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A powerful business presentation is much more than just a bunch of nice-looking slides.
Whether you’re presenting to venture capitalists, senior management or potential customers, you need to make a great first impression and stand out from the dozens of other speakers they’ll encounter.
For some people, presenting in front of even a handful of listeners can be a nightmare. And when it's a room full of important business folks, like investors or your boss, things get even worse.
If that sounds like you, don't worry. We have a way to calm your nerves and bring back your confidence.
In this post, you'll find 15 expert tips to help you deliver an unforgettable business presentation.
Before you can convince anyone else, you need to be completely sold on your idea or product. It’s important that you know the points you are making, inside and out.
When you present before an audience, you’ll likely be using visual aids, notes and/or slides. While these tools can help, make sure they aren’t the sum of your expertise.
These are only tools to aid you in your ability to communicate.
Don't rely on them too much or you’ll come across as unsure and boring. Your knowledge of your subject should be beyond your cue-cards so that you can effectively answer any questions that crop up.
You need to inspire confidence. If you bring up a point that is on your slide, back it up with statistics that you’ve encountered or quotes that relate to your topic.
Believe me, vibes matter.
No one wants to hear you drone on about a subject you don’t care for. If you’re tired and bored of your own presentation, your audience is probably feeling the same way.
Anyone listening to you should know how passionate you are about the subject. This will be very apparent in your body language, like the way you speak, make eye contact and walk around on the stage.
Harvard professor Amy Cuddy studies how body postures can communicate power.
Before her highly successful TED talk, she spent time striding, standing tall and extending her body. These movements got her into the zone of feeling powerful and passionate.
It’s also important that you properly energize yourself before a business presentation.
Do some warm-up exercises, like stretching or vocal exercises.
Check out this video on vocal exercises to practice before an important speech or presentation:
You can also do other things that get you focused and energized. Go through inspirational quotes or listen to music. Make sure you’ve drunk enough water and keep a bottle with you during your presentation.
One of the things that can mess up your business presentation is not being familiar with the space you’ll be speaking in. Make sure you arrive at your venue at least an hour in advance.
Set up anything you’ll need, like a projector, laptop or speakers.
If the venue already has all the equipment set up, make sure everything is compatible and working fine. Transfer any files from your USB or download them off of your email or cloud.
Next, check if there are any impediments to your being heard or seen.
Sit at different locations in the audience area to make sure the stage is visible, and the speaker can be heard at the very back. This will help you assess how loud you should be.
Check to see if the projection is visible in the lighting you have, and adjust the lights accordingly.
Another big advantage of arriving early is that you get to meet and greet some of your audience members. This will help you feel more confident on stage as you’ve already broken some of the ice.
You’ve prepped well, you know your stuff inside-out and your visual aids are ready. The next big questions are: What should you wear? How should you act?
It can be tricky deciding what to wear to give a killer business presentation, but your look will likely depend upon your comfort and who your audience is.
Lauren McGoodwin, founder and CEO of Career Contessa, recommends:
“When dressing for a presentation, it’s important to wear something you’re comfortable in, and something that makes you feel confident.”Click to tweet
She also says that you should wear something that allows you to move and gesture freely.
But regardless of what you wear, it’s important to be your best self.
Many people are nervous speaking in front of an audience, so rehearse beforehand and have a friend, colleague or any objective observer monitor you.
If you come across as jittery—always shifting your weight from one leg to another, moving your hands too much, shaking, etc—it’s a good idea to take a note of all that and work at establishing a firm presence on stage before your big day.
How you act also depends upon your personality.
Adopt your natural position. If you’re comfortable standing in place, don’t force yourself to stride across the stage. If your voice is gentle, no need to yell, just get a microphone.
Keep your everyday demeanor and bring out the best you.
We live in an era where audiences have low attention spans and expect to be entertained. Start your business presentation with a bang so as to set the tone for the rest of your presentation.
You could start off with a statistic that shocks the audience into sitting up and taking note or with a quote that instantly makes them listen.
Don’t forget to put them at ease by reassuring them: “I know you may be wondering…”, “…that fact may seem shocking, but research backs it up because…” etc.
You could also start with an interesting image, an attention-grabbing video or a touching personal story.
Remember, first impressions are everything.
You need to convey to your audience that your business presentation will be worth their while and not just a run-of-the-mill lecture where you dispiritedly talk at them.
At the very beginning of your presentation, lay out the goals you hope to meet during your time on stage. This tells the audience why they should listen to you and what they have to gain from paying attention.
As these goals are met, both you and your audience will feel a sense of purpose and achievement at effective communication. Here's a customizable presentation slide template in Visme for goals.
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Your audience will be more likely to remain tuned in if they can see the objectives of the presentation being fulfilled and this in turn will make them more likely to deem your talk a ‘success’.
These goals will also help your audience remember crucial points of your business presentation, which will ensure that you have a productive Q&A session.
Stories connect with people much more than statistics, academic points or even quotations do.
A story can be personal, of course, but it can also be the story of a brand or even a story about consumers.
Steve Jobs was a great corporate storyteller and he shone at every Apple product launch presentation. Check out this video of Jobs presenting at the launch of the iPhone in 2007.
Steve Jobs framed his company’s new innovations in terms of stories of revolution. Macintosh “changed the whole computer industry” and the iPod “changed the whole music industry”.
These were stories of change that brought the product, the consumer, and the exciting time they were living in all together—it made the audience go on a journey.
You can work in a similar way by highlighting the problems (the villain) and how your product, business or idea (the hero) will lead your audience closer to a solution. Telling stories can make your business seem like part of a grand narrative that your audience wants to become a part of.
Then, of course, there are personal stories. These usually appear at the beginning, but a good presentation makes effective use of them throughout.
Tell your audience how you got to where you are, and what makes you believe in your business.
Remember to keep it short, but interesting.
The goal is to establish an emotional connection with your audience so your message hits home. Don’t overdo it or deviate from your actual point.
If you’re looking for more storytelling techniques to incorporate into your presentation, check out this Visme video on presentation structures used by top TED speakers:
A business presentation can get boring and sleep-inducing real fast if you just talk “at” your audience instead of talking to them.
Turn your presentation into a conversation by involving your audience in the discussion. Ask them questions, take their feedback and connect with them via anecdotes (“I know we’ve all felt this way”.)
You can also get them to sit up and work with you. For example, they could be asked to raise their hands if they agree during certain points of the presentation.
Interacting with your audience during your business presentation will help prevent the dreaded “death by PowerPoint” and keep them wide awake and attentive.
Visuals help people retain information for longer periods of time, so use them generously throughout your presentation to make sure your message hits home.
And no, visual aids don’t necessarily mean boring PowerPoint slides.
Pictures, videos and art are also great mediums to get your points across and intrigue the audience. Visual flowcharts can help summarize complex topics.
And if you really do want to use presentation slides, use a tool like Visme to create ones that look professional and stand out from the rest. Check out these editable business presentation templates.
Use data visualization, like bar graphs, pie charts and more to make numbers look interesting.
Visme lets you create over 15 different types of graphs and tons of data widgets, like progress bars and radials, for your business presentation. You can also tap into the flowchart maker, array maker, map engine and other tools to help you visualize information. Here's a sneak peek at how it works:
As for the slides, make sure you don’t stuff them with text.
If you put bullets up on the screen, make sure they are visible and condensed. No one wants to see entire paragraphs up there when you’re talking to them at the same time.
A quote or two is fine, but don’t overdo it.
During long presentations, there is nothing more relaxing than a speaker who can make you laugh.
If you just keep talking in a serious tone, it’ll seem like you’re droning on. A friendly, conversational style and light jokes can make sure that you retain your audience’s attention.
But remember, this is a business presentation. Don’t go overboard with comedy or your audience won’t take you or your presentation seriously.
We recommend using humor only if you’re naturally good at. If not, don’t force it.
Every once in a while, shock your audience into sitting up and focusing.
Challenge their existing beliefs with solid knowledge and statistics. While a startling fact or statistic can be a great way to begin a presentation, it is also important to use these statements throughout.
Don't overdo it so it loses its appeal, but around thrice during an hour-long presentation should be good.
Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki came up with this handy presentation rule in 2005.
Here’s an infographic that sums it up:
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Kawasaki sat through many, many bad presentations and figured out this rule to make sure presentations stop being so repetitive and boring.
10 slides give presenters an ample amount of space to summarize their argument. Any more information and the audience is likely to lose focus and doze off.
20 minutes is how long the average person can pay attention without losing his mind wandering. Kawasaki says that, in an ideal world, the last 40 minutes of the presenter’s hour will be utilized in a Q&A session.
A font size of 30 points means that everyone can read a presentation, even from the back of the room, and the presenter is forced to put minimal text up on the screen.
Keep in mind that Kawasaki is talking about a specific situation, a pitch for a room full of venture capitalists.
While his points can be generalized, a business owner may also find themselves in a situation where they aren’t perfectly applicable. It would be good to revise them slightly in different situations.
You don’t have to stand there and speak like a machine. Your audience will respond better to the presentation if you personalize your interactions with them.
Make sure you meet the eyes of multiple members of the audience so that they feel like you are paying attention to them individually.
Eye contact can reassure your audience that you value their time and are grateful for their presence and it can also drive home the message that you are confident in your pitch.
Smile at audience members when you meet their eyes! If you’re nervous, locate five or six friendly faces in the crowd and keep coming back to them for encouragement.
Don’t underestimate the power of the Q&A session!
Your answers can make or break your business presentation. A good presenter knows their material completely and is ready to face difficult questions.
Here's an editable presentation slide template in Visme for Q&A sessions:
Remember, people will trust in you and your business venture if they are sure you know what you’re doing.
If you’ve ended your presentation on an awkward silence, ask some questions yourself and use language that makes it apparent that you know the concerns of your audience.
Start with phrases like “Now, you may be wondering if…”. This sets the crowd at ease and allows them to comfortably voice their concerns.
It is very important to have a closing note after the Q&A session. You shouldn’t need a slide for this part, but you can use one if you want.
The way you conclude your presentation should be powerful and ensure that the audience remembers you. Like your opening, you can end with a personal story or quotation. Or remind them about the goals and summarize the main points quickly.
Make sure the end is euphoric and shows that your ideas can achieve success. This will ensure that your listeners place their confidence in you and leave feeling satisfied and uplifted.
The secret to giving a successful business presentation is putting your heart and soul into connecting with your audience and truly showing them the value in your ideas.
This list of professional tips can empower you in small ways, leading to big outcomes.
If you’re already feeling pumped about your next business presentation, create one that doubles your impact using Visme’s presentation maker.
Sign up for a free account today and take it for a test drive!
What do you struggle with the most when it comes to giving business presentations? Let us know your thoughts, questions and feedback in the comments below.