Some folks relish the opportunity. Others dread it.
Whichever you are, if you're going to succeed in the professional world, you're probably going to have to create and deliver a business presentation at least once.
Building a presentation that impresses your colleagues and supervisors is something anyone can do—so long as they have the right tools, the right mindset, and a good plan.
Whether you're a new student or are in the middle of a lifelong career, it never hurts to brush up on your business presentation skills. After all, there's always room to improve.
Planning and preparing.
Proper planning and preparation are essential when you're building a presentation and looking to leave a good impression. Even if your improvisational skills are terrific, you'll need to at least have an outline of what your business presentation will look and sound like.
Creating a slideshow in Microsoft PowerPoint or a similar presentation program will effectively put your notecards right there on the screen. But don't depend solely on your slides. Instead of writing out line-by-line everything you plan to say, put a balanced mix of images and bullet points on the slides, and use those to help you remember what comes next.
It also helps to learn as much as you can about your audience. Who'll be listening to your presentation? What positions do they hold? Are they likely to be agreeable, neutral, or hostile to your viewpoint? Find out, then tailor your presentation to them.
Practice makes perfect.
Having your slides prepared is an important step, but don't forget the three P's: practice, practice, practice. This includes anticipating the questions your audience will ask and crafting informed responses.
Familiarize yourself with the environment and the equipment, too. If you're presenting from home via a web conference, make sure that what your audience sees on their screens—including what's behind you—is professional and neutral, and not distracting. If you're presenting in person, test out the equipment and arrange the seating, if you can, so that you will be the focus of attention during the presentation.
Embed your presentation with opportunities for the audience to participate. Just because it's a business presentation doesn't mean that it can't be fun and dynamic. Don't just ask questions; prepare individual, partner, and small-group activities for your audience. Make them fun, and you'll leave a lasting impression
During and after the presentation.
You've probably already heard the clichés about maintaining eye contact, using natural hand gestures, and varying the pitch and tone of your voice to keep the presentation interesting. Well, sometimes clichés are true for a reason: These tips still hold true, particularly in a business setting, where you can't afford to lose your audience's attention.
To practice your presentation polish, record yourself practicing your presentation and watch it later. Research published by Lincoln University found that participants who recorded their oral presentations noticed where they could improve: 47.5% of them found that they needed to make more consistent eye contact, and 22% were "surprised by their hand movement and recognized that their body language was not appropriate."
If you start to feel anxious during your presentation, slow down your breathing. You might be surprised to discover how effective this technique can be at slowing down your heart rate and convincing your mind that everything will be all right—which is true, so long as you believe it.
Finally, don't forget to solicit audience feedback after you've wrapped up your presentation. Your colleagues or a current or potential employer will probably appreciate the opportunity to give you some constructive criticism, and you'll gain valuable insight that you put into your next presentation.
Relax—and go for it.
If you've planned, prepared, and practiced, just take a few deep breaths and know that you've done all you can. Let the words flow from you, and try to enjoy the experience.
Business presentations don't have to be stodgy or intimidating. The best ones reflect your personality. If you can get that across, then it's a success by any measure.