When was the last time you sat through a boring presentation, where people were distracted, restless, or even falling asleep?
As an entrepreneur, you will likely have to present your ideas fairly often, whether it is to a large audience or just a few people. Having great content is one thing, but if your presentation is lacking, chances are people would not remember your idea well enough. They may even be put off by a negative presentation.
With the right presentation skills, you can effectively capture your audience’s attention and sell your idea. On top of that, you could even be able to leave your audience wanting more.
What are some ways you can deliver your message with the impact it deserves?
The first impression matters, and your introduction should not fall short of your content. Instead of diving right into your topic which can potentially make your audience walk off, a great way to start is by getting the audience interested by presenting a question, an anecdote or a shocking statistic. The key is to begin with something that grabs your listeners’ attention and makes them want to hear you out.
Look at the two introductions below. Which do you think would interest you more?
We all know that a lot of food gets thrown away annually, and a lot of the food we produce actually does not get eaten at all. How can we stop wasting so much food?
Did you know that 1.3 billion tons of food gets wasted worldwide each year? That’s about one third of the amount of food the world annually produces! So, how can we stop wasting so much food?
Here’s a tip: If you are presenting a statistic, make sure you put it into perspective – in terms that the audience can understand. For example, “1.3 billion tons of food” may not mean much to a group of schoolchildren, but if you say instead, “That’s the weight of 260 million elephants!”, your audience will be much more likely to visualize the extent of your statistic.
When people first begin to present to others, they tend to speak too quickly and rush through what they want to say. As a result, some words do not get pronounced properly, which could confuse your audience as well as give them a bad impression.
People tend to read faster than what is suitable for actual presentation pace. If you are reading through a script in your head, be sure to also practice reading it aloud. It’s best if you can ask someone else to listen to your speech and give you feedback on how they thought you did. You can also record your presentation and watch yourself, which can help to give you a better idea of how you should pace your speech.
Pacing is important for other aspects of presentation, such as when telling jokes, asking rhetorical questions and pausing for effect. A general rule of thumb is to pause for about two to three seconds before continuing with the punch line or your next point – too short and it may feel rushed, but too long and the silence may become awkward.
However, much of this depends on the exact presentation. If you are unsure as to where you should add pauses and how much of a pause to add, you can try different options and either record yourself or ask someone else which version sounds better.
You may have a script, but that does not mean you have to memorize or follow it word for word. Memorizing a script and then regurgitating it exactly as you had planned tends to make it sound recited rather than natural. If you sound like you are reciting or reading off a list, you can potentially bore your audience.
Additionally, in some cases you may have prepared presentation slides, visuals or handouts to go with your speech. The key to keeping your audience interested is never to read the points off these visuals. Again, people can read faster than the pace you are going at for presentation purposes, and once they have finished reading a slide they may tend to “switch off” if the speaker is simply narrating everything that is on the slide.
Ideally, presentation visuals should contain only the key points in text, and as much visuals as possible, such as graphs, charts, pictures, symbols or videos. The speaker elaborates on the key points by describing illustrations or examples, and a picture speaks a thousand words – the images are perfect for further elaboration. For example, if you include a flow chart of your new business model, be sure to walk your audience through it step by step. You may have seen that chart hundreds of times while preparing your presentation, but it is your audience’s first time seeing it and they may not fully grasp every point if you just skim through the page.
If you are having trouble finding enough to talk about that is not already covered in your presentation visuals, consider cutting down on the text content in your visuals – chances are there is some extra information that does not need to be there. You should never have to present any point word for word as it is in the presentation visuals.
Of course, in some situations you may have less of a choice in this, such as having to stick to the script as closely as possible or being given visuals that you cannot change. However, you can still attempt to make your presentation sound as natural as possible by adding feeling to your words. Try to focus on any parts of your script that contain questions as these tend to allow for the most emotion. Practice is key!
Part of delivering an excellent presentation is dressing for it. Your attire, together with how you start the presentation off, forms your audience’s first impression of you. Just as you would not wear casual home clothes to an interview, you should also dress accordingly when you prepare to deliver a presentation, depending on the occasion. If you are unsure of the dress code, going smart-casual or formal is usually safer.
It may sound cliché, but when you smile, you will radiate energy and pass that positive vibe to your audience. Nobody wants to listen to a grumpy presenter, after all. However, you don’t need to keep grinning like a Cheshire cat either – wearing too fake a smile can put off your audience as well. Smile as genuinely as possible, and it helps to have a personal interest in the topic you are presenting so that you can convey that enthusiasm to your audience.
One way to practice your smile is to present to yourself in the mirror until your whole presentation looks and feels natural. If it helps, you can look up pictures of smiling people, especially images of other presenters or people at community service work, such as the ones below.