There is one thing that many companies, especially there smaller ones, don’t spend enough time on: training their people to present. Sales people and managers are expected to deliver presentations at various levels. Some present on a daily basis, others not so often but there comes an inevitable time in a professional’s life when he or she has to stand up in front of somebody else and talk about something. If there is a natural flair, fair enough. Actually still not enough. Even if you are good at presenting to begin with you still need to hone and fine tune your skills so that you are not presenting nicely but effectively.
I make an incorrect assumption that there is at least a basic understanding of power point as this is the de facto tool most people trapped in the business world use. If there is no such knowledge it must be acquired. Do it in house or use self study, ask a savvy colleague. Sorry, ppt trainers out there but this is not the time to spend money on watching slides pasted from help files (disclaimer: there are a few trainers that make it worth while).
Start from the audience. To whom are you presenting? A client? The boss? The BIG boss? This should mean something to you. If it doesn’t, WAKE UP! You can’t present the same thing to different people even if it is the same thing. Does that make sense? Think about explaining the facts of life to different age groups: it’s the same thing but you can’t use the same extent of detail, graphical descriptions and illustrations with a seven year old and a colleague (yes there’s always one). So think about who will be taking in what you will be dishing out. Think of the recipients as clients. What are their needs? If you are presenting to clients think of their needs not only in terms of what you are selling but also in terms of how you are presenting it. Are they pressed for time? When are you presenting? Early in the morning? Late in the evening? Over the weekend? Everything counts. You may need to adjust your presentation, even if it is simply in terms of enthusiasm and pace, depending on who is sitting in front of you and where and when you are presenting. Irrespective of the subject.
Dos and don’ts:
Do rework your presentation until it has flow and contains all the necessary information. Not data, information. Don’t put up a slide stuffed full of numbers that you spent a month putting together and expect people to make the connections you have.
Do use images and graphs. Do use a pointer. Do get a good rest the night before. Do use transition/animation effects. Do rehearse over and over so that you are speaking while clicking the next point without having to consult the screen. Do make sure you know everything related to whatever it is you are presenting. Do maintain control of the audience at all times.
Don’t overdo it on the animation and transition effects. The “appear” function is enough in most cases. Don’t use those horrible sound effects (unless you are presenting to kids). Don’t make people dizzy by turning the laser pointer into a laser show. You don’t have to draw squiggles on the screen. The dot at the right place will suffice. It should make people focus, not dizzy. Don’t talk about things you don’t know about. Don’t let attendees upstage you. Don’t wander off in tangents. Don’t get side tracked least the train of though you are trying to build become lost in the wilderness (you are trying to build a train of thought in your listeners’ minds right?). Don’t ever, ever, ever (did I mention ever?) go unprepared. No matter who is the receiver; your boss, your employees, your clients, the public. This is the presenter’s equivalent of cutting your hand, jumping into the shark tank and splashing around (no, all those documentaries about how wonderful and misunderstood sharks are have still not removed the image “Jaws” created. There, I broke the train of thought. Now I have to use another sentence to get you guys back on track). NEVER go unprepared. You will lose credibility and the interest of your audience instantly and irreversibly. You will also make sure they don’t attend your next presentation and tell their friends no to either-let’s get a beer instead.
Even if it turns out that they are not interested in buying whatever it is you were presenting, they should always have something positive to say about the way you presented it. Even if the numbers you are presenting are bad, you can still deliver professionally. In short, you will make an impression every time you get up to present. Make sure it is a positive one.