Presentations are an everyday occurrence in any position. They run the gamut of simple one-offs in the hallway at work to conference sessions with hundreds in the audience. Regardless of whether you are catching your manager on the run or making a formal sales presentation to a group, there are four rules you must follow to deliver a powerful communication and knock your presentation out of the park.
Rule #1 – Be Prepared
The foundation of every presentation is preparation. The research, content, high-level summary, flow, visual aesthetics, and rehearsal are just some of the preparation components. Research can cover multiple segments, which could include reporting on the facts and figures, gathering benchmarking data, an investigative dive into the subject, or interviewing influencers.
Articulating your findings must be summarized and visual. A picture or graph truly does capture a thousand words, and a logical procession through the results and subsequent determinations keeps your audience engaged. Added to this, the overall appearance of the material will impact your audience’s reception of the information. Keep your font and color usage in brand, your images crisp and proportioned, and everything clean and aligned.
Prepare questions you will ask your audience to drive the dialogue, and anticipate the questions that will be directed to you. Also have your answers ready and rehearsed. Leverage all of the resources you possess, because the more prepared you are, the more confidence you will feel.
Rule #2 – Be Brief
Your preparation sets you up for an outstanding performance. In addition to that, be mindful of the duration and respect your audience’s time. During the presentation, stay on point and actively seek interaction with your audience. You can use open-ended questions to drive a discussion or direct questions to reaffirm agreement that you’re on the same page. If the conversation strays off topic, bring it back to the subject at hand.
Your audience is comprised of intelligent, capable individuals; therefore, there is zero reason to read the bullets of your presentation like a mindless drone. Your audience can read. The secret of a powerful presentation is to communicate the subject matter as a story that draws them in and keeps them engaged. The driest of topics should be presented with emotional triggers and a narrative connecting motivations. You do this by reviewing your bullet points and reframing the information into the bigger picture and what it means, then speaking to that vision.
This is where all your preparation pays off big-time. Ask questions and make statements to drive a dialogue. Allow your audience to respond and answer the questions that are born from the discussion. Actively listen to pick up on nuances and pivot the conversation back to the subject as needed. You should also listen for negativity creeping into the dialogue. You can never expect a positive outcome by behaving with negativity, so shift the gears and get back on track for the objectives of the presentation.
Rule #3 – Be Inspired
Throughout the presentation, your passion and enthusiasm should be evident, too. You are the subject matter expert and you are excited to share your findings, your vision. Your preparation helps liberate this side of your personality. You’ve done your homework and you are confident in the results. When you focus on what really matters and stay on point, you inspire your audience to pay attention. It’s enthralling to be part of the dialogue. Enthusiasm is contagious, and you want your audience to catch it.
Rule #4 – Be Gone
When all is said and done, close with the minimal actionable commitments. These are the takeaways and action items for yourself and for the audience. Do not allow the end of the presentation to linger like a slow death. Respect everyone’s time, because you all have work waiting for you. If members of your audience want to continue the discussion, side table it to another time or pursue it during a break. This may be one of the minimal actionable commitments: the scheduling of a follow-up conversation. Always end the presentation on the positive, a high note of excitement for next steps.
Delivering powerful presentations will significantly impact your career opportunities and sales success. It is a skill you can achieve through active learning, practice, and repetition. You demonstrate your intent and purpose to accomplish your objectives with every presentation. When you follow these four rules, you are building relational capital with your clients, management, co-workers, and peers. You create a new world of possibilities with every powerful presentation.