What makes a business presentation effective? What differentiates a business presentation that gets results from one that results in a huge snore (or worse)? What are the tools and techniques the experts use?
As part of a MA dissertation I’ve researched the characteristics of effective business presentations – what differentiates the very best presenter, and the very best presentations, from the rest. And why would you want to know this stuff? Well it strikes me that you just might find it useful to have a quick insight into what an effective presentation looks like in practice; according to the folk who know (that’s some of the best-selling authors – see bibliography below – and some of the presenters and trainers who use these techniques day in and day out)
OK, so, what do you think the characteristics of an effective business presentation are? Drum roll please….
The 7 Top Characteristics of Effective Business Presentations
The top seven characteristics (in priority order) of an effective business presentation are:
Presentation Technique One: A presenter skilled at delivery
This covers everything from managing ‘stage fright’, to voice work (articulation, projection and clarity) to techniques for engaging the audience. More importantly it also includes practice and getting feedback (every single writer and consultant sees it as absolutely crucial). Simple principle: they way the presentation is delivered has a huge impact upon how that presentation is received and how the presenter is perceived. You can read more on delivery here
Presentation Technique Two: Knowledge of the audience
I guess this one is fairly obvious? Have you ever been to a presentation and thought ‘who does this chump think they are talking to?’ Me too. There really is nothing worse than listening to a presentation that doesn’t resonate with you or your experience. Read more on knowing your audience here
Presentation Technique Three: A clear and effective structure
The structure is the plan to get you from point A to point B. It’s also a tool for achieving the objective of the presentation; a well chosen and effective structure (and there are more structure forms to choose from than many people realise) is a great tool for persuasion. And if that wasn’t enough, a clear structure helps with retaining the audience’s attention. You can read more here
Presentation Technique Four: A defined goal or objective
Who wants to go on a journey without knowing what the destination is and why they are going there? Me neither. Having a defined goal is all about being able to answer the question ‘what’s the point of this presentation?’ It’s answering that question well that gives your presentation focus and drive. Read more here
Presentation Technique Five: The use of stories
Stories work like magic. They grab attention, engage emotions and illuminate your message. They’re also likely to be the most memorable part of your presentation. But they do need to have a clear structure. You can read an example here
Presentation Technique Six: An introduction that includes the aim
This is all about making clear right from the get-go what the purpose of the presentation is. It’s about managing expectations and it’s about being able to articulate from the outset what the value your presentation is going to be to the audience. Very few people enjoy a magical mystery tour (at least in a business presentation). You can see how this works with an example of the key question – so what? – here
Presentation Technique Seven: The effective use of visual aids
Yep, basically we’re talking PowerPoint (or any alternative presentation software). We’ve all heard of ‘death by PowerPoint’ so the focus here is on how to use the software to support and enhance your message – to be a powerful (and literal) ‘visual aid’. One of the key skills in using PowerPoint is to keep control on the amount of text. You can read more about this in ‘The Problem of the 90 word slide’
Effective Business Presentation Techniques: What about you?
Surprised? Well I guess not. Maybe a more interesting question would be; how many of these characteristics or techniques do you demonstrate in preparing for and delivering your presentations? Me? I’d say I’m pretty good at delivery techniques, structure, defining the goal and I always have an introduction that includes the aim. I’ve recently also learnt a whole lot more about how to use PowerPoint! But knowledge of the audience? Use of stories? I definitely could improve in these areas. What about you?
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
If you would like to know how I can help you, your team or your business use research-based tools and techniques to improve your presentations just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courville, R. 2012. The Virtual Presenters Handbook. Oregon, US: 1080 Group LLC.
Davies, G. 2010. The Presentation Coach. Bare Knuckle Brilliance For Every Presenter. Chichester, UK: Capstone Ltd.
Duarte, N. 2012. HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. Boston, US: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
Khan-Panni, P. 2012. FT Guide to Making Business Presentations. London: Financial Times Press / Pearson Education Ltd.
Ledden, E. 2013. The Presentation Book: How to Create It, Shape It and Deliver It. Harlow, UK: Pearson Ltd.
Lomas, B. 2010. Successful Presentations. Richmond, UK: Crimson Publishing.
Mills, D. et al (eds). 2010. The Book of Management. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.
Morgan, N. 2014. Presentations. Sharpen Your Message, Persuade Your Audience, Gauge Your Impact. Boston, USA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
Siddons, S. 2008. The Complete Presentation Skills Handbook. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Zelanzy, G. 2006. Say it with presentations. How to Design and Deliver Successful Business Presentations. NY, USA: McGraw Hill