"Never deny a diagnosis, but do deny the negative verdict that may go with it."
- Norman Cousins
As an entrepreneur, a business presentation is something you’ll likely have to make whether that be pitching to new investors, selling a product/service/idea to an audience or even simply sharing your business vision with employees.
On the surface, a business presentation seems like a negligible variable in your business plan, but a presentation is much more than a few quick slides of information. Particularly as a small business trying to catch the right kind of attention, a business presentation matters and has the power to influence whoever you are presenting. So make it count!
If you’re nervous or unsure of how exactly you can take your presentation from good to incredible, here are some tips to help you :
1) Know your stuff :
Before you go about convincing anyone else, you need to understand your own idea or product. Before you present to an audience, make sure you know your material inside and out. Make visual aids, notes and slides but don’t completely rely on them – i.e. don’t simply read off them!.
Do your research, know what point you’ll be making and allow your knowledge on the subject to guide you. Be confident and show off the passion you have for whatever you’re presenting.
2) Set goals to achieve with your presentation :
As you begin the presentation, start off by telling your audience what you hope to achieve during the time you have with them. An “Objectives” slide would work well here to summarise why your audience should listen to you and what they have to gain from it.
Not only does this evoke a sense of purpose and trust in your audience, it works as a guide for you throughout the presentation so that you don’t digress or move away into inconsequential tangents.
3) Tell A Story :
Stories have the ability to engage audiences in a way facts, figures and quotes don’t. This doesn’t mean your business presentation has to be a work of fiction. It just needs to build a narrative and take your audience on a journey.
There is no limit as to what story you choose to weave into your presentation ; it can be a success story, relevant anecdotes from your personal experiences, the stories of brands or consumers. The goal is to get your audience emotionally invested in whatever you’re telling them.
Remember not to deviate from the purpose of your presentation with your story and keep it short, snappy and interesting.
4) Open strong but keep things simple :
A strong opening statement – whether a startling revelation, some business-friendly humour or an interesting image/video – is key to making a great first impression which will then set the tone for the rest of the presentation. A sprinkling of any of these throughout will also elevate your presentation.
However, be careful not to overwhelm your audience with lots of information and don’t add anything to the presentation if it doesn’t lend any substance to your pitch. It might be tempting to squeeze a joke or a shocking statement, but including everything doesn’t necessarily make for a good presentation.
A good tip is to try and keep the main crux of your presentation within three to five points, using anecdotes and everything else to simply engage your audience.
5) Speak naturally and be enthusiastic :
Don’t try to use rehearsed speech patterns in an attempt to come across “smart.” Speak naturally, adopt a conversational tone tweaking out slang and complex vocabulary. The key is to communicate clearly and a few practice runs are good, but once you know the material just try to be friendly, professional and most importantly enthusiastic!
Enthusiasm and positive vibes that show you are actually passionate about what you’re talking about matters when you’re trying to convince customers to buy your product/service or investors to put in their money. Vibes do matter.
6) Dress code and body language :
Dress professionally but comfortably in clothes that fit you in a way that makes it easy to move around in. Smile and make eye contact with your audience.
Pay attention to your body language – shifting your weight from leg to leg, wringing your hands or moving them around too much etc. can come across as jittery and underconfident.
If these quirks are part of your personality, practice presenting a few times in front of a friend or family member who can help you pick up on it and phase it out.
Aside from that don’t force your demeanour, instead just be your best self. Adopt a position that’s natural to you, speak in a voice that you are most comfortable with. In the end comfort should inspire confidence and that should be enough for you to sail through the presentation effortlessly.
7) Arrive early so you can set up :
There’s nothing worse than a technical error or being unable to find the right room when you’re about to make an important presentation ; these setbacks can throw you off completely and eat away at your time with the audience.
Arrive early, familiarise yourself with the space you’ll be speaking in. Make sure all technical bits such as lighting, projectors, laptops and microphones are set up and working properly.
8) Visual aids are a blessing :
Visuals help your audience retain more information for longer periods of time. Use pictures, videos, infographics or anything else you think will use the tone of your presentation particularly to deconstruct and simplify complex topics.
Text and quotes are important too but don’t overuse them. Use short but informative bullet points in big, visible font and colours instead of paragraphs.
9) Use the 10-20-30 rule :
An idea introduced by venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki in 2005, this rule is handy to keep your presentations from getting repetitive. So what’s the 10-20-30 rule?
Use 10 slides that allow you to make a case for your argument or idea ; any longer and your audience will lose interest.
An average person can pay attention without having their mind wander off for 20 minutes. So that’s ideally how long you have to make the presentation, the remaining time should be utilized to interact with audience/Q&A.
A font size of 30 is best for your presentation as this means even those at the back of the room can read it. It also works out great because it forces the presenter to overcome the urge to put more text on the screen.
This is of course only a generalised rule which can be adapted as per the type of business presentation you’re doing , the number of people you will be presenting to and the amount of time you have been allotted.
10)Don’t just talk at an audience :
There’s nothing more boring than having someone present to you without engaging with you. So talk to your audience not “at” them ; turn your presentation into a conversation or discussion.
Open up the floor to Q&A sessions and prepare yourself to answer any and all questions no matter how simple or tough. Ask them questions in return so you can get ample feedback. Engage and interact with your audience to keep them attentive and awake.
11)Add a closing note :
Wrap up the presentation with a closing note. Once you’re done with the Q&A sessions, conclude however you see fit. Either summarise the main points and goals of the presentation once again or simply add a short anecdote that ensures that your audience leaves the presentation feeling satisfied and confident in your abilities. Make it a powerful ending and bring your unforgettable presentation to a memorable end.
All these tips should help ease any worries you might have about your next big business presentation. While these tips will enhance your presentation, just remember that as long as you put your heart and hard work into your business and your presentation that will automatically find a connection with your audience.