Small business owners are often called upon to give presentations to investors, employees or community organizations. Nothing is worse than a boring presentation in a drab, monotone voice. Everyone loves an engaging presenter. Stellar business presentations involve planning and practice and can result in funding for your business, a team that is fired up or community members who are ready to jump on board with your vision.
Define Your Purpose
Before you can craft a memorable presentation, you need to become clear on your purpose and goals for giving this presentation. Anything else you do in preparation for your presentation needs to align with this purpose.
If your chief purpose is to secure funds for a new initiative, you probably don't want to spend 20 minutes of your presentation talking about your other initiatives. Likewise, if you want to inspire a young scouting group to pursue entrepreneurial paths, you probably want to talk more about your career path than the color of your new product packaging.
Research and Write First
Once you understand the purpose and goals of your presentation, research and writing are important ways to get your thoughts organized. Consider the main point you want to make during your presentation and three supporting points that help make your case. Look for studies, statistics and other documentation that reinforce what you want to convey to your audience.
Even though you will not read from a script during your presentation, write out what you want to say like you are writing a research paper until you've internalized your message and could recite it in your sleep.
Attention-Getting Openers and Closers
Instead of opening your presentation with your name and title, find a creative way to open. Consider the following possible openers:
- Share a story related to your main point.
- Provide a visualization of your main point.
- Involve audience members in a hands-on demonstration.
Once you have everyone's attention with a creative opener, then you can introduce yourself and proceed to the meat of your presentation. Similarly, avoid closing your business presentation with a simple "thank you". Instead, consider coming up with a call to action that reflects the main purpose of your presentation. Some ideas include:
- Try a product at a demonstration table.
- Enroll in text updates on products or services.
- Engage in a creative project or community initiative.
Speech and Eye Contact
Communication is about how we say what we say just as much as what we say. Think about how a parent uses a soft voice to lull a child to sleep or how a coach yells encouragement to a player on the field. Use your voice to grab audience members' attention at the beginning of your presentation and then vary your tone, speed and volume as you present in order to keep their attention. Watch inspiring TED Talks for ideas on how you might use your voice to help convey your point.
Similarly, you want your audience to feel that you are speaking directly to them, and one of the best ways to do this is through eye contact. Instead of staring down at the floor or a piece of paper, pick a few people toward the back of the room with whom to make eye contact throughout your presentation. This will give the feeling even to people in the front that you are personally engaging with them and care about their participation.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once your material is solid and you have an idea of how you want to use your voice and eye contact in your presentation, it's time to practice and then practice some more. Practice alone, practice in front of others and try using different gestures and body language as you convey your point. As you practice, you will become more polished and confident, which will go a long way toward making your final presentation great.