Business presentations have the capacity to inform, influence and even inspire audiences to action. Although giving a presentation may seem difficult, it need not be. Below are a number of recommendations for those seeking to master this valuable skill.
Preparation is the key to any successful project. In the world of business presentations, this means first deciding how to frame your subject, explains Chris Anderson of Harvard Business Review. Presentations, he claims, are best received when the presenter loosely offers them in the form of a narrative or story.
When framing your presentation:
- Try to begin where your audience’s knowledge of the subject ends. If you assume they know more or less about your topic than they actually do, you risk losing their interest.
- Don’t try to cover too much information. Instead, focus on the unique message you are trying to convey and give details to support it.
- Be wary of talking too much or bragging about your company. Make sure you discuss (and stick to) the problem you’re trying to solve.
In preparing for your speech, Anderson recommends either writing and memorizing your words verbatim or creating a set of bullet points that outline what the presentation will cover. He defends memorizing as the most effective strategy, but only if you have enough time to do so thoroughly.
After you decide what you’ll say, practice extensively. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you’ll become.
What you wear to a presentation can be as important as what you say. Clothing can send visual cues about your professional status, personal attitudes and the brand you represent. When dressing for a presentation, Forbes recommends:
- Dress at the same level or slightly better than your audience.
- Wear something that demonstrates consistency with your brand.
- Be sure to put on something that inspires your personal self-confidence.
- Wear something that will allow you to move.
- Dress in something others would deem age-appropriate.
- Dress strategically in a way that tells the audience what you want them to know about you.
In doing so, you will increase the audience’s trust and effectively shape their opinions about who you are and what you represent.
“Delivery” includes visual tools speakers may use during their presentation, as well as their own physicality and speech.
Although a presenter may effectively use any object or projection as a visual aid, Microsoft PowerPoint continues to remain the popular tool of choice. Communications expert Garr Reynolds recommends that presenters follow these PowerPoint best practices:
- Limit the text on your slides. Extraneous text is a distraction rather than an enhancement. Resist the urge to fill the PowerPoints up with so much information that they can double as handouts. Any takeaways should offer additional details beyond what you have presented.
- The same rule applies to images. Make sure to include only those that are absolutely needed. Embrace blank space.
- Don’t use Microsoft PowerPoint templates or clip art. They are overused and look unprofessional. Only use high-quality graphics and photos.
- Limit your visuals to one main idea per slide.
- If you want to use video or audio, don’t make the clip longer than 60 seconds.
Physicality and Speech
- Make eye contact with members of the audience. It is key to capturing and retaining their attention.
- When gesturing, less is more. Only move your hands when necessary, most likely to emphasize a point.
- If you want to walk during your presentation, do so judiciously. Stepping away from the podium can help you better connect with the audience, but it can also be distracting.
- Speak more slowly than you think you need to. People tend to speak quickly when they are nervous.
- Don’t read directly off your PowerPoint. Remember, memorization is considered one of the most effective ways to prepare.
The overwhelming majority of communication between people happens at a nonverbal level. Learning effective delivery is the key to engaging your audience.
A Proficiency in Business
Mastering the art of presentations is just one of many skills necessary to succeed in the business world. For those seeking to learn more, the online business administration and management degrees at Husson University can help. Both programs offer a practical, real-world curriculum, making it easy for students apply their training to their careers.