Top tips to be more engaging in your business presentations

When you stand up and speak in a presentation, listeners will form an opinion of you, your product or service and your organisation, based on how you are coming across.  Come across as dull and boring – then that is the impression you leave them with of your organisation.  On the other hand, come across as engaging and they will be more likely to seek you out.

Below are our top 10 tips, which recently appeared in the Sunday Business Post, that can help you to be a more engaging presenter in your next business presentation.

1. What about “them”?  The most important element in any presentation is “them”, your audience.  Before you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard you need to find out all you can about them and what they want to get from your presentation.   The better you understand them, their attitude and their world, the better chance you have of engaging with them.

2. Begin with the end in mind.   What is the purpose of the presentation?  This should be crystal clear and you should be able to express it in a single sentence.   As you crystalise your purpose think of it from 2 angles.  Firstly, what is the purpose from their point of view?  Secondly, what is the purpose from your own point of view?  Always, put their purpose first.

3. Now the how?  How can you best achieve the purpose/s?  As you build the main body of your presentation think about what detail you can include to back up your points.  What facts, features, benefits, statistics, stories or visual aids will help to drive the message home?   The old expression “Facts Tell – Stories Sell” is as true now as when first coined.  Include relevant stories that will resonate with your audience.

4. Slice and dice.  In his book, The Jelly Effect, Andy Bounds says “Most people talk too much, too much of the time”.  How right he is!  One of my favourite things to do when working with clients is chopping their content.  It’s far more engaging to have a 20 minute presentation with fully focused information, rather than 40 minutes with superfluous material.

5. Accessorise.  Now is the time to create your slides, they are an accessory to help make your message more impactful and memorable.  Unfortunately, most people start to prepare their presentations by cobbling together existing slides.  This, I believe, is the main reason that most presentations fail. Best practice is to get all your messaging in order and then use slides as visuals aids (not props) to help reinforce the message.  Trust me when I tell you, this alone will make your presentation more engaging.

6. Practice till it hurts!  Practice your presentation as much as you can so that the content becomes familiar and can flow like a conversation.  No need to memorise it – at best it could sound robotic and at worst you could forget a word or phrase and end up stuck in a sentence.

7. Use your voice recorder.  When you have your content fully prepared, record yourself using your voice recorder on your phone.  That way you can listen to it several times and become familiar with it.  It also means that if it is a presentation you give regularly, the next time you need to give it, pull out the recording and listen to it as a refresher.

8. Pause, pause and pause some more.   Virtually every single presenter I work with has the same issue – not enough pausing.  When you pause the listener has an opportunity to digest your points.  Pausing allows you, the speaker, to gather your thoughts and think about exactly what you are going to say next.

9. Stop calling them nerves!  Nerves are normal.  The adrenalin running through you, before or during a presentation, is your body’s way of getting ready for the big event.  Believe it or not, stress and excitement are, at the basic level, neurologically the same.  So change your language and tell yourself you are excited.  And, following on from this….

10. Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.  Dale Carnegie’s words are as true today as when he first said them almost 100 years ago.  Most people talk about how much they dread speaking in public, but is this kind of self-talk helpful?  Next time you have to give a presentation – act enthusiastic and you have a much better chance of engaging your audience.

If you want to become a more engaging speaker, why not attend our next 1 Day Presentation Skills Masterclass in the IMI (Irish Management Institute), Sandyford on the 16th November.