Running a successful business presentation can be a daunting prospect for anyone, irrespective of whether they have previous experience in the process or not. As with any public speaking event there are always variables beyond the presenter’s control that can compromise the quality of the presentation. It is therefore very important that the speaker ensures that there are contingencies in place wherever possible.
Given that most presentations involve the use of audio-visual aids, making sure that they are in good working order, that back-up batteries are fully charged and projection screens or white boards are clean and unblemished, is of the highest priority. It is also important to be aware of the seating arrangements in advance, in order that the visual media can be positioned to afford all of the audience an unrestricted view. A run-through using the venue’s sound and lighting systems is particularly good practice. All of the audio-visual and presentation materials should be stored safely and securely within the appropriate containers and bags to ensure that the equipment is safe, undamaged and in place, and available for future needs.
Preparing mentally for a presentation is crucial to its success. Even if some minor disasters disrupt and interrupt a presentation, a confident, knowledgeable and relaxed presenter will find that the audience will still remember their key points and presentation skills. Much of this mental preparation lies in practicing the presentation in your home or office. Developing a body posture that exudes a confident, relaxed, but knowledgeable expert within the field, is the aim. Even if you are extremely nervous, a well-delivered and inclusive presentation will always win the day. It is obvious that you will scan the audience and inwardly assess their level of involvement and enjoyment, that is a natural reaction, and to win them over and keep their attention the use of humour, where appropriate, is invaluable, as is maintaining eye contact with delegates. Looking to the ceiling or beyond the audience, even if it is a strategy to reduce nervousness, can come across as disinterested or disconnected. Maintaining the audience’s attention is the single most important aspect of your presentation. Eye contact does not have to be intense, but friendly and inclusive, attempting to make every delegate feel you are talking directly to him or her. It is also particularly useful, in order to provide post-presentation reminders and memory joggers, to provide delegates with branded conference bags that will provide them with instant recall of aspects of your presentation.
Ultimately the key to running a successful presentation is in the amount of rehearsal time you devote to it. The more you practice the less you will need to refer to cue cards or notes – a specific dislike of delegates. A proficient and confident presenter is seen as a person who is intensely knowledgeable about their subject and will, in most cases, not be expected to read or refer constantly to prepared materials. Practice hard, perfect your delivery in terms of pace, style and body language and exude confidence. Make reference to an object such as your conference bags to reinforce a most salient point to maximise both delegate recall and value for money. Running a successful presentation need not be daunting; embrace the aspects that make you anxious and rehearse until you are feeling confident that you can deliver.