I can still remember and feel my very first presentation to a large group vividly.

The night before filled with scrambled dreams. My palms sweating on the steering wheel as I weaved towards my client’s office. Shakily setting up the projector whilst simultaneously greeting the group one by one, judging who among them might see through my faux-bravado and inspire the lynch mob.

As I began, struggling to ignore the rouge spreading up my neck toward my face as I tried valiantly to make eye contact, speak clearly, deliver my message, and get the hell out of there.

Sound familiar?

Whether speaking to hundreds of people in a lit auditorium or 10 executives in a darkened board room, delivering powerful presentations can be petrifying. In fact public speaking is the second most feared thing after death!. But when mastered, this skill will propel your career as a sales professional to new heights. It simply can’t be ignored as a skill as all senior roles require the ability to present to groups

In fact in today’s age of the well informed buyer, it can be the difference between you or your competitor securing that big deal.

According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit in May this year, when it comes to big decisions C-suite and board level executives rely on data and analytics only 29% of the time, with over 58% based on gut, instinct and also recommendations by trusted colleagues.

So when presenting your solution in a RFP or pitch environment where you and your product are being compared with the competition, it is not so much what you say but how you say it.

With that in mind, here are the 5 C’s which will ensure your presentation is persuasive, memorable and inspires the action you desire.

  • Conviction – It is important to believe in what you are presenting, especially when dealing with senior executives. Any sniff of uncertainty or doubt and you will be eaten alive. If there are elements of your presentation which you don’t quite believe, drop them. If execs make decisions based on their gut you need to present from yours.
  • Compel – In the sales environment your message needs to be persuasive and compelling. Plan your presentation carefully, and try to build momentum throughout after a strong opening. If your presentation manages to gather momentum and peak at the end, you are more likely to inspire the desired action.
  • Connect – Engaging with your audience can be challenging, especially in larger groups, but if you can make a real connection your message will be taken and owned. Weaving in personal stories or case studies which tug on emotional triggers can be very effective and powerful. Also try to avoid death-by-PowerPoint, a surefire way to kill audience connection.
  • Clarity – Obviously it is very important to be clear both in what you say and how you say it. Make sure your messaging is clear, to the point, and not full of jargon or technical terms where possible. Regarding speech, don’t get caught rushing and speaking too quickly. Slow down and articulate every point, and don’t be afraid to check back and make sure everyone understands.
  • Command – Delivering your message with authority and ownership is absolutely crucial. It helps to stand tall with your feet planted, conveying a sense of control and confidence. Make eye contact, speak clearly, and stand your ground. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes as a lot of the time people don’t notice – concentrate on the message not your nerves.

The good news is the more you do it the easier it gets. Presenting like a pro will not occur overnight, and as with all things worth learning practice makes perfect. Use any opportunity you can to practice presenting with colleagues and team members, and actively seek feedback and tips to improve. Training is obviously a huge advantage here too. Think about the flow and momentum your message creates when planning, and deliver your presentation powerfully with 5 C’s by your side.

This article originally appeared here.

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