Whether you’re giving your board a summary of the results from a recent conference, pitching a new idea to business partners or trying to sell your boss on a new concept, it’s important to know how to give a professional business presentation. Here are some practical pointers for meeting planners, conference organizers or anyone who needs to get in front of and influence a crowd.
Tip No. 1: Think strategically.
Any presentation you make to colleagues, business partners or higher-level executives should touch on the key goals of your organization. Even operational issues can be tied to strategic goals.
Tip No. 2: Organize your thoughts.
Outline your material to ensure good balance and flow. Write out not only the introduction and conclusion but also the transitions between your major points so the connections are logical are clear.
Tip No. 3: Practice, practice, practice-out loud, not just reading to yourself.
Especially if you’re using audiovisual aids, try to practice in the place where you’ll be giving the presentation so you can be familiar with equipment, outlets, switches or computer hook-ups.
Time is money and you look unprofessional if you don’t respect time limits. Too short? You must be unprepared or do not have anything important to say. Too long? You’re boring and self-centered.
Tip No. 5: Never hand out an entire written presentation.
The best handouts use outlines, graphics and bullet points. Prepare enough handouts for the anticipated audience; then make a few extra copies.
Tip No. 6: Dress comfortably.
Wearing a new shirt, tie, scarf or pin may give you a confidence boost, but avoid the discomfort of new shoes or anything that may distract you. Think power colors like red, navy blue or black and white, and soften them with accessories.
Tip No. 7: Be flexible.
If the meeting has started on another topic, consider whether you can weave the previous discussion into your introduction. If it isn’t reasonable, don’t force it. Stick with what you’ve practiced.
Tip No. 8: Show gratitude.
Say “thank you” to the person who introduces you and acknowledge your listeners.
Stand before a group. Show you are in control. Keep your hands to your side and gesture naturally. Don’t fidget with a pencil or clicker and don’t speak with your hands in your pockets.
Tip No. 10: Reinforce your key points.
Follow the old dictum: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” Touching on the high points in the beginning will make it easier for your audience to follow.
Tip No. 11: Incorporate humor.
You build rapport if you can get your audience to laugh with you and they’ll be more open listeners. Be prepared for Murphy’s Law: If something goes wrong, react with humor, not annoyance.
Tip No. 12: Invite feedback.
Respond positively to questions; view them as signs of interest, not challenges. Don’t let questions leap too far ahead or take over, forcing you to rush at the end of your presentation.
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Tip No. 13: Know your subject by heart.
Never read your presentation. Summarize your main points and be sure your conclusion includes action steps.
Tip No. 14: Be mindful of time.
Leave a few minutes of your allotted time for additional questions at the end.
Tip No. 15: End with thanks.
Thank your audience for their time, whether it’s two people, 20 people or more.
What tips would you add? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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