March 12, 2014
Entrepreneurs find themselves giving presentations often. From pitching at startup events to introducing your product to potential investors, being able to deliver a solid presentation is a useful skill for any entrepreneur.
However, presentations can go awry as a result of technological problems and, of course, as a result of the human element.
The technological issues are often the easiest to overcome. Here are a few tips:
- If you are unable to open your PowerPoint file, I urge you to refer to this excellent resource provided by Microsoft MVP, Echo Swinford. It is worth printing and retaining for future reference. Corrupted PowerPoint files are not all that uncommon and Swinford’s suggested fixes may one day save your bacon.
- When you aren’t in a position to use the laptop or PC the PowerPoint presentation was created with, you need to be certain that the laptop you are using supports the version used to create the presentation. You can avoid these concerns by downloading this free software from Microsoft called PowerPoint Viewer onto a flash-drive and keeping it with you at all times. It will provide you functionality for any version of PowerPoint from PowerPoint 97 forward.
- Internet connectivity is not 100 percent reliable. Everyone knows this, but that’s small comfort when you are squirming in front of your audience. Try to limit information displayed directly from your company website. Instead, opt for slides with screenshots of the pages you need for your presentation. Enhancing or annotating those screenshots can be made easy with Skitch. You can download it free!
Other technical concerns include:
- Making sure that movie file formats are compatible with PowerPoint
- Using fonts and text colors that project well
- Limiting the use of animations or avoiding them altogether
- Use a remote rather the down arrow and be certain the batteries are fresh
- Be familiar with power requirements if you are presenting abroad
- If you are presenting with your own laptop, disable screen savers, sleep mode and other features having the potential to distract from your presentation
- Although this should be obvious, we all overlook those annoying adhesive labels sometimes used on DVDs. They can create problems, so make sure you have addressed this issue with any DVDs you may use in the course of your presentation
- Make sure you back-up your presentation, not only on a flash drive but also a cloud storage site
- Arrive early and thoroughly test out the equipment you will be using
This brings us to the more difficult aspect of a successful presentation, the human side. Here are a few general principles to keep in mind as our discussion proceeds.
- Just as knowing the words to a song does not make you a great singer, being knowledgeable on a topic does not automatically confer upon you the ability to communicate that knowledge
- Always present in terms of the audience's needs and interests rather than your own
- Don’t presume that the more information you provide your audience, the more they will retain
- There is no substitute for planning and preparation
- Maintain eye contact with your audience
- Employ your sense of humor
- Avoid acronyms and technical jargon … you can lose the attention of your audience
- Stay animated—use facial expressions, gestures and project your voice
- Silence can speak volumes. Make use of the strategic pause
Now that I have covered the technical blunders you can avoid and provided you with some suggestions for enhancing the human side of making a presentation, let us turn our focus to the three primary mistakes you must avoid.
1. TMI—Too Much Information
- Instead of drowning your audience in a deluge of information, limit your presentation to no more than three unique and relevant value propositions
- Focus on what your product or service can accomplish when others cannot
- Ensure that your visuals are tangible, uncomplicated and vibrant
2. Invalid Presentation Paradigm
- Avoid focusing on yourself, how long your company has been in business, your existing customer base and global reach.
- Present from the paradigm of your customer and your audience. This enables them to imagine how they can benefit from your product or service as an individual or as a business
- The nexus of your presentation must revolve around your potential customer’s needs and demonstrate clearly how your product or service will meet those needs
- When you see that you have the audience engaged, invite feedback
3. Failing to Differentiate Your Business from the Competition
- Develop a simple, preferably one-sentence, message that codifies what your company does in a superior way relative to the competition
- Offer examples of four or five problems, challenges or risks you are absolutely certain that your product or service is in an unequalled position to resolve
- Draw attention to before-and-after contrasts that prove your product or service works by using customer stories and testimonials
These are the three principal fails every presenter must avoid; providing too much information (which often results in a lengthy and boring presentation), failing to offer the presentation from a customer oriented perspective or view, and failing to underscore what makes your product or service unique and sets it apart from the pack.
Avoid these blunders and reap the rewards of a successful presentation.
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