Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
A powerful business presentation is much more than just a bunch of nice-looking slides. Know the expert tips to help you deliver an unforgettable business presentation.
Remember those classes in college or university, where you knew the lecture would be soothing enough to allow for a quick nap? Some teachers haven’t mastered the art of giving engaging speeches, and some entrepreneurs struggle with it as well.
So, what do you do when you have a business presentation planned, and you don’t want to put everyone to sleep?
Giving an engaging presentation is—luckily—easier than it sounds. There are no excuses to be made about the topic not being fun or exciting enough: there are people who can talk about broomsticks and have you at the edge of your seat—maybe even off it.
Their secret? They approach presentations as interactions with other human beings, and not like a conversation with a wall. They take the principles we use in our day-to-day conversations with friends, and add them to their presentations. Plus, some of them know a thing or two about presentation design, which really helps as well.
So, in this article, you will find seven practical tips to ensure that your next business presentation is a success, from start to finish.
Presentation due tomorrow and no time to lose? Here’s what we will cover in this article:
- Tip 1: Have a clear goal in mind and communicate this to your audience. If something is going to be a sales pitch, best to be upfront about it. Tell your audience the objective of today's presentation to help them understand the relevance of what you’re saying.
- Tip 2: Tell a story. Storytelling is a classic piece of advice, but something a lot of people struggle with. You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling, but try to weave some real-life examples or personal anecdotes into your presentation.
- Tip 3: The right design can help people to stay focused. Minimize distractions and focus on one thing at a time in your slides.
- Tip 4: Make it interactive. Introduce a short quiz, ask questions, or even ask for assistance from your audience.
- Tip 5: Keep it short.
- Tip 6. Use the full range of your voice!
- Tip 7: Make sure the presentation ends with a call to action or follow up with your audience after.
Tip 1: Have a goal in mind and communicate this clearly
There’s no need to beat around the bush and be mysterious about the goals of your presentation. Figure out what type of presentation you will be giving, and then be open about that with your audience. No, this doesn't spoil the fun of your hidden offer at the end—it keeps them engaged, so they don't wonder what is coming.
This also goes for meetings within your company. You are presenting numbers or projects. Before you really start the presentation, make clear why you're giving this presentation. Here’s what I mean by that:
- ‘‘I'll be presenting the brand health metrics from last quarter to you, to get your ideas on new campaigns for next quarter.’’
- ‘‘I’ll be showing you that project I've been working on. I’d love to have some input on the final stage.’’
- ‘‘I’m here today to show you that investing in our business is what will help you reach your goals in building sustainable partnerships.’’
See? It’s not pushy and not a big spoiler, but instead allows you and your audience to focus. If you wander off in your story, your audience will wander off into their mind.
They have time to get used to the call to action. People who get asked for input know they will have to pay attention, because they might get asked a question.
Tip 2: Tell a story
Once upon a time, the term ‘storytelling’ entered the field of marketing. Communication specialists and copywriters turned it into a real art form. They can even turn a financial report into a captivating piece of work. How do they do it?
Storytelling isn't about writing fiction. It’s about using the same things in your presentation as you do in conversations with your friends. Wit. Humor. Emotion. Personal touches.
Watch a few TED talks, and you’ll understand how storytelling really works. People take an actual story, an anecdote, or an example, and weave that in throughout their talk. This doesn't have to be a big Notebook-like story: it could be about something you experienced at the grocery store last month. As long as other humans can relate to it.
Because one thing we can't relate to, and certainly not remember, is dry facts. Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and will certainly keep the attention.
Take the message of the movie Mulan. You wouldn’t remember a dry documentary about why empowering all people is important, but linked to Mulan’s story, it becomes easier to understand and remember.
3. Use design in a smart way to keep focus
An engaging presentation isn't about creating a colorful PowerPoint presentation that is filled with special effects.
On the contrary: if you want to keep the attention, minimize the distracting elements. Choose presentation slide designs that keep all the attention on the key information you are showing.
Try to avoid showing multiple pieces of information in one slide. Yes, bullet points are better than whole paragraphs of text, but try to avoid both of them for a change. Instead, go for a slide with one piece of information and one image that supports it.
If you add a picture, 65% of people will remember information after three days, as opposed to only 10% when you simply only say something.
4. Add interactions or interactive elements
People have a short attention span. If we just sit and listen, we will often drift off and be elsewhere in our minds, remembering shopping lists or thinking about that snack in the fridge.
It’s not that humans don’t want to pay attention, but our brains need to stay active. So, give your audience a hand and involve them in your presentation.
Actively ask them questions or allow them to ask you questions, to create a more dynamic presentation. You can also add fun elements like a quiz. Announce beforehand that interactive elements will be part of the presentation, so again people are reminded that it pays off to pay attention.
5. Keep it short
Again, our attention span isn’t something to be proud of. Due to the amount of information that is presented to us, we’re down to a dazzling eight seconds. That kind of means that you have to say or do something engaging every eight seconds. No pressure.
To make this a little easier on yourself, and your audience, keep your presentation as short as you possibly can. That means being very tough on choosing which piece of information stays, and what goes.
Look at every slide and everything you want to say and decide whether this will contribute to your goal, or would otherwise keep people engaged in a relevant way. Don’t state the obvious.
We can often get the message across with a lot less side information, which also allows for more details on what really does matter. Don’t forget that people also can ask questions afterward.
6. Make the most of your voice
Watch your tone! It's important what you say and how you say it. If you have a calm and soothing voice, that’s great, but try to use a little more range when you are giving a presentation.
I’m not talking full-on impressions or accents, but emphasize words when you can by speaking louder. Avoid being monotone at all costs. Adding a pause here and there can also help.
If you’re struggling with making it sound natural, read your presentation to a friend and say the words in a way you would when talking to them about anything else. That will help you see where you could play with your tone and volume.
7. Provide proper aftercare
The best business presentations aren’t only engaging in the moment, but will also leave people thinking about it after you've left the stage and shut off the projector. In order to achieve that, end your presentation with a great call to action and guide people in what the next steps are.
This could be asking for feedback, or having a sign-up list ready for whoever wants to know more. This depends on the goal of your presentation, of course.
And with that, we’ve come full circle
Let’s make business presentations a more fun experience for everyone involved, by not only making sure we’re experts on the topic, but also pay attention to how we keep our audience engaged. What was the most engaging presentation you ever got to witness?
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