Business Presentation Tips
Dynamic Business Presentations in Five Easy Steps:
Many of our clients come to us looking for tips on how to improve the success of their corporate and business presentations, and fast. While there’s a lot of advice and tips out there, some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is unmentionably atrocious, the good news is that you can dramatically increase the quality of your business presentations with a few simple steps. You can make sure you tell a story in your business presentation and captivate your audience one slide at a time in your presentation.
A given one: relax and breathe! One of our early errors was speaking too fast as we presented something. Through practice, we’ve learnt to slow down and really enunciate each word! (Have you ever heard of this strange tip of putting a pen in your mouth as you recite your points? It helps you slow down. It is not comfortable at all, so we don’t always recommend it!) As cheesy as it sounds, you must be yourself in order to show your passion and connection to the topic you are presenting. And think of one idea at a time, so you don’t overwhelm yourself. It is easy to be saying one thing while thinking another, which is detrimental to your presentation.
With a clear mind, you also leave space to focus on your audience and what their needs are as well. Make eye contact and smile, even when conveying powerful points. Tell stories to connect with your audience, both in your own words, different tones of voice and body language.
If all of that seemed like too much to absorb, remember you can break down preparing for your presentation on focusing on its preparation, delivery, questions and all the aspects of delivering a dynamic business presentation. We cover this in five easy steps!
1. Set a Goal
What do you want to accomplish with your business presentation? To pitch a new idea? To close a sale? Are you informing the general public about something new? Are you educating them to raise brand awareness? Are you seeking to persuade, convince, activate, inspire, motivate or entertain through the lens of you and your business? Or all, if possible?
You should be asking whether each slide or point is helping you achieve this goal. If it’s not, it doesn’t belong in your presentation. Simplify and imagine if you were watching this presentation yourself. What would be extraneous, anecdotal or not engaging? Put simply, can you summarize your idea in fifteen words? If not, try to condense what you’re trying to gain or what goal is ahead of you in those fifteen words, so you can use those same words in your presentation from time to time. By knowing this, you know your material in its most foundational roots.
Overall, you want to tell a story in a business presentation. You need to make sure the information presented to your audience will make the points and content you choose to get across in your presentation. Also, people like presentations that have a clear topic, organized points and manages to tell a story within a certain amount of time. People do not like presentations that are information dense, where the content and points are scattered and they do not have time to get to know your business or understand your presentation.
Even if your document is meant to pitch a new idea or close a sale, be prepared to tell the story of your business and engage your audience. One of our clients had a distillery that celebrated the heritage of her father’s legacy, and that hometown pride was the personal connection between all the statistics and facts presented in her presentation and kept it engaging throughout.
One of our tips is to set an attainable goal. Have you heard of the 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint? A business presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes and contain no font smaller than 30 points. This can be said across any medium you pick beyond powerpoint. You can start here if you have a lot of content for your business presentation. By making sure the information is easy to both digest, read and use by your audience, you’ll get the most engagement out of your time with your audience. Even a simple but consistent looking design can keep someone engaged if your words and visuals are connected well.
2. Be Flexible
That’s not to say that you can’t be a little flexible. If you feel like your audience isn’t getting it, or you’re losing their attention, or they seem to be more interested in a different part of your presentation than you’d hoped, try changing it up, cutting sections on the fly, or answering their questions. It’s great to be laser-focused in your preparation, but conversational and adaptable in the delivery of your corporate presentation. Presentations are not just what’s written down in paper or presented on screen, you also have to feel the audience and adjust to their energy, mood and receptiveness. You can encourage your audience by saying things like “that’s a good question” or “I’ve never been asked that” – that immediately forms a connection between you and an audience member. Have fun with their responses! And don’t apologize for your stumbling errors, only apologize if you really are wrong about a fact or an opinion poorly received.
Another way to become more flexible is by practicing your presentation with a few colleagues or people who aren’t familiar with the content beforehand. You can also make sure your presentation works technically on your equipment too in this run. You can see if your information gets through, also see if your content is engaging prior to the live crowd. Some things to ask your test audience: are all your topics delivered in a timely manner, did they retain the major points or slide information? Get solid feedback from this test group and readjust accordingly, even if it means taking a little bit of extra time before hand.
Another way to be flexible is answering questions or shifting gears. This requires research, which you as the expert probably already have! From the knowledge base you already have, perhaps categorize and learn as much as you can about each slide and segment, so if your listeners are interested in slide over another, you can always speak to that slide instead.
Overall, you need to inspire confidence. Vibes matter. You’re not there to just talk to yourself right?
3. Know Your Audience
Also, cater your presentation to your target audience—and that’s not necessarily every person in the room, though the room dynamic can be a powerful factor in a successful business presentation. You should keep in mind their demographic, interests, even sense of humour when putting together your presentation. You could even talk to members of the crowd before the presentation to help you feel less nervous and get to know those who will be engaging in your work. Do they have any particular needs? You could ask them why they attended or what information they are looking for. By doing this early, you can slow down at a slide where the question may be addressed. You could even do a shout-out to the person who asked and say it was a good question. This type of encouragement helps the audience trust and engage with you.
Your connection with the audience as people allows you to get to know who you’re presenting to and how to make each slide relevant to that demographic. Without those people in mind, the information on the slides of your presentation might not be relevant or stay with them. Even if you were to tell a compelling story in your presentation, you’d like that story to stay with people. However, if that information is not something they get into, then the topics and points become irrelevant to them.
You don’t necessarily have to make the information specifically for that audience if you’d like to re-use your presentation in other contexts. However, how you present verbally with your presentation can adjust throughout where you go. Become a whiz at a topic that has value in that demographic. Make use of each person in the room and get to know what topic they like or hone into. Even the tiniest bit of connection makes your presentation stand out from the last one. Do you ever remember when a teacher stopped their lesson to ask you how you did something when they were impressed? Didn’t that stand out versus the usual drag of a class?
This eye for connection helps develop and build your presentation skills and knowledge base as you present in your career. Knowing your audience is not something you learn overnight but what you build through doing many talks. You may have the same people attend the talks you give, so you also build that rapport with your audience through time. Even if you do this only once, you build a sense of confidence and trust with the investors, employees or customers you took the time to present to.
4. Visualize Your Data
Right now, you might be thinking, No problem, I’ve got this handy chart. While charts certainly can be useful, you’re missing out on a whole world of other data visualization options at your disposal if you pick a chart as your default graphic. Everyone in the business world has seen thousands of pie charts. Why not find a perfect visual metaphor, craft a dynamic animation or build a compelling infographic?
Overall, your point with the data is for people to see the world a little bit differently after, right? Can you show that in another format? For example, if 1 out of 10 people have x, could you show ten little silhouettes of people and one of them is red? Remember that the people you are presenting to are intelligent and can piece together data or ask for more details from you. If the data is crucial, consider doing a handout where they can review that data if you feel the chart or numbers are very important. That way they can read it instead of squinting at the screen ahead of them, especially those with aging eyes! You could also animate the chart to show only specific rows or columns versus the whole chart. This way you can sort of guide the user’s eye versus them staring at a map of numbers, darting back and forth and not staying with you attentively as you speak. With some minor animation, you could even just zoom in and out of the chart itself.
If you like for it to still be on the screen, you want your presentation to be dynamic and not just full of information that your audience will not remember. Go through the chart, think about the topic and generate a visual that conveys the information simply. Make use of design agencies like the Presentation Geeks or free design services like Freepik, Canva and other resources. You can use both remote talent or resources to help convey dense information and break it up across each slide. One chart is not effective to get a point across in a short amount of time. Make use of the multi-slide nature of most presentations and keep 1-3 points or details on the screen. Use a photo to liven up any page in your pitch deck. An animation and video also is an effective tool to explain points that are best done visually anyway. (If you produce your own videos, you can always do it before hand and work out your performance in it too!)
5. Make Your Slides Work For You
You rule your slides, not the other way around. It can be dangerously easy to let your slide deck dictate the structure of your presentation. Instead, figure out what story you want to tell, and build your slides to emphasize and enhance your message. Do not lose your audience! Knowing how to get through to your audience in your presentation is invaluable. This is one tip we cannot stress enough. Even a simple but consistently designed presentation can convey a powerful message to others, or be memorable days after your presentation.
Do the slides work for how you prioritize or present data? If you are more of a talker and are charismatic, perhaps a simple visual slide would do. If you are the opposite, consider putting 1-3 points per slide to help supplement what you’re trying to say. If you are a mix of the two, you can always make a hybrid presentation of visual and infographics and points to help your delivery.
And if you’re feeling nervous, practice, practice. Breath in instead of saying “um”. Turn that nervous energy into enthusiasm the more you do it. Attend other presentations and take notes. Meet and greet your audience members before the presentation so you feel more comfortable yourself. And the biggest thing you can do for yourself is admit that you do not know all the answers. If someone asks you in the crowd what something means and you do not know, chances are you can always send them follow up information. You’re an expert in the field, so they will appreciate an after presentation email or call or follow-up.
By putting all of these five things together, you’ll come out with a stellar presentation. There is a lot to each tip, so go through each of the five carefully. They’re all interconnected and help the overall flow of a presentation itself. And we can’t stress enough just to practice as that usually eliminates the stress and nervousness. Practice so much you’re tired of hearing yourself speak – that usually means you can tell the information auto-pilot and any questions or new things that come in, you’ll have more fun answering!
If all of that seemed like too much to absorb, remember you can break down these five steps as these: focus on preparation, delivery and questions for your big day!