Trudi du Toit

4 Features of Successful Presentations

The main purpose of delivering a presentation is to achieve your desired outcome. Whatever it’s about, you want people to take action on your suggestions. Since it takes time and considerable effort to structure a presentation, you want to ensure that it is well received and achieves that desired result. So what are the key elements of an effective presentation? Is it the quality of our slides, our well researched evidence or maybe by the humour we add? Is it the content or the structure or a balanced combination of all these things? Great presentations are built on a handful of basics and more often than not, presenters simply don’t understand what those basics are.

Presentations may fail to attain their objective simply because they just feel too much like presentations. The presenter’s emphasis is too strongly focused on the content of the presentation instead of developing a connection with the audience. Both content and rapport are important and should blend together seamlessly.

Anyone from a CEO to a Buyer feels more comfortable doing business with an approachable human being than a programmed robot. Yet we so often allow the advantages of technology, specifically visual aids to turn into a disadvantage by incorrect use.

The first and most important rule of presenting is therefore to be human, and to communicate with the people in your audience through effective eye contact and warmth in your voice. These are far and away your most powerful engagement resources – not your slides!

The second most important aspect is to know what you’re going to say and in which order you want to say it. Your audience does not need to be dazzled with your vast subject knowledge, they simply want the information they need to make a decision. In order to achieve this flow there are 5 basics:

  • Select the information you wish to present (from your bank of knowledge)
  • Plan – structure it in a sensible format, usually with a introduction, body and close
  • Prepare – get all your bits and pieces together
  • Practice. This is the most neglected step, and one of the most vital.
  • Review before going live, either by practising in front of a mirror, your camcorder or a person.

Part of your preparation may be to create visuals (slides) to illustrate key points – not every point mind you, key points only. These will come across far more effectively if you avoid too much writing and make the slideshow visually pleasing.

Thirdly, you have to be prepared to address the concerns of your audience. Presenters who mess up this part of their show not only fail to get the business, but leave feeling humiliated. The tools required to successfully accomplish this part is research, planning and a technique for answering questions.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to ask for action. If you’ve really dazzled them you may not need to, but if you sense hesitation, a confidently hosted question time will go a long way to allay their concerns. This is often a good time to ask for the business and close the deal.

In summary, here are those 4 features:

  1. Engage your audience – make a strong connection
  2. Select key points and structure them
  3. Address concerns
  4. Ask for action

You can’t afford to score 2 or 3 out of 4 here, you have to get all of these things right. If any of these four areas go wrong your objective is unlikely to be met. If you were to look back on presentations you’ve done that were not successful, chances are you may find that it was because one of these four areas were left out.

Surprisingly, the last one, although important, is the least important of the four. Research shows that closing is only necessary if there is still doubt or hesitation in the customer’s mind. If you’ve done the first three properly, your clients usually make a decision naturally.

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