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Are You a Top-Flight Presenter? Here’s How You Can Be

If your business depends on face-to-face meetings with key decision-makers or on your ability to communicate before an audience (group meeting, PowerPoint presentation, as a guest speaker), your first responsibility is not to bore the people listening to you. More than that, your goal is to persuade and influence—a critically important part of the sales process.

How good are your presentation skills? Unless you’re a born communicator (few of us are), here are tips to help deliver your message in a way that compels your audience to want to learn more.

Know who you’re talking to

Whether you’re addressing one person or a hundred people, you have to understand the needs of your audience. What problems do they face that your product or service addresses? Can you describe specific situations in which your product or service can truly help them? What benefits can they expect from what you’re selling?

Practice, practice, practice

You may think you’re a whiz at talking off the top of your head, but it only takes one moment of panic in front of an audience to make you believe otherwise. Experts caution against trying to memorize your presentation, since people are quick to pick up on a speech that’s overly prepared and lacks any spontaneity.  Instead, write your main points on a handful of index cards and work from there. Practice your presentation again and again—in front of a mirror, before a willing family member, or maybe at your local toastmaster club.

Another helpful tip: Video yourself giving the presentation. The experience is guaranteed to alert you to things you do well and things that need improvement.

Knock ‘em dead

Yes, you’ll be nervous on the day of your meeting or presentation. But the adrenalin coursing through your system can help you focus and prevent you from coming across in a stiff manner. Use that nervous energy to connect with the audience.

When it’s time to make your presentation, remember the three elements of a persuasive presentation: (1) Tell them what you’re going to say; (2) Say what you’ve come to say; and (3) Tell them what you’ve just said.

Your opening should consist of a humorous anecdote, an attention-grabbing statistic, or even a question. Outline the benefits of your product or service, and address any likely questions your audience may have. Keep in mind we all have short attention spans. Move briskly from one part of the presentation to the next.

What about the way you deliver your presentation? Eye contact and body language are very important. Refrain from looking out into the crowd or up at the ceiling. Make eye contact with one person at a time. Keep your shoulders back and arms at your sides (except when gesturing to emphasize a point). Be confident and you’ll come across as confident, which accentuates the value of what you have to say.

Remember to speak clearly and loud enough so everyone in the room can hear you. Hopefully, as part of your extensive rehearsal process, you’ve eliminated “filler” words and sounds like “uh” and “like.” They only slow you down.

Questions, anyone?

You finish your presentation to enthusiastic applause. Now it’s time to take questions—a great opportunity to clarify your message, respond to any objections and strengthen your rapport with the audience. At the end of the question-and-answer period, repeat your one key statement. This should be the last thing people come away with, not some off-the-wall question that left everyone scratching their heads.

For more information:

“How to Improve Your Business Presentation Skills” –  NancySylvester.com

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