A statistic that you’ll often see bandied around is that a whopping 75% of business presentations end in failure. It’s a pretty sobering thought that something that takes so much effort to prepare can more often than not be in vain. Chances are that in your working life you’ll be asked to prepare, or listen too, hundreds of presentations – more so if you work in sales or if you work in a management role. So here are ten ways to stop your presentation from being too snore-some.
1. Decide if a presentation is really necessary
This step is the most important and is usually the step that most business people forget. So often people go into auto-pilot and just assume that the next stage of a new business pitch, or a training session, has to be via a presentation format. Ask the subject how they want to receive the information. By posing the question you can save a lot of unnecessary effort and also earn brownie points with someone who may feel like they have dodged a bullet!
2. Never use a template
If you are using a standard presentation template for all meetings then it isn’t surprising if you have a low win rate. People like to feel special – if your presentation content is obviously a 'cut and paste' job, you're bound to fail. If you want to make an impact then you need to start from scratch every time – so that you know the content is 100% geared to your subject’s business and their challenges. It might be time consuming but at least it won’t be in vain.
3. Choose your presentation type
There is life beyond PowerPoint! If you have a Mac, go on a free Keynote course at a local Apple store, or if you have a PC give Prezi a go! Use your phone as a remote control to change slides. Anything that makes you different and disrupts their perception of this being 'just another presentation' will help communicate your information more effectively.
4. Structure is king
Feedback has shown time and time again that people appreciate being told at the beginning what you’ll be covering and where they will have chance to input. Psychologically it also gives them structure so that they know where you’re going and that you are progressing, rather than wandering seemingly without direction. Keep the amount of slides short (over 30 and you’ll start to loose your audience) and don’t dawdle on slides – you need a consistent pace.
5. Avoid information overload
Managing the amount of information can be a balancing act. Too many concepts, details, explanations, and examples can be confusing, but presenting a big picture view with few or vague supporting facts is just as detrimental. This is where knowing your audience and starting from scratch comes in useful. You need to ensure that that there is enough information for the prospect to 'connect the dots', whilst also ensuring that you keep the flow of information moving.
6. Mix it up
People have different concentration spans – but the average is five minutes. This means that a presentation laden with heavy text, which you read verbatim, really won’t cut the mustard. Make sure the content varies – small bits of text are ok, but imagery and video is better to keep people engaged. Also think about how you get the audience participating – if you are speaking to a crowd, get them to do a poll or exercises. If it is one person or a small group then prepare places in the presentation where they can input and share feedback and/ or experiences.
7. Think about your tone
The delivery of presentations is so important. It's a balancing act. People like people like them, so if you are speaking to one person, or a small group, think about how you can emulate the style of the primary decision maker. If it’s a crowd always bear in mind that over-eager and under-eager are equally huge turn offs. Not everyone is born with a natural relaxed and engaging style – ask for honest feedback and request training accordingly.
8. Avoid certain phrases
There are some phrases that you should never utter in presentations for fear of alienating your audience. A major one is 'I will touch upon that later' – which makes people zone out in the knowledge that there is no end in sight. Another turn off is prefixing any sentence with 'obviously' – if this is the case, why are you saying it? Plus, if it’s not obvious, then you could come across as pretty insulting. Lastly is 'in summary' – highly debateable given its prevalence in presentations, but many people feed back that they feel cheated when they could have saved their time and only listened to the summary!
9. Watch your audience
It’s very easy to spot a bored audience – their eyes become glazed, they start to look distracted and fidgety, and sometimes the ruder variety will even start clicking on their smartphones. Ignore these signs at your peril. Acknowledge it with humour, or ask questions – anything to break it up and get people re-involved.
10. Stick to time
The biggest presentation 'no-no' is to go over time. As part of your presentation development you will have ascertained how much time you have and factored in time for questions – and then you would have practiced, so there is no excuse. People who go over time deserve the audible groans that greet them – make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Your win-rate can depend it.
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