of something.

To do this, they will have to build an interesting narrative, understand the importance of context, and engage the audience with a personal or fictional background story.

Instructions: Ask each participant to create an origin story.

This can be the story of how they got into something (e.g., how they started a business), a fictional story (e.g., the background story of a fictional character) or the origins of an object or an invention.

Give your participants 5 minutes to draft the outline of their story and then 3 minutes each to deliver it. They will have to pay particular attention to:

  • Establishing the scene and offering context
  • Highlighting key events or turning points
  • Conveying emotions and lessons learned
  • Creating a clear and engaging narrative arc

Each participant will take turns to deliver their presentation, while the rest of the class listens and gives feedback at the end of each presentation.

Equipment Needed:

  • Notepads and pens for brainstorming and outlines
  • Timer

Time for the Activity and Number of Participants: Up to 15 participants and 60 to 90 minutes for the whole activity.

This activity can also be used as a teambuilding exercise or presentation skills icebreaker.

Benefits of Presentation Skills Activities for Training Adults

Acquiring presentation skills is very useful at any time in your life and you can do it at any age, as an adult.

If you are a company, training your employees on presentation skills can be a great way to make them feel engaged, increase their confidence and help them develop their careers.

In addition to helping build presentation skills, engaging in these presentation skills activities can help participants develop other abilities, such as:

  • Communication – Regular practice at presenting enables you to articulate your thoughts more clearly and confidently.
  • Listening – While your peers deliver a presentation, if you are in the audience, you need to make an effort to listen to them attentively in order to give them constructive feedback.
  • Overcoming fear of speaking in public.
  • Increased self-esteem through successfully delivering presentations.
  • Persuasion and influence – These presentation skills activities drive you towards delivering compelling arguments and engaging your audience.
  • Structuring information – Part of delivering successful presentations is organizing your thoughts logically and coherently.
  • Time management – Presentations in these activities need to be delivered within a strict time limit.
  • Creativity and problem-solving – Some presentation skill activities require you to come up with ideas and solve challenges during the activities.
  • Emotional intelligence – You will practice creating content based on the audience’s needs, reading the audience’s reactions and sharing meaningful stories with them.
  • Team collaboration – Some of the presentation skills activities involve working in groups.
  • Adaptability – Many presentation skills activities require you to think on your feet (See the Adaptability training materials)

If you have found these presentation skills icebreakers and these presentation skills activities useful, I’d love it if you also took a quick look at our training materials – see below.

Classroom lesson plans
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
Latest posts by Dr Valeria Lo Iacono (see all)