8 Tips for an Effective Presentation

The devil’s in the details, but you can win the audience and the day by avoiding “gotcha glitches” with these simple tips.

Whether you’re trying to land a new customer or score another round of financing, calling a key executive by the wrong name or forgetting an extension cord are just some of the presentation glitches that could mean the difference between acing the deal and leaving empty-handed.

Here are eight tips for an effective presentation:

1. Know your audience

Who will attend and what do they want to hear? Anticipate the audience’s issues and concerns by researching the attendees before the big event.

“What’s important is what the audience wants to hear, not what you think they need to know,” says Adria Firestone, a career and presentation coach based in New Jersey. “The presenter’s job is to serve the audience.”

Mentioning an executive’s alma mater or recent promotion is a great way to break the ice and you’ll need plenty of facts and figures to sway a room full of accountants, lawyers and risk managers. Create a seating chart as key attendees take their seats, so you make eye contact with them throughout your presentation and remember who is who.

2. Set goals for an effective presentation

Do you want to motivate the group to take action? Approve your proposal or plan? You run the risk of confusing the audience or diluting your message if you try to cover too much ground, so focus on no more than two to three goals.

3. Scope out the venue

Effective presentations are tailored toward the venue and the speaker’s strengths, so check out the room before creating your presentation. Do you need a microphone to reach the back of the room?  Are you more comfortable strolling the stage or using a podium? Is your computer software compatible with the company’s projector? Will a firewall keep you from accessing the Internet? Being familiar with the venue and the set-up will eliminate nerve wracking technical glitches and increase your confidence during your time in the spotlight.

4. Create a succinct presentation

Slides and videos are important but you’re the star of the show. Don’t pack each slide with small font and finite details; use pictures, graphics and large pie charts to illustrate your points. Plan on about one slide per minute and keep your eye on the time or appoint a timekeeper to keep you on schedule.

5. Be conversational

Don’t read what’s on the screen or memorize a script; use facts, data and anecdotes to expand beyond the information on your slides. You’ll lose the audience if you’re not animated and lively, and while you don’t have to be a comedian, it’s a good idea to poke a little fun at yourself, says Firestone.

6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Do the ultimate test before the big day. Make a video of yourself or record your voice and go over your material, movements and gestures until you eliminate rough transitions and those irritating “uh”s and “um”s.

“Steve Jobs wasn’t a great presenter by accident,” says Firestone. “He would spend months rehearsing his presentation until he sounded natural and confident.”

7. Keep control

Hang onto pricing, hand-outs or other distracting information until the appropriate time and ask attendees to hold their questions until the end if you’re running short on time. Ask a scribe to jot down questions if one of the attendees tries to hijack your show so you can answer them as time allows.

8. Have a contingency plan

Bring an extra bulb for the projector, an extension cord, business cards, pens, tablets and extra copies of hand-outs. Copy your presentation onto a flash drive or CD in case your laptop fails. Ask tech support to help you setup if you’re presenting offsite and keep their number handy just in case. Win the day and the deal by showing your audience that you know how to anticipate and overcome adversity.


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