Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Business Presentation Skills For Everyone

Many times business professionals are asked to give presentations as part of promoting their product or services. Everyday in cities all over the world there are organizations that host breakfast and lunchtime seminars that feature local executives who stand up and pontificate about their company, philosophy and areas of expertise.

Meanwhile, often times audience members would rather be boiled in hot oil than have to listen to these well meaning, but under prepared speakers. While much of the information is great, it is very often presented by people who have spent no time on preparing to give a presentation.

When you are asked to "give" a presentation you need to remember that you are "giving" something to your audience. You are presenting a gift of your time, knowledge and experience, and nobody wants to give or receive a sub-standard gift. Therefore you owe it to your audience, and yourself, to properly prepare your talk and fine tune your presentation skills.

Here are eight steps to creating and presenting a better speech:

1. Never start with a joke, unless you are a professional comedian. At some point in time we have all heard to "lighten up" the audience with joke or funny story for the opening of a presentation. However, unless you are an accomplished humorist, most jokes fall flat or appear canned. Instead start your talk with a strong statement about your topic and jump right into to the subject matter.

2. Avoid too many words on your PowerPoint. Many people cram large amounts of information onto each slide. Your PowerPoint is there to help you remember what to talk about, not for the audience to read. The best power points have very few words on each slides, or sometimes just photos (no words) to illustrate a point and create a visual bond with the audience.

3. Tell Stories. You audience appreciates all of your research, facts, statistics and graphs. But even in a technical presentation if the speaker does not tell personal stories about the information, the the listener will feel cheated. People like to hear your personal experiences that lead you to being a subject expert.

4. Make your presentation interactive. Ask questions of your audience and accept Q&A throughout the presentation. Nothing is worse than the speaker shutting down an audience member who raises their hand by telling them to save questions for the end.

5. Avoid standing in one place or behind a lectern. You want to be free to move around while speaking, and if you are stuck in one spot during your presentation the audience will quickly become bored. Your movement around the stage allows you to be more engaged with the audience. Mix it up.

6. Own your own remote control for advancing your PowerPoint. These "clickers" cost about fifteen dollars and will save your life. Many speakers expect the event planners to have one or assume the devise will work and have charged batteries. Needing to rely on someone to advance your slides and repetitively saying "go to the next slide" can kill your presentation.

7. Practice your presentation in advance, especially the opening and the close. Know what key points need to be made in the middle, and be confident in all statements that you make. Nothing is better than a confident speaker who is in control of their language.

8. Give the audience more than they expected. Why do you think Oprah likes to give away cars and other prizes to her studio audience? People love it when you leave them with either a free white paper, or other token of information. If you cannot give everyone something, conduct a drawing so that some of audience members win a free book or other item.

Giving good presentations will help you succeed. Take your speaking skills seriously.

Have A Great Day.


1 comment:

Eugene Sepulveda said...

Nice posting

Love your eight (no jokes, fewer words slides, stories, interactive, move around, remote control, practice, exceed expectations)

The architectural of public presentations is a given to professionals like you, though you might want to remind your readers of the importance of framing, of the launch (60 - 90 secs to convince your audience to listen) and the closing (what you want them to walk away with). Heck, some folks need to be reminded to figure out what exactly it is they want to communicate before they even start preparing a presentation. And, they should ask themselves this about each and every slide.

Focus, clarity & succinctness are the yellow canaries of good business presentations. As you point out, stories can add a lot.

Margaret Keys and Steven are my mentors (yeah I know, lucky me!), though I don't even pretend to be in your league. You might want to check out and recommend the online resources at http://margaretkeys.com. Take a look under publications. There's even a coach's view with 12 points.

Keep up the great blogging Thom.