Sunday, August 8, 2010

Business Presentations are so Important

‘It is not so much the content of what one says as the way in which one says it. However important the thing you say, what's the good of it if not heard or, being heard, not felt.’ ~Sylvia Ashton-Warner

One of the most important elements in an entrepreneur’s arsenal is the business presentation. Used to either inform staff of changes or sell a product or service to a potential client, these presentations are critical, and without exception, business presentations must effectively communicate information in a meaningful and understandable way.

I have seen so many business presentations fall flat for a myriad of reasons. When it comes to making a business presentation, adequate is not acceptable. They must be the best you can make them, and in order to be effective, several key elements must be present.

First impressions are crucial. People make judgments about others within five seconds of meeting. Therefore dress, posture and handshake are just as important to delivering a successful business presentation as the information you communicate.

I was at a presentation, recently, which was very good but the presenter looked like he had slept in his suit. He was not considered at all for the work because his first impression was so bad.

Determining the purpose of the presentation is essential because the purpose affects the presentation delivery. For example, if the purpose of your presentation is to inform staff about an upcoming change, it will be very different from a sales presentation.

Along similar lines, you must also determine what you want to accomplish as a result of your presentation. Making a presentation without having clearly defined the results you want to achieve is like driving on a road without a destination.

To illustrate, imagine you are giving a sales presentation. Your purpose is to provide a client an overview of your services. Your desired outcome might be that the client recognizes a product or service that could be beneficial to their operation. In another example, if you are making a presentation to your staff to introduce a new organization chart, your desired outcome would be that the staff accepts and welcomes the new structure.

Understanding your audience is another critical element of the business presentation. When I am teaching classes to my college students, I have to spend a fair amount of time going over the basics as they all come from different backgrounds. However, when I do presentations to business audiences, I get right down to the point I am trying to make and then show how that point stands to benefit them.

While PowerPoint is a great tool for making business presentations, beware of the pitfalls. Avoid too many slides. I can not count the times I have wanted to go to sleep during a presentation that had too many slides. If you put me in a room, dim the lights and lose my attention, you have completely defeated the point of making the presentation because I am obviously not going to comprehend or remember the material. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to cover one slide every three minutes. It is so much better to cover less and allow participants the opportunity to ask questions that will delve deeper into the subject matter.

When using PowerPoint, you should also pay special attention to the appearance of the slides. They should look professional and not like they were prepared the night before. With any business presentation, every step must be meticulously planned out and well executed.

The final essential element of a business presentation is the call to action. If you do not ask your audience to take some sort of action, the presentation really does not have much value. For example, in a sales presentation, you might want to be asked to come back to make a more in depth presentation to the top brass. In a staff presentation, the desired action might be improved coordination among departments.

Some of the best business presentations that I have ever seen are those that Steve Jobs gives to introduce a new product. They are impeccably orchestrated, and the blend between the speaker and the slides is seamless. You can view the recent iPhone 4 introduction on Apple’s website, http://www.apple.com/apple-events/wwdc-2010/.

Every entrepreneur, manager and salesperson must make business presentations. They are the vehicles by which you communicate information, and they need to be great.

Now go out and make sure that your business presentations are structured properly and are getting you the maximum results possible.

You can do this!

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