After all the phone calls and emails back and forth, the date has finally been set in stone. You are going to get up in front of a group of professionals and pitch them on your product or service. Whether it’s for a simple business meeting for a few co-workers, or a major pitch to another company for the next billion-dollar idea, a few simple steps taken while preparing for your presentation will ensure whatever you’re talking about hits a home run with your audience.
Make Them Laugh Early, but Not Often
One of the easiest ways to get your listeners to relax and get them on your side is with humor. Everyone enjoys a laugh, especially at the beginning of a pressure-filled business meeting. However, this is a business presentation, not a stand-up comedy show, so once you’ve broken the ice, move on to a more relaxed, yet serious tone.
Keep Your Hands Where I Can See ’Em
Some people get caught up in keeping their hands in their pockets while they’re speaking. Don’t let this be you. Your hands can make excellent tools to emphasize a point, or re-direct attention to a new area of focus. If you think keeping your hands in your pockets gives you an unassuming “aw, shucks” vibe when you’re presenting, you’re wrong. It makes you look unconfident and uneasy, even if that’s not true.
Keep It Moving
Your audience is likely very busy, and many in attendance are probably only there because they have to be. Don’t add to their misery by becoming a talking head and remaining entirely still for the duration of your presentation. You have two legs, so use them well, and drift subtly from side to side. You aren’t trying to get in your daily steps here, so don’t be all over the place, but a moving speaker is an interesting speaker, so make yourself an interesting speaker.
Keep It Still
On the flip side, when you have those hands out of your packets while you’re moving around the room, do not overuse hand gestures. Hand gestures that are overly choppy or which simply don’t make any sense, take so much away from your presentation. Why? Remember how a lot of the people you’re speaking to probably don’t want to be there in the first place? They’re going to be looking for anything to keep them even mildly entertained.
If you’re a hand talker, and start chopping your hands this way and that, your uninterested audience is suddenly going to completely turn off their ears, and be focusing totally on your hand gestures. Don’t think it’s true? Find a video of someone using an overabundance of hand gestures, and see how long it takes you to disengage from what they’re speaking about. It probably won’t take long.
Engage the Mind
One of the reasons business presentations can be ineffective is that everyone shows up to it thinking they know what to expect. If you can disrupt those expectations somehow, you’ll give your audience a reason to stick with you. Some people conclude that having a visual presentation is the best way to keep people engaged, though even this technique only keeps your audience’s attention for 10 to 15 minutes, at most.
To invigorate your presentation and your audience, an online presentation tool might be the best route. Businesses like Xyngular have used this tool for explaining their mission statement, and you can use it for anything from presenting a product to introducing your company. Integrating dynamic designs with interactive multimedia content, Prezi provides so much more than a typical PowerPoint. Remember that people want to be engaged—wasting an hour or more of their time isn’t a high priority for them—they just need a reason to stay engaged. Give them a reason, and you’ll have an unforgettable presentation.
If you do lose your audience, you can still save your presentation be re-engaging them as you draw your presentation to a close. Saying something as simple as “almost done” or “we’ll be finishing soon” might not be enough, as people abuse these phrases by continuing for far too long after using them.
Instead, be concrete, with something like “and if I could just have five more minutes of your time, I’ll re-visit the most important takeaways from today’s presentation.” as long as you stick to the time constraint you just placed on yourself, you’ll have a hyper-engaged audience who will be drinking in every word you say, and will remember a much higher percentage of what you present in those last five minutes. Just make sure you take your audience with you by giving them a fair warning before the time starts. They can’t act on what they don’t know.
A lot can be accomplished with a good business presentation. You can present a lot of important information, give your audience a personal insight into the corporation, and inspire and engage action on the part of the key players who are present. Just prepare well, don’t stumble over your mistakes, and take your audience on the journey with you, and you’ll find all that time you spent preparing for the presentation actually resulted in a big payoff.