Business workshop and presentation. Audience at the conference room.

We’ve all been there … listening to a presentation that sounds like Ben Stein talking about the quantum mechanics of growing grass. You don’t really want to be that person, do you? You want to WOW your crowd, engage them, and turn fans into fanatics. It all starts with understanding the basics of giving great presentations.

You’ve heard me say before that more people fear public speaking than anything else. Most people would rather jump out of a perfectly good airplane, than stand up in front of a crowd and speak. Once you understand the basics of great presentations, you won’t have to worry about your fear. All you need is the basic concepts that will help you better understand how to give great presentations.

Why The Fear?

What do people fear so much about standing up and giving a presentation? Well, most people are not comfortable standing up in front of a group of people. They are usually not really clear or sure of their message. They also may have neglected the preparation that would give them the confidence to deliver a great presentation.

Giving a presentation happens quite often in business. I don’t care if you’re working for a major corporation or a solopreneuer, you have to understand that talking to people is incredibly important in building your brand and selling your services or products.

The Presentation

No matter what your business, product, or service is, there are five key parts to making a presentation work for you and your audience:

Intro

  • If you’re going to draw people in to your presentation, you have to make it fun. Tell some success stories or show a funny video that engages and draws them into what you’re going to present. Make it about the audience, and get them to realize that this is going to be something they will really enjoy.

Why Me

  • Next, you have to give the audience a reason to believe that you are the right person to be standing up there telling your story. What makes you special? Why do you have the right to instruct them on what you know? Have you written a book? Do you have any new awards? Do you have any success stories that will WOW them based on your or your clients’ experiences?

The Big Idea

  • You now have to tell them what the BIG IDEA is that you want to get across. This is where a large number of people falter as they try to deliver too many concepts and promises and the audience can get confused. You have to choose the ONE thing that people need to understand. How are you going to solve their pain or their problems, and get them to their nirvana?

The Body

  • In the body of your presentation, you have to tell people what the 3 to 5 main points are that you want them to understand. During this time, you have to get them to change their point of view from what they used to believe to what is now their new reality. Finally, you have to give them tangible and actionable points that will move them forward to your ONE BIG IDEA.

The Conclusion

  • When you bring them to the conclusion, you have to have some kind of call to action. What do you want them to do? Do you want them to buy something? Do you want them to contact you? Are you going to give away something free that draws them into the fold and gets them to want to communicate with you more? It’s your train … put it on the right track!

The Biggest Mistakes

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You’ve all seen some great presentations, and some not so great ones that make you want to sneak out the back door. Which one of these mistakes makes you cringe (these may be some of the ones that you make also)…

Unclear

  • Some of us are so busy selling ourselves, and our information, that we forget about our audience. The most important thing you can do is focus on the audience. What do they want to get out of your presentation (they showed up to listen, right?). Make sure that you deliver what you have promised. Always focus on them and deliver key actionable points that make them feel like they got some value out of the time that they spent with you, whether it was a half hour, full hour, or more.

TMI

  • How many times have you watched the presenter go through part of their information and then start running out of time? What they usually do is start skipping through to the final slides, because they don’t have enough time to present everything they wanted to. This is more common than you think. It’s like trying to present out of a fire hose. Most presentations can benefit from the less is more principle. Your audience just wants what they need to know, and you need to keep them wanting more.

The Teleprompter

  • Another common problem is that people try to give too much information on each slide. You’ve all seen presentations where you can’t even read the text, because it is too small or there are too many bullet points. The best way to fix this is to pick a point and then put the bullets to support it. Like I said before, pick three or five major points that are going to get what you need to present across. Always leave room for Jell-O (keep them wanting more). Finally, the more you use pictures, charts and graphs, the better your audience will understand your points.

Pacing

  • We talked about TMI or trying to squeeze too much information in to a short period of time. The best way to avoid this is practice your presentation. If you can’t do it at home in 30 minutes (or whatever the allotted time is), chances are you won’t be able to do it live either. Practice your presentation and if it does not deliver in the time allotted, then cut some content and some slides. I’ve seen too many people present who don’t leave enough time for questions and answers. Make sure that you leave at least 5 or 10 minutes for Q&A, because in the presentation world, that’s where the magic happens.

Purpose

  • Too often, people spend the entire presentation trying to create the problem, without offering some kind of solution at the end. Your job is to do both. I’ve seen so many presentations where the presenter just scares the audience into submission and never offers anything of value at the end. You need to create a call to action that prompts people to want to contact you to take it to the next step. Finally, you want to make the presentation fun and interactive. Make the most of your opportunity to use stories, jokes, and props. People want to be educated, but also entertained, and that’s your job!

Final Thoughts

IMG_2908Giving presentations is a lot of work, however the payoffs can be huge. First off, you have to know your audience and what they want. Don’t be all about sales. The LAST thing that people want is a half hour or hour-long infomercial. Make sure that you practice and prepare. Finally, be purposeful in everything you do. It is not about you, it’s about your audience!

I would love to hear your comments, stories, and also your worst nightmares from presentation land. Comment away!