Even confident presenters have room to improve. Follow these nine handy tips to polish your presentations.
If you already deliver a show-stopping presentation you know it's a valuable skill to have. But even the strongest presenters have room to improve. With carefully chosen presentation software, effective preparation and some emotional intelligence, you'll set yourself apart in the eyes of your clients and build a stronger relationship as well.
Presentation format: choose the right foundation
Sure, you can remain old-school and use a printed presentation, but why not impress your client with your digital capabilities and use a visually engaging software program? Then you can always print out a hard copy for your client to take away, or email a soft copy after the meeting.
New presentation software options frequently arrive on the market, but Microsoft PowerPoint remains a safe and popular choice, and for good reasons. With multiple design features, you can create a polished deck with sophisticated transitions and complex animations.
Apple Keynote presentations can look fantastic in the right hands. Close enough in format to PowerPoint that it's simple to learn the basics, Keynote's extra features like its easy sound, image and video integration as well as QuickTime export capability for simple YouTube upload can elevate presentations to a new level. An added advantage is its integration with Apple hardware: you can customise pre-loaded presentation templates on an iPad, use Bluetooth to connect to a big screen via Apple TV and flick between slides from across the room: no cables, no worries. However if Apple devices aren't available in the presentation room, technical compatibility problems endure between Mac and PC.
Easy sharing with multiple stakeholders in disparate locations sets Google Slides apart from its competitors so if it's collaboration you're after, Slides is a sensible choice. Work-in-progress is updated in real-time and saved in the cloud. You can access Slides on any device, web publishing is simple and the product is free. Criticism comes in the area of the sophistication of its design tools, which fall way short of both PowerPoint and Keynote.
Polish your presentation: essential building blocks
Once you've chosen a software platform, it's time to think about the presentation itself. Several factors can make a huge difference to how your presentation lands:
1. Set expectations ahead of time
It helps if your client or prospective client knows exactly what your meeting is about. Circulate an agenda ahead of time or at least give the meeting a title. For example, "Quarterly Review of Goals" will provide enough information for a client to know what you'll discuss when you meet.
2. Gauge your client's mood
Plenty of personal factors enter the equation when meeting in small groups or one-on-one. Start the meeting with a few questions as a temperature check. A simple, "How's your day been?" is a great start. Use your emotional intelligence to measure the mood and adjust your plans for the meeting if needed. For example, your client may arrive impatient. If that happens, cut the small talk and get straight down to business. They may be flustered or stressed by external factors you can't control and it's important to read the situation and react accordingly. An appropriate response to your client's mood will allow the presentation to progress far more smoothly.
3. Be informal
Set a client or prospect at ease with an informal approach. Professional doesn't need to be stiff or artificial. Be human and respectful and use plain language that's jargon-free.
4. Prepare for multiple scenarios
Caught off-guard? It can undermine your credibility. Extensive preparation is essential to create and deliver a quality presentation. Use what you know about your client to anticipate their questions, and arm yourself with options that are likely to interest them. Make sure you properly research a variety of solutions to their needs so you can guide your client to a decision they're comfortable with. If your client wants to go into detail then it's vital that you've done the work and know your material. If you don't immediately have an answer, it's also valid to tell your client you'll look into their question and respond later. Then make sure you follow up promptly.
5. Respect your company brand
Wherever you work, there are certain key messages that need delivery in meetings. A strong sense of brand identity is a basis for establishing trust. Keep your company values in mind when building your presentation: what feeling should your client leave the meeting with? You want your client to know they're in safe hands, and using recent past company performance relevant to their situation is a good starting point.
6. Pay attention
Be aware of how your client receives the information you're presenting. Ask questions to be sure you engage with their interests. And look for natural biases. For example, some clients will challenge every point you make (and it's important not to get defensive), while others prefer to avoid details and bond over lunch. Also, be alert for the question beneath a question: the one they may be uncomfortable to ask. If, for example, you hear an oblique reference to fears about hidden costs, be up-front about your fee structure, so your client has clear expectations moving forward.
7. Show and tell
Presentation software offers dozens of options when it comes to visual information. Graphs, charts, maps, statistics – use what best suits your subject matter. Be clear on how to interpret the information if you're asked to. And keep the information per slide to a minimum.