Whether you are pitching a product, your business or a concept to colleagues, you want your presentation to be just right. When it comes to performance events, studies show that being confident in your presentation preparation is a sure-fire way to lower your stress.
Being prepared for a business presentation means more than simply knowing your subject matter. As you build your content and polish your messaging, make sure your technology and other supplies are professional, well-branded and ready to go.
Whether you are getting ready for your first pitch or have had plenty of time in front of a podium, you should follow these presentation preparation tips and best practices:
1. Prepare your presentation technology
Part of any presentation preparation is making sure your technology works and is easily visible for your audience. If you have the chance ahead of time, test your AV equipment in the space you will be presenting. In order to avoid any last-minute surprises, be sure your presentation is stored both virtually and locally, on your computer.
2. Prepare a backup for your presentation
A physical hand out of your presentation, or relevant notes / visuals to help your listeners follow along, is important for two reasons. One, it acts as a backup plan in case your technology fails. And two, it helps as a focus aid, as some listeners will actually hear better when they are able to take their own notes alongside the content. Be sure to use quality materials and presentation folders in order to make the best possible impression.
3. Keep the presentation simple
When you first gather material for your presentation, it may be overwhelming. You may wonder how to prepare the presentation and organize the data to make it interesting. One of the most important things you can do to maintain interest in your content is to tell a compelling story.
A good story not only keeps your audience engaged, but also allows you to keep your content simple and streamlined. Has your product solved a problem for someone? Did your business start because your child had a specific need? Could your department do something amazing if you only had more space? As you organize your information, remember to keep things simple.
4. Get creative with the presentation
The minute your audience sees an old-school slide show with a bland title and a long list of bullet points, you may lose them no matter how much presentation preparation you have. Business presentations require creative approach to keep an audience engaged.
Remember, the human brain has trouble keeping track of too many items on a list. Be sure to leave some content off the page—speaking to it as you go.
5. Show your passion
While you may have an overwhelming passion for the material you’re presenting, it may not come across unless you prepare your approach. As you rehearse your material, allow yourself to show your genuine interest in the subject. The best presentation preparation starts with a real interest in the subject.
Don’t be afraid to be animated, if it fits the moment. Allow yourself the room to connect with your audience, even if it means diverting from your content for a short time. Being mentally ready to show your passion and share it with your audience is important as you prepare for your moment on stage.
6. Start strong and smile
The start of any presentation is important. It sets the tone and captures the audience. As you prepare for the first 30 seconds of your presentation, be sure to plan brief, key messages and build in space to make eye contact, smile and connect with your audience.
7. Be time-wise
As you prepare and practice your material, keep a keen focus on time. According to Guy Kawasaki of Apple, a presentation should contain no more than 10 slides and should be no more than 20 minutes long. Make sure your preparation includes run-through time, allowing you to adjust your content, as appropriate.
8. Be ready for presentation questions
Hopefully, when your presentation ends, your audience will have burning questions. Rather than plan to answer them on the spot, spend some time anticipating questions and preparing your answers. The more thoughtful you can be ahead of time, the more content you can convey in this portion of the meeting. Sometimes, audience members who have tuned out, may dial back in during the question period. Use this opportunity to reiterate your message, make your pitch and close out any concerns.
Presentation preparation can be daunting, especially when the stakes are high. Being ready—knowing that you are comfortable with your material, that your technology and supporting documents are in good shape and you are prepared for questions—is one of the best ways to reduce stress and put your best food forward. We hope these business presentation preparation tips are useful as you plan for your next great pitch.