Put Your Best Business Foot Forward: Powerful Presentation Skills
As a business owner, you must get used to public speaking, whether to groups, on videos, on podcasts and even during interviews with local media. Stage fright is not an option.
Solid preparation does a lot to relieve the jitters. Focus on the benefits your audience will glean from your presentation, not on what you want to say. People naturally listen when you speak to their needs and interests. In turn their attention will give you confidence and self-assurance.
Here are the basics of delivering a great presentation, such as a sales proposal or an employee meeting:
- Be prepared. If you do not appear to have taken your presentation seriously enough to be prepared, why should your audience pay attention or care? Understand your audience and the appropriate key messages for them well.
- Use visuals wisely. If a chart, graphic or photo does not enhance your message, don't include it. Your entire presentation should be geared to maximize audience understanding, with visuals supporting key messages. In addition, always use well-designed graphics, infographics and messages. Don’t crowd a bunch of words on one page of a presentation.
- Use handouts wisely. Pass around the handout at the beginning of your talk to avoid distractions. The audience's attention should be on you, not on the papers you hand out. Most audiences like to receive slide copies from your presentation as well.
- Stay on schedule. Begin promptly. Starting or running late implies you do not respect your audience's time. Identify portions of your presentation you can cut on the fly, if you feel you will run out of time. Organize the presentation to incorporate the most important information at the beginning.
- Involve the audience. The best presentations feel like conversations between the audience and the presenter. Ask questions. Invite comments. Pause for a breath occasionally to gather your thoughts and allow the audience to jump in.
- Be willing to say "I don't know." Standing in front of a group makes many people feel must know everything – and if they don't, they lose credibility. In reality, the only way to lose credibility is to answer a question incorrectly. If you don't know the answer, say so. Always offer to provide the information later.
- Close with a brief summary and a call to action. What was the point of your presentation? If you can't easily summarize what you want the audience to know or do, you don't have a presentation; you have a speech. Identify your purpose, and close by summarizing with that purpose. Then, move on to ask your audience to follow through on your message. If you intend to inspire, close with a motivational message.
- Rehearse, speak from notes. You won’t inspire anyone by reading your speech, even if you use slides. Know your topic and presentation well enough that you comfortably stand in front of the group and share your message. By practicing, you will be less nervous and likewise come across as a fluent expert on your topic.
- Tell stories. Real testimonials and illustrations bring your presentation to life.
- Always present on topics where you are an expert. The more you know about a topic, the more fluent and credible you appear. Study up and be sure you know more than your audience on a given topic.
Dealing with the Media
Radio, television and print interviews are a form of presentation, even if you are speaking to an audience of one – so prepare accordingly. Plan to anticipate media questions and rehearse in advance of the real interview. Depending on the media type, you can vary your approach.
Print: Interviews with print journalists are usually easiest for the average person. But while you may be more relaxed, your message should still be on-point and carefully delivered. Take a moment to make sure you understand the question. Think about how to best frame your answer. If you are interviewed by phone, stand while you talk. You'll naturally feel more confident and energetic.
Radio: Radio is a more personal medium than most others. While on air, you will speak to a collection of individuals; and each person listens to you as if hearing a one-way conversation. You should be friendly, relaxed, and approachable. Over the airways too much formality is off-putting. You can't use visual aids, so craft your words to deliver a powerful message. Pretend you are speaking to one person, not a group. Speak in 30-second sound bites to allow for editing.
Television: On television, how you look and act is as important as what you say. Keep your movements slow and controlled. Hold your head and body relatively still so the camera does not have to follow your movement. Speak clearly and remember that most television interviews are heavily-edited. To this end, try to answer all questions in one or two sentences.
Finally, keep in mind that regardless of the medium or the setting, the key to delivering an effective presentation is good preparation and a focus on the audience. Satisfy their needs and your presentations will always be successful.