by Ashley Bright
In today's hyper-competitive business climate, there’s a lot of talk about brands: How to make them sticky, how to create positive associations with the consumer, how to build a loyal following on social media. As a small business owner you're always trying to find new ways to get your brand out in front of your customers. And being a savvy marketer you realize presentations represent one of those opportunities. But since you’re not all blessed with the showmanship of Steve Jobs, you may need a little help when it comes to presenting with confidence and enthusiasm.
Not to worry, I’ve got you covered. Below is a consolidated list of techniques every small business owner needs to ensure a successful presentation that builds trust and instills confidence in your brand. To make it easy to remember I broke it down into three parts—Plan, Prepare and Present.
Plan – A strategic approach to content
As with any new undertaking, you need a plan, and presentations are no different. So let’s talk about how to plan your presentation.
Know your audience
The first thing to understand is that your audience is the hero – not you. Let me say that again: your audience is the hero – not you. I hope you heard that, because it means you need to tailor your presentation to your audience. Start by asking, “Who is my audience and why are they here?” It seems simple enough, yet more often than not presenters fail to give it much thought and as a result their presentation, their audience and ultimately their business suffers for it. By understanding the motivations of your audience you’ll be able to organize your content and hone your message so it resonates and provides value.
Key takeaways & content organization
Once you know your audience, it’s time to map out the key takeaways you want them to leave with. And a hint here: they can only remember three to five things, so if you have 10 takeaways, you’d better re-evaluate. Be honest about what’s truly valuable and make a succinct list. This is important because your key takeaways will determine how you evaluate and organize your content. If the content doesn’t support the key takeaways, get rid of it.
People don’t often think about it when they sit down to build a presentation, but your presentation is a journey and you’re asking your audience to come along for the ride. So you’d better make it interesting. Stories are a great way to do just that. They can be humorous or serious or both, as long as they’re relevant to your audience and support your message. Consider opening your presentation with a story that provides context and gives your audience a reason to care about what you’re presenting. In the middle drop in a few more anecdotes that support your topic. And in your closing you should reference your opening story to demonstrate how it was resolved and thereby giving your audience closure.
Prepare - Making simply beautiful slides
With your presentation plan in place, it’s time to start thinking about how to put together the supporting materials–i.e. your PowerPoint. We all know the mantra less is more, but understanding exactly how to apply that thinking to presentation slides is a challenge. So let’s break it down to the essentials.
One thought per slide
As much as you’d like to pack your slides with all sorts of great content about your small business, it will clutter up the slide, impede audience understanding and ultimately result in undermining what you’re trying to communicate. Instead consider how each slide fits together to support your overall message. For example if you have a list of bullets, boil them down to one thought and put that on the slide, then put the bullet list in the notes section under each individual slide so you have them as a reference when you’re presenting. Remember, less is more, so keep it simple.
Use pictures, not words
We are visual beings so we love pictures! Whenever possible, opt for pictures over words. Not only do pictures aid in understanding, but they can also give your presentation an emotional and aesthetic appeal that would be lost if you only use words. When using pictures, be sure you own the rights or give proper attribution on the slide where you use them.
No matter what type of small business you have everyone has a “unique” process they want to share. But just grabbing a screenshot of a Venn diagram and dropping it into your slide isn’t going to cut it. Like everything else in your presentation, the diagrams must be cleaned up, simplified and presented so your audience “get’s it.” If your process is too complex to boil down to the essentials, then it may mean you have to provide a printed handout so they can follow along while you present. In either case the goal remains the same: simplify to improve understanding.
Present – You’re on in 5, 4, 3, 2…
Up to this point I haven’t mentioned it, but one of the most important components of a great presentation is rehearsing. I don’t care how charismatic you are, everyone needs to rehearse. So whether it’s a keynote at a conference, a sales presentation, or a routine internal meeting with your employees, every presentation is a performance. So you better know your lines and hit your mark!
Opening & closing
The way you open your presentation sets the tone for the rest of it. You want to set the context for who you are, what you’ll talk about and most importantly why your audience should care. Write out the basic points of your opening and make sure they align with your key takeaways. Think of this as a teaser of what’s to come, so share just enough to get people interested, but not so much that they don’t bother sticking around for the show.
Once your opening is solid, the closing should be straightforward because it will reiterate the points you covered in your opening. One key difference in your closing is you’ll include “The Ask.” Not sure what this is? It’s a simple, memorable and powerful statement in which you ask the audience to take some sort of action–give us a call, get your community involved, do your part, etc. “The ask” should be specific, actionable and align with your key takeaways.
Bring It All Together
Now that you have your opening and closing, it’s time to weave them into the body of your presentation. At this point you have all the pieces you need, so think about how they link together and how best to naturally transition from one to the other. You want to make your presentation sound conversational, not scripted. And the only way to do that is rehearse.
Rehearsing Made Simple
When you’re rehearsing…
1. Don’t use slides. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but rehearsing without slides will help you memorize your talking points, become more comfortable with the material and project confidence during your presentation.
2. Say it out loud. Not in your head, but loud and proud. By rehearsing out loud you’ll get comfortable with the sound of your voice (not everyone is) and most importantly build your confidence.
3. Move around. Moving will help combat nervous energy and you’ll appear more casual and confident on stage.
Did you notice that “confidence” is the natural outcome of all three rehearsal techniques? This is no accident. In my experience, presenters rarely struggle to remember their talking points or convey their passion for the subject matter; instead they struggle to overcome nervous energy which can negatively impact the overall presentation. Rehearse so you are conveying confidence is the key to success.
OK my friends, there you have it–Plan, Prepare and Present. This is by no means the definitive presentation guide, but if you learn and implement these simple techniques I have no doubt you’ll convey confidence, enthusiasm and in short, rock your next presentation!
Ashley Bright is the founder and creative director of Ashley Bright Presents, a presentation-focused design and education consultancy based in Tucson, Arizona. Ashley honed his presentation chops over a 17-year career spent persuading Fortune 500 companies to spend their marketing budgets creating innovative story-driven experiences for the web, mobile and social platforms. Recognizing the growing need for more engaging and successful presentations in all areas of business, he shifted to working exclusively on presentations.