Before I started my current business, I was a pursuit consultant in the sales, marketing & business development group at Deloitte. I coordinated proposal responses and coached teams on presentations to prospective clients.
While I was an experienced sales rep and marketer when I took the job, I have to say that working in that department definitely honed my skills. So when TDS asked me to write about business presentation best practices, I jumped at the opportunity.
1. Create clean slides with only the most important points
If you find that you are jamming a slide full and reformatting like crazy, create a new slide. Endeavor to keep each slide to one main point with only supporting information about that point.
2. Use large fonts people can actually read
Nothing puts an audience to sleep faster than projected slides in 12 point font or with embedded Excel spreadsheets (I recommend using a handout for spreadsheet data so people can actually read it).
I like to use 30 point font for the main text on a slide, when possible. You can look at a deck I use for my productivity talk here.
3. Start and finish strong
I did many musical performances when I was younger. My mother drilled into me that my beginning and finish needed to be rock solid, and that the audience might not notice a few wrong notes in the middle. This has proven to be excellent advice.
4. What’s in it for them? Make sure they know!
Everybody is tuned into their favorite radio station WIIFM – or What’s In It For Me. You are asking your audience for their valuable time. Make sure they know why they are there and what they will get out of your talk. How will it benefit them? The clearer you are in getting this point across, the more attention you will receive from your audience.
5. Deliberately slow down your speech cadence and don’t mumble
Speak a little slower and more deliberately than you normally do. When you are nervous, you may naturally start to talk faster, so concentrating on slowing your speech cadence can compensate for that.
Also, fast-talking is a warning sign for most of us. We tend to think of the fast-talking salesman as a person who is trying to get something past us. Don’t be that person.
6. End early
Seriously, if you have said everything you needed to say, thank people for their time and let them get back to work. They will love you for it.
As my friend Carol Roth says frequently, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
I am extremely comfortable presenting and am quick on my feet. I make sure I don’t self-sabotage by blocking out specific times to practice on my calendar before a big talk.
If you aren’t a seasoned presenter, you will need to carve out even more time so that you get very comfortable with your material. That way, even if you get questions that seemingly come out of nowhere, you will be able to address them gracefully.
Do you have a fear of public speaking? Lots of people do! But here are some ways to calm the butterflies in your stomach:
•Show up early
You will want to make sure everything is ready and that the equipment works. Assume that there will be issues, and if there aren’t any – bonus!
Please know that even the most experienced speakers have some kind of pre-talk ritual that includes deep breathing. I have personally watched people who get 20K+ per talk do this. You should too.
•Don’t wear things that are tight around the middle
Dress professionally and comfortably. It doesn’t look good (and showcases your discomfort) if you keep adjusting your clothing. And tight waistbands constrict breathing, which decreases your ability to project your voice.
•Smile before you start to speak
Smiling will relax you and your audience. It will also make your words sound better. (Trust me on this. It even works on the telephone.)
These are some of my best tips for a successful presentation. If you use these techniques, you will connect better with your audience and have a lot more fun presenting.
Was that helpful? Do you have some tips to share that work for you? Please leave a comment below so we all can benefit!
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