Making a successful presentation

Giving presentations is a daunting prospect for businesses, according to a survey carried out by executive communications consultancy The Aziz Corporation.

It found that a wide range of business tasks which involve speaking or presentation seem to strike fear, with 80% of company directors finding public speaking the most nerve-wracking activity they have to undertake.

First impressions count

Whether you are presenting a business plan to your bank manager or to investors to raise money, or whether you are pitching your business to a prospective client, first impressions are all important.

It may seem obvious, but putting your presentation into a smart folder can help. How you look is equally important, as Shilpa Panchmatia, founder of leadership training and coaching services company Human Xpression points out.

“Dress appropriately for the occasion and make sure your appearance is clean and neat. Wear something you feel good in. It will boost your confidence.”

Go for clarity

Above all, aim to be clear – compiling a glossy presentation pack could prove to be a distraction and could give the idea that you are trying to hide something. If your business revolves around technology and you have to use specialised words, remember to explain these, or to include a glossary.

Be clear in your own mind what is interesting, different or exciting about your business. Ensure that you don’t get sidetracked by details – this may stop you from bringing out the important elements of your plan or business.

Similarly, listen carefully to any questions asked and make sure you answer clearly and concisely what you have been asked.

Dealing with nerves

“Whether you are presenting to a large group of people or to an individual, your success hinges on the way you deliver your message. Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and healthy. It shows you care about doing well. But too much nervousness can be detrimental,” warns Panchmatia.

She suggests that you get to know your audience. Greet them with a smile and with warmth. ItÂ’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers, so imagine they are your friends.

Practise can make perfect

Carry out your presentation with someone you feel comfortable with, like a family member or friend. Use this opportunity to perfect your technique and to highlight any areas for improvement. You could also approach a source of finance or a client where you donÂ’t rate your chances too highly, and use it as a testing ground for those times when you do stand a good chance.

Human Xpression suggests the following tips to help you with your presentation skills:

  • Know your material – If you’re not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practise your speech and revise it if necessary.
  • Visualise yourself giving the presentation – Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and assured. It may help to picture someone you know who presents well and imagine yourself presenting in the same way.
  • Make sure you are well prepared – Make good use of any visual aids, handouts, props, samples or technology. Practise well so your presentation looks slick and then props fit in at the appropriate moment.
  • Don’t apologise – If you mention your nervousness or apologise for any problems you think you have with your presentation, you may be calling the audience’s attention to something they hadn’t noticed. Keep silent.
  • Plan ahead – Think about any possible questions that may arise so you can be prepared with an answer. If you are asked something that you can’t answer on the spot, just say that you’ll send the information through at a later stage.

See also: Essential guide to business presentations

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