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Business Presentation Skills Don’t Start with PowerPoint Slides

Posted on August 5, 2010 by Leslie Dickson

stars

How you can be the star of your own show

I don’t hate PowerPoint. Really, I don’t.  It’s a great tool.  But for so many people, it becomes a crutch instead.  For example, I Googled the phrase, “making better PowerPoints” and came up with about 964,000 results.  Check a few and you find suggestions about type size, making your own template, adding audio and animation.  But you know what’s not there? This tip: Use it less.

When you make PowerPoint the star of your presentation instead of you, you’re giving up influence, authenticity, connection.  Think about communication skills and work on creating PowerYou instead of PowerPoint.

Know your audience.

Explaining a new insurance process to doctors affected by it is not the same as talking to the medical office billing staff who’ll handle the real paperwork. Or the processing department at the insurance company. Or the sales reps who’ll be facing customers.  If you don’t have time to do some research, you may want to ask your audience a few questions as you start the program and adapt accordingly.

Tap into your passion.

If you’ve been asked to make a business presentation, it’s likely to be in an area of expertise. Expertise generally grows out of a passion for a subject area.  Let that be your guide. It can infuse your presentation with energy and help you trust your instincts, relax and feel more confident.

Answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”

A colleague of mine in marketing says the first law of advertising is answering that question. It applies to presentations, too. Whether you have 30 seconds or 60 minutes to influence a decision, start with the audience’s self interest.

Make a personal, emotional connection right at the start.

Tell a story that captures your point. Read a customer comment that expressed the idea. Share a surprising factoid. Or,  (PowerPoint alert!) a great photo. You engage people rather than simply talking at them.

Practice, always. Memorize, never.

Not even the best speakers can “wing it.”  Practice out loud.  Find a willing friend, or tape recorder.  You’ll find (and smooth out) the inevitable bumps.   Don’t memorize your speech though.  It’s likely to become stilted and distant – and you won’t be able connect with and react to your audience. If you have a chance, you might want to videotape yourself.  In our years of experience at VoicePro workshops , we know that seeing yourself on a tv screen makes your strengths obvious and points up areas for improvement.

Breathe, relax, let your natural energy come through.

We find so often at VoicePro that people who are feeling stressed tend to pull in, hunch over, take shallow breaths.  Open up, breathe, and the power will flow into a stronger, more energetic voice.

Own your space.

Don’t cower behind a podium.  Move your whole body if the environment permits or at least your face and hands.  Keep an open stance and stay loose.  Bring a few props along if it will help.  And don’t turn your back on the audience to read your PowerPoint slides.

Focus on the audience, not yourself.

If you’re concentrating on what they need and what feedback they’re providing, your nervousness will give way to honest connection.

Image by Adam Foster | Codefor

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