Love it or loath it the business presentation is a common feature of modern business life. I have heard it said that 350 PowerPoint presentations are starting somewhere in the world every second. That's a pretty frightening statistic, especially when you have witnessed as many of them as I have.
Many business presentations are mind numbingly dull, and actually fail to communicate their key messages effectively. Here are presentation tips to help avoid some of the common pitfalls.
Know the purpose of your presentation and don't accept the first idea you come up with. Challenge yourself by asking 'why'? a few times. It is rarely just about sharing knowledge, or informing people. You usually want you audience to do something with the knowledge or make a decision etc. The impact you want is usually the purpose. Imagine you had to tweet the purpose of your presentation. You have only 140 characters - what would you say?
Identify the two or three key points that you must get across to your audience to achieve your purpose. Again, don't accept your first answers. Keep asking yourself 'why'? to hone your response. Decide the priority order of each point (then if you find you have less time than expected you know immediately what to leave out).
Jobs said 'it's not about the numbers, but about what the numbers mean'.
Business presentations can be number heavy. The data is important, but it does
not all need to be presented. Much of the detail can be provided in handout
form before or afterwards. Your job as the presenter is to interpret clearly
what you understand the data to mean, and that meaning is very likely to be one
of your key points.
Far too many people preparing a business presentation get confused about these elements. What the audience experiences is typically
a. effectively reading an overly detailed handout on a big screen
seeing the presenter's notes displayed (lots of
bullet points is the clue here)
this is a business presentation and I want you to be professional. This does
not mean starting your presentation with the words 'once upon a time'. That
might well work, but is probably quite high risk for many business presenters.
However, stories or personal anecdotes put emotion into your presentation, and
that is really important. A case study can be in story form. Talking about a
site visit you made, or how customers have used a particular product is a
story. They don't need to be long - just short, punchy and linked to a key
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Take every opportunity to highlight your key messages in a visual form. It is so much easier for your audience to get your message.
unexpected heightens attention and curiosity. This might be a surprising fact
or statistic. a shocking image of something linked to your key points. It needs
to be relevant. This is not about gimmick.
You don't need to be an actor to be an effective business presenter. What matters is that you convey the same message with your words, voice and body. Use variety in your voice to emphasise key points, allow your passion and enthusiasm for the subject to shine through. Stand strong and confidently - moving with purpose. Avoid too much pacing. Some charismatic presenters can get away with that; most of us aren't that lucky. Use open hand gestures and maintain good levels of eye contact with your audience.
Life is far too short to be too serious about work. Clearly, you may sometimes be giving a presentation when it is highly appropriate to look sombre or concerned. Most of the time it is fine to smile and look relaxed in a business presentation. People do sometimes think it is unprofessional to smile or use humour in a presentation. Ironically, you will appear more professional if you smile.
Speak only about what is necessary. If you finish your presentation a little early your colleagues will love you. Our experience is normally much more about a business presentation over running. Keep it short, simple and focused.
Richard Lock: International trainer, speaker,and coach helping businesses and individuals learn the secrets of effective communication.
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