Effective Business Presentations

You are about to start your pitch–it may be for capital you need for your business, a joint venture with a large company or a new product being presented to an important client.

A good presentation starts with a joke, right?


While Pundits tell you that “ground breaking” is essential and a great way to break ground in a meeting is some light hearted wit–forget that advice! There are far better techniques to, as they say, “break the ice”. Here are a few:

  1. Ask about whether your guests need water or beverage–or better still make sure they have them.
  2. Ask about their roles in the company (i.e. if you do not already know).
  3. Other topics like sports, weather, latest announcement from the Federal Reserve and even Junior’s baseball game the night before are a better topic than a joke. Why? Because jokes can hit a sensitive nerve and may come off badly. It takes one person in the meeting to be uncomfortable with your joke to ruin the ambience and goodwill you want.

So what are some of the fundamentals that permeate through all good presentations?

1. Practice – No matter how good you are in your subject matter, you need to practice as a presenter, not as an expert–surprisingly just like many great music teachers do not make it as a performer, many experts make poor presenters. So practice your lines, your timing, your stance and your “Gaps”–more on Gaps later.

2. Pace – Pace should be lively and directionally forward, but not hasty.

3. No skipping – imagine saying to the audience–we are going to skip over next five slides–WRONG MOVE! Why have these in the presentation if you are not going to talk about it and worse, why have them when you don’t think they are important?

4. Leave time for questions and answers. Space them so there is no “barrage”.

5. Make the presentation human and real life. Long theories and expostulations belong in classroom not in business conferences.

6. A quick technique to liven up the pace. Pick someone to “respond” to your question if you are greeted with silence. You will be amazed how others sit up and take interest once the ball starts rolling on questions and answers.

7. Keep the discussion focused on the presentation and what the subject matter is. Diversions should be relevant to the topic at hand.

8. While opinions differ on content here is a good template for a presentation:

  • Opening page–who is making the presentation and to whom and a one liner on the subject matter
  • Executive summary
  • Brief recitation of topics to be covered
  • Index of presentation slides
  • Body of discussion
  • Sales pitch which includes competitive positioning, product superiority, “why us” pitch and stats

Good luck!