How to Give a Great Business Presentation!

So you’ve got to give a speech at your organisation’s next seminar or conference? And what’s made it worse is that not only are you scared to death about doing this anyway, all the people from Head Office are going to be there in the front rows glaring at you, and just before you hoped you’d be promoted!

It’s very hard for people in a situation like this to get over this “fear” factor and put things in perspective.

Over the years, my video production company has filmed many conferences and we’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright embarrassing behind that ubiquitous lectern. I’ve also trained many leaders in industry prepare their business presentations to be memorable and effective. We’ve video recorded their “performances”, studies their body language and speech patterns and created and optimised their PowerPoint slides and play-in videos.

Ok, so you haven’t the time nor the cash to hire a professional coach and you want to know the “greatest tips” right now; that’s fine. Here are years of experience rolled up in the following!

First of all, think about WHY you’re going to give your presentation. This may seem strange to question this, but the whole point of you doing your presentation is because you know something the audience don’t. If they knew it already, what the point of you talking about it to them? Once you get your head round this obvious yet overlooked way of looking at presentations, it calms the mind a lot. They want or need to know what you’re going to present to them!

Another thing to consider is that you have been chosen to speak for a reason and mostly this is because you have been considered to be an expert in the subject matter. Maybe you’re the head of Health & Safety discussing a new training programme or the IT manager explaining to the staff about a new software invoicing system.

So you see, it’s not you personally, they’re going to judge, they just want the information. If you see a poor TV programme, you don’t blame your HD Sony 42 inch plasma, do you? You’d blame the producer. If however, the picture was all fuzzy and audio distorted, you would. The great opportunity you have as a presenter at a business conference is that you are both the “producer” of the content, and also the “conduit” of this information.

Imagine you had really powerful information the audience desperately wanted to hear, about a comp nay takeover, a new exciting product or the fact everyone was to get a pay rise. No matter how bad your presentation style was, people will be on the edge of their seats getting the facts in their heads. Most of the content you get to present at the average business meeting or conference is not going to be as exciting as this, so that’s why if you hone your presentation skills, the whole experience will be pleasant for both you and the audience and will be memorable.

Who do you admire as a public speaker? It’s worth clicking around and finding videos on the internet of business presentations to look at what makes some people compelling, and some not. Do you find some politicians insincere giving a talk, and yet some sound totally convincing? What if you gave the words from one and gave them to the other? Quite often it’s the body language, the expression, the manner of speech, the intonation that makes all the difference.

YouTube has plenty of clips of Apple’s Steve Jobs, considered by many to be a superb showman and presenter. He certainly gives an impressive, consistent performance on stage, and uses visuals very well indeed. The stills projected up behind him are big, powerful and if words are up there, they are only a few.
Many potentially good business presentations are ruined by over reliance and poor use of illustrative slides using Window’s PowerPoint or Mac’s Keynote software. Here are the main problems you need to be aware of.

Don’t feel you need to have a slide up if you can’t think of what should be there! If there is nothing relevant to project, repeat the subject matter header slide or your organisation’s logo.

Bullet points are fine, but keep them as this. We once filmed an entire conference speech where there was more writing on each slide than the presenter was actually saying before flipping to the next word-packed slide. What was the audience to do? Read the small text on the slide or listen to what was said? In the end, you take attention of nothing.

Don’t use any form of distracting animation. Just because a wacky preset is available doesn’t mean you have to use it. Even slides or “fly ins” are very distracting. Simply cut or do a nice fade in and out if your laptop has enough RAM.

If the Powerpoint is being projected behind you, don’t turn round to the screen unless you are pointing out a part of the picture to discuss. You’ve got the laptop in front of you, refer to this monitor, and trust the slide is changing behind you! Some speakers turn round on every slide change which is very annoying and takes them away from the lectern microphone as well.

On the subject of microphones, if you are given a radio microphone, this needs to be clipped to a lapel, tie or if you female, a bra strap will be fine; the microphone capsule needs to be nor more than 10 inches or so from your mouth. For lectern mikes, try and keep three to four inches away, and be aware if you are making explosive “popping” noises. If so, angle the mike about 45 degrees to your mouth output, or ask the technician for an anti pop foam over the microphone.

Finally, manage your presentation. If you get someone piping up with a question before you’ve asked for them, be polite and say you’d rather deal with questions at the end. Some people prefer to get questions as they are thought of, but beware of this technique as even seasoned presenters find themselves losing the thread of the structure, and it can be very annoying to other listeners hearing somebody else’s “obvious” question being answered!

Good luck with preparing and delivering your business presentations!