Best practices for business presentations

Kenneth TruemanGeneral0 Comments

Over the years, we have had the opportunity to make presentations to a broad variety of constituencies in a broad variety of business situations (sales calls, trade shows, courses, etc.)

Unfortunately, delivering a solid presentation is not just about the content of the presentation, though that definitely does count. How you present is also as important, though the relative weighting of best practices will depend on the presentation objective and context as well as the audience.

Here are some best practices that we have learned over the years:

BEFORE THE PRESENTATION

  • Visit the presentation room as early as possible to get a feel for it
    • The goal is to “take ownership” of the space. You want to know where you are relative to the crowd, the lectern, the projector, the screen, etc.
  • Get a feel for how you will move around during the presentation too. It is OK to walk around (though not in front of the projector)
    • By moving around, you get people to stay focused on you and not on reading the screen, or checking their devices
  • Bring any accessories, including equipment such as mice / pointers, if you think you will need them, even if they are supposedly provided for you
  • Bring copies of your presentation on your computer and a USB memory key and email a copy to yourself and to a colleague or contact as well
    • Having a back-up plan for your back-up plan is good practice. Things that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • Bring your business cards and have them handy to hand out
  • Don’t present on an empty stomach but more importantly, don’t present right after eating
    • Make sure to eat 2 hours before your presentation so that you have gotten the digestion portion over and are not burping

DURING THE PRESENTATION

  • Look at different people in the audience during the course of the presentation
    • Avoid looking at the same person all the time; the audience will notice that you are focusing on a single person and tune out as a result
      • This applies even if the person you would like to focus your attention on is the ultimate decision maker
  • Try to keep the audience engaged by asking them general questions that can be answered by putting hands up or making general remarks that get them to nod
  • Try to nod / be a little bit over-expressive for effect
  • Make a point of referring to your presentation topic or objectives and your progress in addressing them to date

QUESTION PERIOD

  • Avoid or reduce the awkward post-presentation silence by having an ally (or a colleague) in the audience ask you a question to start the ball rolling
    • This implies having thought about it before hand and asking that person to do it
  • Listen to each question and repeat to the audience what you understood
    • This is even more important if there is no microphone available for participants
  • Answer the question to the best of your ability
    • Limit the number of follow-up items in your answer
  • Take a question offline if it can’t be answered easily / succinctly
    • There is value in taking questions¬† from more attendees than less; maximise this opportunity to let your expertise and experience show through
  • Don’t reference customer names unless you have permission; instead speak in more general terms, though you could refer to the customer’s industry, company size, etc.
  • If you don’t know an answer, say so and take a note to follow-up

AT THE END OF THE PRESENTATION

  • Repeat what you saw during the presentation
  • Remind audience members of desired next steps
  • Tell people if the presentation or other related artefacts will be available (when and where)

AFTER THE PRESENTATION

  • Meet with attendees whose questions you took offline
  • Collect business cards / contact info and write down questions, next steps, etc.

This list is by no means exhaustive but should already give you a bit of a leg up. It came about while preparing a customer for his first ever presentation at an industry conference.

Which best practices do you recommend ?

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