Monday, 24 January 2011

Preparing for a Business Presentation

Most people under-prepare for their business presentations.  A common mistake is that a lot of business people think that they can just 'wing it'.  Good luck to you.  Luck is commonly described as preparation meets opportunity.  You have been given a business opportunity but if you haven't prepared enough, then you will need all the luck you can get.


  • 'WALK THROUGH' your key points, but have someone in the room with you (even your partner, kids or a friend).
  • While driving to the meeting, say your key points aloud to help you memorise your points.
  • Set very clear objectives to your presentation, and stick to your key points.
  • Think of the hardest question that you could be asked, and aim to come up with a great answer to that question.  If you don't know the answer, ask a colleague/boss.  If you really don't know what the answer could be, you can always say to the audience, "I don't know, but I'll get back to you".  If you want to win their business, get back to the questioner with the right information sooner than you promised.
  • Memorise and structure your introduction.
  • A great format is ABCD: ATTENTION: Good morning, etc. BENEFITS: This is the reason why the audience will want to pay attention to you CREDENTIALS: Why you are an expert in this subject? DIRECTION: signpost your audience about the structure of your presentation (the main 2-3 points) and how long you will take.
  • Structure your ideas into a logical narrative.
  • Use metaphors, current events, clear examples, analogies or commonly known stories to make your ideas more memorable to the audience.
  • Practice your will you bridge this idea to the next one?
  • Think about warming up your body and voice to make you look more relaxed and help prepare yourself.
  • A rule in the theatre is: 'bad dress rehearsal, great opening night' use all your mistakes as learning points to help in your preparation.
  • Ask your boss for an extra hour to help you prepare.  Stand up and perform your pitch, do not spend another hour (or two) trying to make your PowerPoint slides more interesting.  Try to make yourself more interesting, not your slides!
  • Prepare 'prompts' not scripts, this will keep you more 'present' in front to your audience and can help prevent you from reading too much.
  • Think of your PowerPoint slides as a guide to your ideas, not a rigid structure that you must adhere to.
  • Don't be afraid to skip ahead a few slides if you have already covered a point or you think it is now an irrelevant point to the audience.
  • Draw a map of your ideas and use the space to 'anchor' your thoughts.  So, for example, move to the right side of the room when you talk about your sales targets.
  • Focus on your key 2-3 messages and keep them simple.
  • Consider asking the audience a few direct questions.  Don't be afraid to pick out a person in the audience and ask them for their thoughts about your information.  They may not wish to say anything but it can help move your formal presentation into a less formal meeting.
  • Over-prepare but under-deliver: prepare 20 minutes but deliver 15 minutes of material.  Nobody likes a bore, so keep it brief and clear.
  • Prepare a closing statement.  Think of your 'Final Thought' and a remember to repeat your name and how people can contact at the end of presentation (after the Question and Answer session).
  • Consider how much monetary value your pitch is worth, have you prepared enough to equal the value of your business proposal.
  • Get into your 'performance' space early (if possible).  Can help to do a quick voice check to make sure people can hear you and get your room laid out professionally.
  • Keep the room cool.  If you want the audience to fall asleep, turn off the lights and turn the heaters on full blast.
  • Prepare your outfit in advance and wear something that makes you feel confident.
  • Eat a light breakfast or snack before you begin.
  • Avoid colas, carbonated water and too much coffee beforehand.
  • DO NOT DO YOUR PREPARATION IN THE RECEPTION AREA OF YOUR CLIENT (if you need to ask why, then you don't deserve the work you are winning).
Taking a little extra time to prepare can pay vast dividends and even help to ease your nerves.  Even if you prepare an extra 5 minutes, that extra effort can be helpful in making sure that your ideas a clear and memorable. 


If you are delivering a group presentation make certain that one person is made 'the chairperson' and takes a formal role in the presentation such as introducing the group and each member of the presentaing team (including identifying what topics each presenters will be speaking about).   Practice your segues, 'Now Dave will talk to you about Quality Assurance' and decide what will be your 'final thought' (and who will be saying it).  When exiting, don't dawdle or gossip.  Get out of the office quick and then find a coffee shop far away to have a group de-brief.