Every great business leader knows the power of a presentation. Convincing, persuading, and selling your ideas are all critical skills, whether you’re presenting to a small team at a video conference or in an auditorium with 2,000 people.
Today’s entrepreneurs know quite a bit about the art of presentation, so we asked them to share some of their best tips and techniques. Here are some of the highlights.
Those first few moments of a presentation are pivotal. You can either set the stage for success or cause everyone to instantly think “how long is this going to take?”
“The best tip for having a successful presentation is to start strong,” said Ajay Mehta, CEO of Birthdate Candles. “The beginning of your presentation is what draws your audience in, so be sure that you start off in a strong way. Grab your audience’s attention by using an image, video, or joke. This will entice them into your presentation and keep them interested throughout.”
Even more important than gimmicks is a strong presence and tonality that conveys confidence from the start.
Slim it Down
When you look over your presentation, is there anything that can be removed or simplified? The last thing you want to do is overcomplicate things and lose interest from the audience.
“Carve out excessive words and slides – this will make things easier for everyone,” said Brandon Monaghan, Co-Founder of Miracle Brand. “Better to speak slowly and clarify your points. It’s not a race or a competition to cram the most content into one presentation.”
Even if your presentation addresses complex topics, aim to simplify the speech and support your points with visuals.
Why Are You Here?
Unless you’re already a celebrity, audiences will want to know who you are and why your message is important. Make a connection early on so that everyone is invested.
“When you’re a public speaker, the first thing you need to accomplish is showing why the audience should see your presentation as relevant,” said Travis Killian, Owner and CEO of Everlasting Comfort. “There’s a growing number of professionals trying to make their mark on the webinar, seminar and convention scenes. But, not everyone has the credentials to lend their advice. Tell a little bit about yourself, establish a connection and briefly explain how you achieved your own success.”
Avoid acting like a know-it-all, and just be real about who you are.
Make the Connection
Some of the best public speakers don’t present themselves as perfect or flawless. Oftentimes it’s more effective to show your human side and connect with others in a real way.
“Always be sure to show your passion and connect with your audience when giving a presentation,” said Tri Nguyen, CEO of Network Capital. “Great presenters know how to be honest and connect with their audience to get their point across. You can do this by injecting your passion and enthusiasm into your presentation. Your audience will feel this and stay connected to your presentation throughout its duration.”
Authenticity can go a long way for keeping audiences engaged and getting key points across.
Psych Up the Crowd
Even if you’re speaking on a serious subject, try to get the crowd excited with positive energy and enthusiasm from the starting gate. Use technology to fill in the gaps and punctuate your points.
“Getting people excited and engaged in your presentation can help boost morale and lead to better results if you are looking for a call to action at the end,” said Cody Iverson, Co-Founder and CEO of VisCap Media. “Videos, infographics, and other visually appealing material breaks up talking and photos on PowerPoint slides. Get people involved in the presentation by asking the room questions or getting suggestions for answers, depending on what your presentation is about.”
We all know that meetings aren’t the most exciting events, so put in some extra effort to break the monotony.
You can only go so far with facts, figures, and charts during a presentation. Mix things up with stories throughout the session to keep audiences captivated for the less entertaining parts.
“Tell a story when presenting,” said Omid Semino, CEO of Diamond Mansion. “Stories help people pay attention, connect, and remember things. Storytelling will help your audience engage in your presentation. So think about what you are presenting and how you can create your presentation to tell that story.”
Stories don’t have to be thrilling to be effective – it’s all about the delivery.
It’s best to not take questions throughout your presentation, since this disrupts its flow and effectiveness. Wait until you’ve made your points and take questions after.
“Leave some time for Q&A at the end of your presentation, because people will have follow-up questions and want to say their piece,” said Kelli Lane, CMO at Genexa. “Be accommodating and do your best to answer questions. If you don’t know something off the bat, connect with them later and follow up.”
Remember to thank everyone for their questions and put a memorable twist on your answers if you can.
If you could effectively transmit one key idea into the mind of every audience member, what would it be? Pinpoint this idea and make it the central focus of your presentation.
“A great tip for having a successful presentation is to keep it simple,” said Alex Czarnecki, CEO of Cottage. “Focus your presentation on the core message that you wish to convey. This will allow you to communicate the core message effectively to your audience. If it doesn’t apply to your core message then do not include it in your presentation.”
This is a good tactic to trim down your presentation and make it more impactful.
Not So Fast
Everyone tends to rush when they reach the stage or get to the floor for a presentation. It’s in our nature to speed up, but you need to fight that urge and take it slow.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” said Vincent Bradley, CEO and Co-Founder of Proper Wild. “If you speak too fast, it will be difficult for your audience to understand what you’re trying to say, and it will make you appear nervous. By consciously slowing down your speech, you’ll project confidence and calm. This will also force you to make your presentation clear and concise – instead of trying to fit thirty minutes of content into a fifteen-minute presentation, you’ll have to prioritize information and intelligently choose your words in advance.”
Try practicing with timers or video yourself to make sure you maintain a slow and even pace.
When the presenter is fumbling around with technology in front of an audience, that’s not going to instill much confidence. Learn the tech inside and out so that you avoid being that person.
“Know the software that you will be using during your presentation like the back of your hand,” said Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods. “Especially during remote and hybrid work, knowing tips and tricks for presentation software like Zoom and Google Meet can level up your communication abilities. For example, Zoom shortcuts can make your presentations run seamlessly, and knowing which buttons perform which actions can help you avoid unnecessary technical difficulties.”
Watch tutorials, read blogs, or simply practice as much as possible with these platforms, because it will pay off.
You never want an audience to feel like they are receiving the same, automated speech you’ve made 1000 times before. Mix it up and personalize the presentation for the people in front of you.
“Know your audience and address them with details that would only be relevant to the room at the present moment,” said Dr. Livingood, Founder, and CEO of Livingood Daily. “People can tell when you’re being generic – or worse – disingenuous.”
No need to overhaul your whole presentation. Just add some flourishes to make things more personal where it’s appropriate.
Watch some classic speeches from CEOs, politicians, and motivational speakers. They are a commanding presence on the stage, and use their voices effectively as well.
“Start thinking about what you sound like,” said Celebrity Vocal Coach Roger Love. “Your voice is the most powerful communication tool you possess. A 2017 Yale study proved that we have learned to lie with our words and our body language, but the sounds of your voice reveal authenticity and truth. Learn how to use melody, volume, pitch, and pace to create sounds that move people emotionally.”
It’s always weird to record yourself and play it back, but this is how the best speakers master their craft.
Charisma is a key trait when presenting to an audience, but you’ll also need to back up what you say with facts. Research is the key to a well-rounded presentation.
“There’s no better way to become a better presenter than to do your research,” said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. “Nothing can replace data when you need a go-to reference or point, and it also serves for excellent after-seminar or webinar downloads. Have all of your information in order, backed with slides that will make it simple to introduce a point and then elaborate.”
Even if your presentation isn’t exactly a fireworks show, the research will make it worthwhile for anyone listening.
What the Audience Wants
You know your mission as a presenter: send the right message and make persuasive points. But have you considered what audience members want from this exchange? It’s worth thinking about.
“The number one tip for a great presentation is to focus on your audience’s needs,” said John Levisay, CEO of The Pro’s Closet. “Build your presentation around what your audience will get out of your presentation. Keep the audience’s needs in mind as you create your presentation and while giving it. This will make it easier for them to understand and respond.”
Be sure to hit your main points while catering to the needs of the audience, too. That’s the winning formula.
Since the first caveman stood on a rock to explain how to make fire, one thing has always been true about presentations: they need to solve real problems.
“Being a presenter has changed dramatically since the pandemic, with so many regular speakers learning to adjust to a computer screen and the challenges of webinars vs. in-person events,” said Heidi Robinson, Chief Operating Officer at Because Market. “However, one positive thing is that most speakers have learned to find ways to really connect with their audience – even if they’re halfway across the globe. Everyone loves solutions to common problems. So, make an effort to provide those, along with actionable steps to never experience those challenges in the first place.”
If your presentation doesn’t identify a problem and offer a solution, consider a new angle.
Show, Don’t Tell
If there’s a way to make your points with visual aids, before-and-after photos, or straight facts and figures, do that. Nothing is more effective than clearly showing the audience what you can do for them.
“Vividly paint a picture,” said Michael Port, CEO of Heroic Public Speaking. “All world-saving performances are transformational experiences for your audience. Start out by showing, here’s what you’ve got today, and here’s how it could be.’ This builds immediate rapport and hooks the audience’s interest. You know them. You understand them. You’ve got their back, and you’ve got a better way.”
Not every message needs a visual component, but this strategy can emphasize the points that matter most.
It’s totally normal to be nervous before a big presentation, even if there are just a few people in the room. Be prepared, keep it together, and use some mental tactics to stay on point.
“Having relaxation techniques to help calm your nerves right before you present can help you look more professional and confident while giving your presentation,” said Eddie Huai, CEO of Luna Blanket. “Being too nervous, or even talking about how nervous you are, can actually give off the impression that you’re unprepared if speaking with people who don’t know you, so acknowledging it with yourself and handling it beforehand can help with that. Breathing techniques, visualization, and other quick methods are easy ways to relax before a big presentation.”
Do some research on relaxation methods and find a way to calm down quickly before you go on.
Follow a Format
It can be tricky to map out a presentation from scratch, especially if you’re new to the medium. Use an established blueprint at first and make adjustments as you figure out the format.
“When you are giving a presentation, always remember to follow the 10-20-30 rule,” said Jim Beard, COO of Box Genie. “This rule states that to have a presentation that contains no more than 10 slides, it should last no longer than 20 minutes and have a font size of no less than 30 points. This will help keep you from overloading your presentation with too much information on the slides. Remember the slides are there as a guide, while the presenter elaborates on the points to allow full understanding of the topic.”
Do a few presentations based on a familiar structure, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Nervousness is often just a sign that you’re unprepared for the task ahead. Have a healthy sense of self-confidence, but put in the work as well so that you feel emboldened when the time comes to present.
“Early preparation is the best thing you can do for yourself if you’re nervous for a presentation,” said Meghan Maupin, Co-Founder and CEO of Atolla. “That way, you can tell yourself that you have gone over everything you need and can walk into the room with confidence that you will succeed in your presentation. I like to try to remember key points for each slide, rather than memorize a script where you could get stuck on a single word.”
Skilled presenters have the confidence to freestyle when needed, and preparation is what allows them to improvise effectively.
Break the Ice
You can spend hours perfecting a presentation, but you’ll stumble out of the starting gate if you don’t have a great intro to propel you forward.
“The best way to create an engaging and successful presentation is with a strong introduction,” said Jack Mason, CEO of Jack Mason Watches. “Many use this as an opportunity to tell a quick story or joke that engages the audience. Setting the tone in the presentation from the start, tells your audience what to expect from the rest of your presentation. If done correctly, you will hook your audience in for a great presentation.”
Some people love seizing the opportunity to make presentations, while others dread it completely. Hopefully, these tips will offer something for everyone and take their public speaking skills to the next level.