There’s a lot riding on how businesspeople present themselves

Whether in business or on a personal level, one of life’s greatest fears is having to stand up and make a presentation.

Most of us can get by when it is one-on-one but start to fall apart when faced with a larger audience.

Whether in business or on a personal level, one of life’s greatest fears is having to stand up and make a presentation.

Most of us can get by when it is one-on-one but start to fall apart when faced with a larger audience.

With the business environment becoming increasingly competitive, an expression that is now somewhat cliché, it becomes even more important for you as someone selling a product or service to make a memorable impression. And like it or not, one of the best ways to get noticed is to make a presentation to a large audience.

How you present yourself though has a significant impact on how you will succeed.

Over the years, I have seen a great many good projects or ideas fail, not because they were no good but because they were not presented properly.

A good presentation, like any business strategy, requires you to develop a plan. It follows the basic rules of communication. In simple terms, they are to know your audience, tell them who you are, state the benefits of what you have to offer, prove your points and ask for the order.

Seems simple, but like all face-to-face situations, you must choose your words carefully, use language that your audience can understand, avoid jargon, never make assumptions and remember to focus on the basic wants and needs that your product or service can provide.

Organization of your presentation can be divided into six steps.

1. Start with why you are making the presentation. What is so beneficial about your product or service for this particular audience?

2. Develop the key points you want to cover. Try for three to five main points to keep your presentation as short as possible.

3. Determine the theme or tone of your presentation so that it ties in with your other marketing and communications efforts.

4. Arrange your key points in logical order so that your audience can assimilate the information and make the right decision.

5. Select and design the proper visual aids. It will either be printed, a Power Point or other similar software program.

6. Write the script. It does not have to be word for word. Keep it simple. Try writing it in bullet form.

One of the areas where many presentations fall down on is the visual aids.

Most presentations today are in slide format, so I will keep my comments to that form. The one question in my opinion that any presenter should never ask is … Can you read this at the back of the room? This says two things to me. One, the presenter did not prepare for the size of the audience, and, two, the visuals are graphically inept and too wordy.

Speaking of wordy, do not simply project your script on the screen. You do not want the audience to be reading along with you. They can read faster than you can talk, so they will always be waiting for you to catch up. Not a good situation when you are trying to make a sale or point.

What the audience should see on the screen are your key talking points. These should be short phrases, kept to a minimum and — like the suggestion about writing your script — kept to bullet form. In the case of a slide presentation, try for no more than five or six points per slide.

When it comes to slides, another thing to keep in mind is the graphics. Keep them simple. Too many bells and whistles just make for a cacophony of visual confusion. If your audience becomes sidetracked by the graphics, you run the risk of them not hearing you or missing the point altogether.

The last bit of advice I can give you in this column with regards to overcoming presentation jitters is to practise, practise, practise. It is nerve-wracking enough to face a large crowd, but if you have what you want to say under control, can exude confidence and enthusiasm, then you can focus on convincing people that you are the expert, and you have a good product or service and that they should be buying from you.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via e-mail at joesmith@shaw.ca

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