Presentation Skills

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If your business depends on selling products or services to other firms, then you and your staff need to make great sales presentations. Here's how to make presentations that show prospective clients exactly what your company can do for them: of your presentation. Read in front of a mirror to practice eye contact. Practice varying the pace of your reading and the tone of your voice. Rehearse in front of a friend or colleague who can offer constructive criticism. Read Don't Forget to Rehearse for more advice on how to hone your presentation to perfection.

Know your audience. Tailor your presentation to your prospective clients. To do that, consider what they are likely to need from you. Use terminology they'll understand and make sure you are familiar with their business jargon. That will help you to establish common ground with them.

Be honest. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't try to answer it. There's nothing wrong with admitting uncertainty. At the same time, be sure to play up your strengths — including the ability to learn what you must to serve the client's needs.

Create an outline. A good sales presentation has four main sections; each section is described below. Just don't be a slave to your outline — be prepared to use your notes as a departure point for improvisations that suit a particular audience or situation.

The Four Components of a Strong Presentation:

1. The introduction. Begin by thanking your prospective clients. Let them know that you are glad to be there and convey how enthusiastic you are about the things you can do for their firm. If you had help in preparing your proposal, give a quick word of thanks and acknowledgment to the people who assisted you.

2. The body. Offer a clear, concise and convincing description of the benefits you can provide to your prospective clients. Be specific and offer concrete examples. Highlight your expertise, the methods you would use to apply it and the benefits that will result from choosing your firm.

3. The conclusion.
Summarize the body of your talk. Once again, highlight the likely benefits of doing business with your firm. Thank everyone in the audience.

4. The Q&A. Offer the opportunity to clarify any points in the body of your talk and emphasize again your company's strengths. Try to anticipate important questions before your talk so you can formulate answers. Restate questions so everyone in the audience can hear them, then keep your answers brief and to the point. Remember: If you can't answer a question, don't try.

Ten Tips for Avoiding PowerPoint Limbo

While the rise of PowerPoint has helped many an apprehensive presentation-giver, an unfortunate side effect is “PowerPoint limbo,” the point when a potentially interesting presentation slips into tedium from relying too much on the program.
• Brevity leads to longevity. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the shorter your presentation, the longer it will live on in the minds of your audience. Brief, meaningful points delivered during a tight presentation guarantee that your talk will leave the audience wanting more.

• Don’t data-dump. Inundating an audience with unnecessary information is a surefire way to irritate them. When preparing your PowerPoint presentation, distill any data down to its most vital findings. You can provide details in a handout for people to review later. The implications of your data are significantly more important than its finer points, so edit accordingly.

• Pump up the font.
You can have the most riveting PowerPoint presentation ever, but if your tiny font is unreadable, all your work will be for naught. Be sure to bump up your font to a size that will be readable for the audience members farthest from the screen.

• Don’t let PowerPoint predominate. The fact that you’re presenting in PowerPoint should be the last thing on an audience member’s mind. Not enabling your subject matter to leap off the screen through an engaging delivery and creative organization means the most memorable point you present will be the program itself. Avoid this trap by focusing on your topic — let PowerPoint be an aid rather than a crutch.

• Tailor talks to your audience. Failing to account for an audience’s preexisting knowledge of your topic will bring them to inattention quicker than you can say, “Did you know that?” Taking your audience’s knowledge base into consideration when formulating your presentation can spare you time and energy wasted on making points that they’re already familiar with. Save your efforts for those aspects of your presentation that are novel and unique.

• Don’t stay on the “slide”-lines. Reciting the text listed on your PowerPoint slides will drive your audience to distraction. Instead of delivering a rote performance, use your slides as cue cards instead, incorporating a key word or phrase from each into your explanation of the larger point being illustrated. The audience is there to listen to your insight, not to read.

• The dimmer the room, the duller you get. While it may be easier to view your PowerPoint presentation in a darkened room, don’t reach for the dimmer right away. Cutting the lights immediately sends meeting attendees a message that their focus should be on the slides they’re seeing, rather than on the words they’re hearing from you. Combat this phenomena by developing a catchy, pithy introduction that ensures your audience will be all ears, even when the lights go down.

• Practice makes perfect. T
his may be an obvious one, but be sure to practice your PowerPoint presentation several times before you deliver it. Running through it beforehand will acquaint you with the material and make your talk seem more “natural.” Comfort with your subject matter builds the audience’s perception of you as very knowledgeable on the topic.

• Reconsider the handout handoff.
While some may be inclined to distribute handouts ahead of a PowerPoint presentation, think twice about this. You’ve basically armed your audience with something to distract them from you! To hold their focus, let your presentation guide them through your topic, then hand out documentation afterward that summarizes your key points and findings, or provides details not in your presentation.