Give better presentations by harnessing the power of positive psychology

The traditional dog-eat-dog world of business is transforming. Companies are rejecting negative reinforcement, competitive motivation, and individualistic working. Many are focusing on positive reinforcement, collaborative projects, and teamwork. Positive psychology is a key part of that transformation. You can also be part of the movement.

Read more to learn about using this psychology topic in your presentations.

First, we will explain what it is. Then why you should use it. And lastly, how to use it.

What is positive psychology?

To know how this psychology topic can empower your presentations, you first need to know what exactly it is.

In this TED Talk by Martin Seligman, he explains that positive psychology is a new era. It is a shift from repairing damage to building strength. Rather than a focus on the negative – the broken, sad, damaged part of people – we should develop the positive – the pursuit of fulfillment, strength, and happiness. As the founder of positive psychology, Seligman summarises his concept nicely. “A science of what makes life worth living.”

Many people have simplified it further to “the science of happiness.”

Now, you might be thinking – that’s great, but what does that have to do with me?

Where does positive psychology fit into my business, my work, and my productivity?

Why should I use positive psychology?

Positive psychology in business

 The use of positive psychology in business is not a new concept. Companies have been applying it to the workplace for years. Positive reinforcement. More social work hours. Mental health awareness. Playful office environments…

Influence of positive psychology on companies like google
Google PGH office

The business world has twigged a simple reality: happier workers are more productive.

Videos like this emphasize the benefits of this psychology topic. Because, it explains that personal impacts, like improved health, wellbeing and quality of life, affect our work. Research shows that fostering positivity improves performance, conflict resolution, and creativity.

Huffington Post – Positive Thinking

This Huffington Post article outlines an experiment measuring the relationship between positivity and performance. Those exposed to images of joy and contentment were able to imagine greater possibilities than those exposed to images of fear and anger.

It also references the broaden and build theory of Barbara Fredrickson. As a researcher at the University of North Carolina, she specializes in positive psychology. Her research shows that positive emotions open your mind to possibilities. This, in turn, helps you build new skills. Thus broadening value and worth to other aspects of your life.

Now, we can help you channel this psychology topic into a more specific region of business: presentations.

Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha is the best example of people already creating positive presentations. This new presenting technique grew popular in 2003 in Tokyo. The literal translation is chit-chat. The idea is a PowerPoint with 20 slides of 20 pictures with 20 seconds to explain each one. This strict structure highlights some key features of a good presentation: concision, impact, and fun.

Pecha Kucha has become a global community. There are social events in major cities. People share positive messages through the combination of pithiness and powerful images. Some businesses are embracing Pecha Kucha to boost morale and team spirit.

Happy Brain Science – Trust Me Pecha Kuchas Build Trust

This article articulates how to use positive presentations in the workplace. Colleagues were invited to make short PowerPoints about their life outside of work. They saw each other as human and connected to others in the workplace. The result is less competition and more collaboration. And ultimately – better productivity.

How can I use positive psychology in my presentations?

Positive psychology presentation tips

So we have established that positivity inspires more possibility and better performance. But how do you apply positive psychology to presentations?

Ultimately, focus on meanings, strengths, and engagement. Rather than problems, stresses, and anxieties. Others might use fear, sadness or panic to inspire a strong reaction in their audience. But by instilling a positive message, your audience will feel happier. Then they will feel more inspired and more likely to act upon your content.

Of course, not every presentation is essentially positive. Perhaps sales are down. Maybe your company suffered a huge loss. Perhaps your charity is an urgently tragic situation. However, it isn’t about denying reality.

Positive psychology is not happy-ology” – Martin Seligman.

Sure, the content might be negative. But a positive presentation will focus on opportunities for change. It won’t dwell on current failures.

Now we will outline the practical presentation tips for a positive presentation.

Warm Up

A warm-up is a great way to trigger the cycle of positive thinking. Pre-presentation nerves can be a challenge. Brooding on potential problems might be a natural reaction. But it also triggers a negative cycle. The more you imagine failure, the more insecure you feel. The more likely you will self-fulfill your own prophecy.

Instead, actively trigger a positive cycle. In this article, Nick Morgan highlights his warm-up presentation tips.

How to Warm Up for a Presentation

He says that the circle can be “either vicious or virtuous”. But you’re the one to control it. Listen to upbeat music. Perform a quick workout routine. Exercise your voice. Visualise a successful presentation. Don’t just boost your audience, boost yourself.

For more advise on replacing anxiety with positivity, check out this article: How to Overcome Presentation Fear

Ultimately, enhancing your own positive psychology leads to a better presentation.

Engage with the audience

Your audience is a room of listening minds waiting for influence. They also need a warm up. Trigger positive reactions in others. Invite them to stand up, stretch or do an exercise. Or try one of Andrew Tarvin’s presentation tips. Conducting a symphony:

Warm up your Audience by Conducting a Symphony

Many talkers have embraced audience participation…

Minute 13:

Minute 9:

What do these examples of audience participation have in common?

People react with laughs and smiles. These are vital triggers of happiness sensors in the brain. As Jennifer Smith explains, laughter releases endorphins. It encourages happiness. It reduces stress. And it displays a positive expression. By positively connecting with your audience, you ignite a positive reaction. The more positive they feel, the more they will listen. The more they will act upon your words.

Furthermore, engagement is a key component of this psychology topic. As Shawn Achor articulates:

“(when we are engaged), we experience more opportunity for positive emotions, and when we experience these positive emotions the release of associated chemicals enable us to perform at a higher level: engagement leads to better performance.”

Just like with Pecha Kucha presentations, it’s not about being professional or serious. It’s about fun, playfulness, and positivity. Because ultimately, these are better triggers for happiness. And happiness is the best trigger of productivity.

Positive PowerPoints

There is an important psychology behind PowerPoints. That’s what makes some so much better than others. Tiny details make a huge impact. These small presentation tips can create the ultimate positive presentation.


Using colors in positive psychology presentations

Now, for any PowerPoint, it’s vital to know a little about color psychology.

The Psychology of Color Use in PowerPoint Presentation

Black connotes elegance and power but also heaviness and sadness. White can be elegant but also boring. Don’t combine red and blue. Contrast the background and the text. Another common fact: warm colors evoke happiness.

 Yellow has strong suggestions of joy and optimism.

Yellow in a positive psychology presentation

Pink connects to love, caring and self-worth.

Using pink in positive psychology presentations

Orange suggests warmth and excitement.

Using orange in positive psychology presentations

But the connection between warm colors and happiness shouldn’t define your entire presentation. Instead, use colors wisely. Reserve impactful colors for key moments. Be sure to associate colors with the content. Maybe don’t just make your whole PowerPoint yellow. Instead, use yellow when you want to create a positive association.

Also, go deeper into colors. Yes, orange has a very general connotation. But peach, a more specific shade, has proved to influence communication and good manners. Similarly, dark orange is more associated with selfishness. And amber can suggest confidence but also arrogance.

So embrace subconscious color connotations to inspire positivity in your audience. But remember – color connotations are complicated. Be smart and specific about your color psychology. It will be much more effective.

For more help on deciding on a color scheme, read this article: Figure Out Your Color Theme.



Another factor behind positive PowerPoints is the psychology of fonts.

Like colors, fonts have strong associations. So, to inspire positivity, use fonts associated with happiness. For example, Cooper is a friendly font. Lavanderia is creative. Giddyup is playful. Friendly, creative and playful are all positive qualities. In contrast, Franklin Gothic is objective. Times New Roman is traditional. Futura is strong. Objectivity, tradition, and strength are by no means negative qualities. But they do connote a serious, grave attitude that can easily pass onto your audience. So, however you want your audience to feel, reflect it in your font.

Colors and fonts are fun ways to inject positivity into your presentation. But content is far more important.

Positive Self-Presentation

The entire purpose of a presentation is to impress your audience. Selling a service? Boosting morale? Introducing a product? Endorsing a charity? All these presentations have the same goal. You’re aiming to leave an impression. The audience is the focus and your purpose is simple. You want them to like you. It’s a key rule of business. You’re not just selling your product, services or company. You’re selling yourself.


Impression Management

A current buzzword is impression management. It’s a psychology topic central to business. It’s the process of influencing other people’s opinions and observations. Quite literally, it is managing people’s impression – of you, of your company, of your content.

Articles like this one remind us that impression management is the most basic of presentation tips.

Thus, impression management can be a positive force.

We can use it to empower an audience and inspire happiness and hope. We can use to prosocially inspire positive behavior in the individuals of our social context. Let’s manage people’s impressions to create change, not fuel insecurity.

So, combine impression management and positive presentations. You will be more powerful than ever. So where do I start?


Positive language

A presentation is more than the PowerPoint. It’s also about the words. Positive language benefits both the speaker and the listener. You feel energized and confident. Your audience feels inspired and motivated.

Positive language refers to both content and method. It’s important what you say, and it’s important how you say it.

The Benefits of Positive Language

This article outlines the key pitfalls of communication. Especially when we feel nervous, it’s easy to downplay our voice. Qualifiers reduce the impact of a sentence. For example, “a bit”, “a few” or longer phrases like “I could be wrong, but…” Another common negative language error is weakening your statements. Words like “just” and “only” dismiss the rest of your sentence. They subtly weaken your argument.

In a presentation, when you want to be strong and assertive, avoid these language mistakes. Instead, be sure of what you’re saying. And speak like you mean it.

Choose positive phrases. Don’t tell the audience what can’t be done. Tell them what can be done. Don’t weigh down your voice with negative, bureaucratic language. Use encouraging words. Forget “can’t”, “won’t”, and “don’t”. Focus on “can”, “will” and “do”.

Be constructive, not destructive. Helpful, not harmful. Optimistic, not pessimistic.

There is a very real consequence of negative language. Studies show that pessimism is linked to inaction. It makes sense. The less positivity, the less hope you have for change, and the less motivation you have to change it. Consider your call to action. Do you want your audience to act upon the message of your presentation? Then transform your language using positive psychology. Your presentation will be better.

For more positive language presentation tips, check out this useful article: Top Positive Words.


Positive body language

It’s a nugget of knowledge in the business world: body language is key. Language doesn’t stop with words. Your body is talking for you. And it’s very difficult to control. Often subconscious and always obvious. Mastering the art of body language is a keen skill. Training your body to present itself positively will greatly enhance your presentation.

Steve Jobs using positive psychology body language

Many admire Steve Jobs for his refined body language. He always sharpened fantastic presentations with a free and uplifted posture. His arms were never crossed, but always up and open to his audience. Jobs moved around the stage with purpose. He used his hands to emphasize expression. He held a soft gaze rather than intense eye contact. All signs you can adapt to create a better presentation.

Positive body language passes positivity onto the audience.

For more positive body language presentation tips, read our advice here: How to Communicate Non-Verbally during Presentations.

Results of positive psychology

“Employees who know how their work has a meaningful, positive impact on others are not just happier than those who don’t. They are vastly more productive, too.” – Adam Grant

We’ve discussed the whats, whys, and hows of positive psychology. We have established that it’s a psychology topic with momentum. Also, we know that it inspires productivity and action. We know its role in impression management. We have outlined how to use it and offered practical presentation tips.

Hopefully, we have answered all queries about positive presentations.

The current question you should be asking yourself is, when can I use positive psychology?

Because the answer is, right now.


You might also find this interesting: 4 Simple Hacks to Making the Most Effective Business Presentation.