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There’s no way around it: Presentations are an inevitable part of life. In fact, for many people they’re a daily occurrence.
Because presentations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with some being so common that you might not even realize you’re being presented to. For example; that friendly chat you had with the store assistant yesterday might’ve been an agonizingly-planned sales pitch.
The bottom line is that presentations are everywhere. In this article, we’re going to break down the most-common types of presentations you’re likely to come across in your day-to-day life, along with some helpful tips & resources for creating each one.
The most common types of presentations you may need to create are typically going to be for business, whether for your day-to-day job, while running a business, or when trying to start a business and pitch investors.
We've covered five types of presentations for business to help you understand the use case for each one.
If you’re in a client-facing role, you’ll definitely need to give a sales pitch at some point in your career.
But what exactly is a sales pitch?
In short, a sales pitch is a brief two-way conversation between you and a sales prospect, with the intention of converting them into a paying customer.
A typical sales pitch will follow this formula:
This is where you find out the specific needs of your sales target (so that you can tailor your pitch accordingly).
If you’re dealing with a smaller client, you can typically do this by asking them a few open-ended questions right before your pitch. If it’s a more-lucrative client, you’ll want to undertake significant research beforehand.
Using the knowledge gained from the previous step, you’ll then actually pitch your product or service to the sales lead. This will generally be a short speech that aims to convey how the product or service can help the client, as well as why they should choose you over your competition.
If you’re dealing with a smaller client, this will usually be done as a brief speech. If you’re playing in the big leagues, you’ll likely need to prepare a short slideshow to accompany your pitch.
Following your pitch, most leads will have further questions or concerns about your pitch. In this stage, you’ll talk through their questions and rectify any concerns with the aim of closing the sale.
While the term sales pitch can conjure up images of fast-talking, unethical businessmen, they’re actually super common in the business world and are almost-always conducted in a fair and ethical manner.
For example, if you’re considering working as a freelancer, sales pitching will serve as the backbone of your client strategy, making it an essential skill for you to develop.
Be honest: The aim is to maximize the chances of a well-targeted lead converting, not to deceive someone into making a purchase. While you’ll want to be persuasive, make sure you’re honest and maintain a good company persona.
Be confident: Confidence is king when it comes to pitching a product or service. If you don’t have confidence in what you’re selling, how can you expect your sales lead to?
Tell a story: Us humans love storytelling. By constructing your pitch around a story, it makes it much easier for the prospect to follow and connect with.
The concept of a presentation can all-too-often conjure up thoughts of endless slideshows and droning lectures.
But did you know that some of the most exciting (and also the most difficult) presentations are actually super short?
Enter the elevator pitch:
An elevator pitch is a short verbal account of a concept, entity or idea that allows the listener to understand it in a very short amount of time (with an average pitch lasting just 40 seconds)
It gets its name from the fact that you should be able to present the entire pitch to someone during an elevator ride.
A typical elevator pitch will usually follow this format:
Here, you’ll give the name of either yourself or the organization you represent.
Next up is a one-sentence summary of exactly what your business does, followed by a second one-sentence summary of how it solves the problem you’re aiming to solve.
USP stands for Unique Selling Point. What’s the one thing that makes you stand out amongst your competitors?
Always include a call-to-action at the end of your pitch, such as a prompt for questions or a request to visit the website for more information.
Time it beforehand: Remember, the average runtime for an elevator pitch is 40 seconds. It’s really easy to waffle if you haven’t timed yourself, so make sure you time your final pitch before taking it to market.
Speak clearly: While your pitch needs to be concise, it’s super important not to mumble or rush through it. Make sure you follow the seven C’s of effective communication to get your message across in a clear, concise and engaging manner.
Be personable: An elevator pitch is a friendly, yet well-structured approach to educating someone about your business in a short amount of time. You’ll want it to sound personable and perky rather than rehearsed and rigid.
Ah, the infamous keynote.
If you’ve ever checked out a TedTALK (which, if you haven’t, you totally should) you’ll know exactly what a keynote entails:
A keynote is an informative or motivational presentation given to set the theme of an event (such as a graduation, industry conference or awards ceremony). Keynotes are often given by well-known figures, such as corporate executives or celebrities.
A typical keynote will be based around a story with three distinct points, each of which link back to one main theme. A typical keynote structure will look something like this.
Here, you’ll introduce the main theme of the keynote and foreshadow the other three points that you’ll be looking at over the course of the keynote
Next, you’ll dig into your first point. This will encompass the first third of your story, giving contextual background to the point and linking it back to the main theme of the keynote.
You’ll then do the same for point two.
You’ll then repeat the process one last time for point three.
Finally, you’ll bring all three points full circle and link them back to your main theme, outlining the main lessons to take away from the presentation.
Base it around a story: With keynotes often being either informative or inspiring in nature, basing your presentation around a story will make it much easier to follow.
Ditch the script: While you’ll want your presentation to be structured, it’s important to keep it friendly and conversational. Leave some room for ad-lib and feel free to tailor your delivery depending on the feel of the room.
Be vulnerable: A good keynote is all about connecting with your audience on a personal level. By showing vulnerability, it gives your audience a chance to empathize and connect with you, engaging them fully in the keynote itself.
There’s no doubt that presentations are a nerve-wracking experience.
But there’s one presentation in particular that even the most fiercely-experienced presenters fear…enter the investor pitch:
An investor pitch is a short presentation given by an entrepreneur to prospective investors, with the aim of securing investment for an entrepreneurial venture.
In other words, it’s basically Shark Tank.
Investor pitches are commonly used to secure investment for startup companies that have started to build traction, but need a cash injection to get the ball rolling. They’re often presented to either angel investors or venture capital firms.
A typical investor pitch will follow this type of structure:
Here, you’ll introduce yourself and outline the problem your entrepreneurial project or startup is looking to solve.
Next, you’ll go into a little more depth on the nature of the problem, including the affected market and growing demand for an effective solution.
Here’s where the pitch really kicks into gear. You’ll now outline the nuts and bolts of your product or service, company persona and business model.
Finally, you’ll outline what’s in it for the investor. This will usually include how much of a stake they get, what your projected revenue is and how your project stands out amongst your competitors.
Back it up: If you’re asking a panel of investors for upfront capital, it’s absolutely crucial that you’re not only moonshot confident in your idea, but are able to back it up with data.
It’s well-worth sending across a well-structured business proposal to the investor panel beforehand, which can then be supported by growth projection statistics within the pitch itself.
Keep it honest: If you’re expecting someone to put their hard-earned money into your project, make sure you keep it honest and transparent. If you over-exaggerate your numbers during your pitch, prospective investors are bound you catch you out. This’ll instantly kill any chance of a deal.
Make it urgent: Startups and other entrepreneurial projects come with massive potential to blitz-scale, meaning they grow at an eye-watering pace and generate huge amounts of revenue in the process. ‘FOMO’ can be a great motivator to win over potential investors, provided it’s backed by a solid business plan.
Ah, the trusty webinar.
The term webinar is notorious for serving as a not-so-accurate blanket term for various types of online media. Here’s the lowdown on what it actually means:
A webinar is an online presentation, workshop, seminar or lecture hosted via video conferencing software. The word "webinar" is a combination of the words "web" and "seminar."
Webinars are almost always business-orientated. However, they can be used for a number of different business facets, including:
A typical webinar will usually be structured something like this:
Here, the host will introduce the theme of the webinar and give an overview of the running order for the session.
Next, the host will dig into the body of the webinar content. This can be anything from educational content to information about a new product or service, depending on the purpose of the webinar.
To round off the main body of the webinar, the host will go in for the kill and offer the primary call-to-action (such as purchasing a product or signing up to a mailing list).
Finally, the host will almost-always take questions from the audience. This allows the audience to not only gain greater clarity on the webinar’s content, but it also offers an opportunity for the host to build a personal connection to them (which will subsequently increase conversion rates).
Keep it visually engaging: As webinars exclusively take place online, it can be much harder for the host to leverage things such as body language and eye contact to engage the audience.
Therefore, it’s key to make sure your presentation as visually engaging as possible. Taking the time to clue yourself up about graphic design will pay serious dividends when it comes to your conversion rate.
Do a dummy run beforehand: Webinars are magnets for technical issues. With large numbers of people in attendance and a huge reliance on technology, you’re very likely to run into technical difficulties during the webinar.
Make sure you do a dummy run beforehand to ensure everything is working and prevent people from abandoning the stream due to technical issues. It's also worth trialing a few different webinar platforms to see which one works best for you.
Optimize for mobile: As you’ll likely be presenting from a desktop, it can be easy to overlook this step. However, the vast majority of attendees will likely be watching your webinar from a mobile device, so it’s crucial to make sure your presentation is well-optimized for mobile.
Other types of presentations you might deliver are for furthering education, whether you're giving a lecture or presenting at a seminar. Let's learn more about these two types of presentations.
No, not the kind your mom used to give you (or probably still gives you, despite your best intentions).
We mean this one:
A lecture is a verbal presentation of educational subject matter, often accompanied by visual aids. Lectures are often given to medium to large-sized groups, with an average of 62.5 attendees.
Lectures are most-commonly given in educational institutions, such as schools and universities. However, many lectures are available to members of the general public for the purposes of self-enrichment.
Lectures almost always focus on one particular subset of a wider topic, such as a time period in history or a branch of economics.
Adapt accordingly: This is especially-relevant if you’re lecturing on complex subject material. While you’ll need to take into account the needs of the attendees themselves, you’ll also have to factor in things such as the time of day and mood of the room.
If you’re lecturing first thing on a Monday, you might need a perkier approach. If you’re lecturing last thing on a Friday, you can likely be a little more laid back.
Don’t over-rely on the slides: Your slideshow should be an accompaniment to your lecture, not the main feature. Use the slides to visually illustrate your points and summarize key learnings, rather than using them as the backbone of the lecture.
Don’t go overboard with information: Lectures generally require a high-level of concentration for those in attendance. Wherever possible, make sure to explain core concepts in as simple a manner as possible and cut out any unnecessary information.
The seminar is the younger, slightly chattier sibling of the lecture:
A seminar is a small group session in which academic subject matter is discussed. Most seminars are focused on one particular niche of academia and include discussion amongst the entire group.
Like lectures, seminars usually take place in schools, colleges and universities. They’re commonly used as a follow-up to a lecture, allowing students to discuss material from the lecture in greater detail.
A seminar will usually have a teacher that structures and oversees group discussion. While they’ll usually teach relevant material and run the group discussion, seminars allow everyone to present material from their academic work or group discussion activities.
A seminar that’s available to the general public (i.e. not in an academic setting) is usually referred to as a masterclass.
Focus on the group: See yourself as a manager rather than an instructor. Seminars should be anchored firmly around discussion from the group, rather than lengthy taught material from yourself.
Don’t ignore your planning: Due to the interactive and group-focused nature of a seminar, it’s tempting to think you won’t have to plan a great deal of material in advance.
However, for group discussion to be productive and relevant, it needs to be well-planned and structured in advance. Make sure you’ve designed a logical, well-timed structure for the seminar and prepared a few question prompts in case you have a quiet group.
Adapt to the room: While this goes for any form of presentation, it’s especially relevant in a situation that requires the entire group to present information.
Groups can range from extremely lively to extremely shy; tailor your approach accordingly to make sure that everyone has a say and that the discussion stays as relevant as possible.
Resources for Creating a Seminar
Here’s the deal. It’s well-known that visual aids make a presentation 43% more-persuasive than one without.
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