Give an excellent presentation and you’ll win not just respect but also new or additional business. Under-perform, and your reputation and business may experience a wobble.
If you’ve got years of experience, seizing the opportunity to speak to an audience can bring huge benefits both for you personally and for your business.
The question to answer is: are you recognised as an expert in your field right now? Do you have the reputation that will draw investors and clients to you? Until you can demonstrate your expertise in a compelling manner, you’ll miss out on the best rewards. You won’t command the highest fees, negotiate the best deals, or win business awards!
Fortunately, while gaining a deep understanding of your industry takes years, you can create a fantastic presentation and acquire the skills to present it well in weeks.
Get your presentation content ready
After plenty of hard graft, your industry knowledge is both deep, and wide. Start by choosing your topic. With a broad knowledge of your industry, it may be difficult to pick just one. Find something that will truly interest your target audience. For maximum appeal, identify a narrow slice of your area of expertise. By going deep and avoiding generalities, you’ll be forced to be specific and showcase what you know and your audience don’t (until they hear you!)
With your niche in mind it’s time to decide what it is you want to communicate. In The 7 habits of highly effective people Dr Stephen Covey advises, “start with the end in mind”. What do you want your audience to know (or do) when you are finished? Identify three main points.
Sketch these out on a piece of paper, creating a mind map. Now note down three or more interesting or important aspects of each of your three main points. Is there a story you can tell to illustrate your point? People love stories. They bring examples to life.
If you are using figures or statistics to support your business proposition, see if you can bring these numbers to life as well. Think about translating them into analogies your audience can relate to. This will help reduce barriers to understanding, and improve how your material is received.
Depending how much time you have can add additional, appropriate examples, particularly ones that will resonate with say a customer or investor audience.
To give you the best chance of maintaining your audience’s attention for the duration of your presentation, be succinct. Don’t go into more detail than you need to to make a point or illustrate an example. Your audience will thank you!
Write down your presentation. Structure it into the three main points you wish to make. Add a beginning, and a conclusion. One hint: it’s helpful to signal your closing. By saying, “And in conclusion. . .” you give your audience a clue that you are nearly finished, and they’ll reward you with renewed attention.
And if you really want to “wow” your audience, don’t use slides at all. By being the speaker who simply spoke to her audience, without any audio-visual backup, you may paradoxically make the biggest impression. If you have a product demonstration to give – so much the better.
Getting your delivery ready
To really stand out, you’ll need more than just your great presentation: you’ll have to deliver it with energy and style.
The most important part of being comfortable on stage, is to be prepared. You are an expert in your business but you still need to rehearse the delivery of your presentation.
Start by simply saying it out loud. Notice if some sections are too wordy. One of the most common mistakes nervous speakers make is to use overly long sentences. These can create mechanical problems that may make you think you are anxious. Did you know that speaking sentences that are too long can leave you breathless – literally? Shorten them and you’ll eliminate the risk of needless strain, and maintain your professional poise.
Even though you’ll be the only one speaking, aim for a style that is conversational. Imagine you are speaking to friends or colleagues. How would you speak to them? This will help you adopt an informal approach. So keep your sentences reasonably short, and avoid jargon (unless everyone in the audience is an industry insider).
Knowing your audience is helpful. It enables you to use language they will understand, and perhaps even make a joke or two.
If I’m doing an important presentation, I like to record it and listen to it a number of times. I will play it back while I am driving, and speak along to the recording. As I get better at reciting it, I will make a fresh recording. This help me use more accurate inflection, and I will have a better handle on where to put the emphasis in each sentence.
If you are serious about doing a great presentation, consider joining a Toastmasters club. Members give prepared speeches at each meeting, and most clubs have a number of experienced speakers, many of whom run businesses. From them you’ll get helpful, constructive feedback before you deliver your presentation “for real”. For example, there are clubs across the UK and Ireland, and most cities and towns have one.
When the day arrives
When it comes time to deliver your presentation, remember why you are there in the first place. You want to establish your authority, and enhance your business by sharing your expertise. You’ll want to dress like an expert, too. While many speakers have mastered the “casual look” on stage, there is a certain confidence that comes from knowing you look professional.
I highly recommend videoing your speech for later review (or at least capturing the audio). You’ll be able to objectively assess your presentation on screen in a way you’re simply not able to in the moment. Appreciate what you did well, and note areas you’d like to improve. Think of this as an important business investment. It is well worth the time it takes.
Building your business means showcasing your expertise and becoming the go-to person. Hone your skills and make your presentations both a useful and engaging event for all your future audiences.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Bruce is from Toastmasters International a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 345,000 in more than 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.