If you’re in sales—and that’s nearly everyone in the company—you need to make presentations. Whether it’s a one-on-one to a prospective client, or a keynote speech at a conference, delivering a great presentation is vital to your success.
Here are 14 tips for presenting more effectively.
1. Open strong
Your opening is your opportunity to grab your audience’s attention. Don’t waste it by telling a stale joke or talking about the history of your company. Instead, cite a startling statistic, make a bold statement, or ask a provocative question. Or consider one of these other powerful options.
2. Close stronger
Whatever you say last is what your audience will remember best. So finish with something worth remembering. Like what? Check out eleven ideas here.
3. Know your opening and closing cold
You don’t need to memorize your entire presentation. Very few people—even professional speakers—do this. (For a variety of reasons.) You do need to memorize your opening and closing though. In order to deliver these two crucial pieces of your presentation with maximum impact, you need to have them down cold.
4. Vary your rate, tone, and volume
Speaking in a monotone will put your audience to sleep. And while shouting can be extremely effective when used judiciously, if you do it for the entire presentation—which I have experienced far too often—it not only loses its impact, it seriously turns off your listeners. Think of your presentation like a TV show or movie: the pacing, intensity, emotional feel, and volume all need to change frequently to keep the audience’s attention.
5. Look at your audience, not your slides
Whether you’re presenting to one person or a thousand, eye contact is critical. So don’t turn your back to them. Whenever possible, place a laptop, tablet, or confidence monitor in front of you so you can see what slide you’re on, while still looking at your audience.
6. Slides—fewer words, more visuals
The days of slides packed with paragraphs of text are—or should be—long gone. PowerPoint is best for visuals—charts, graphs, drawings, photos, video—not long blocks of hard-to-read text. Speak the words, show the visuals.
7. Don’t stand or sit behind anything
Part of your success as a presenter stems from your ability to connect with your audience. And an important element for creating connection is how well they can see you. So don’t allow obstacles to come between you and your audience. If you’re in your office with a prospect, come out from behind your desk. If you’re on a stage, get out from behind the lectern. (A podium is what people stand on. A lectern is what people stand behind. Although they shouldn’t.)
8. Use a remote
You don’t want to be tethered to your computer. A remote enables you to roam around the room, which enhances your ability to connect with audience members. (Oh, and always pack extra batteries.)
9. Tell stories
Stories provide context for data so we can make sense of it. Stories communicate emotion as well as facts. Stories hold our attention. Stories can inspire people to act. Tell more of them.
10. Get your audience involved
People today don’t want to just sit and listen to a presentation. They want to be active participants in a conversation. So ask them questions. Have them share thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Incorporate relevant exercises and games. The more interactive you can make your presentation, the more powerful it will be.
11. Be enthusiastic
If you’re not excited about what you’re saying, why the hell should anyone else be?
12. Have a call to action at or near the end
What’s the point of your presentation? What do you want your listeners to do once you’ve finished? If you don’t include a call to action, you’ve wasted your time.
Okay, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it definitely makes better.
14. Get coaching
If you really want to up your presentation game, work with a presentation coach. A good coach can help you overcome your weaknesses and hone your strengths. Just a few hours with a coach can make a huge difference in your presentations.
The better your presentations, the better your sales. And the better for your career. Use these 14 tips to make every presentation more engaging, more professional, and more impactful.