Stories are powerful tools. They change how we think and feel about something. Take books, films, plays… They all use the power of a well-structured story to take us on emotional journeys we’ll remember for years to come.
A good presentation should draw on this power. For those that work in sales, creating a presentation that conveys key messages, in a memorable way, is critical to getting clients on board. By harnessing the power of business storytelling, sales professionals can stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression with an audience who otherwise wouldn’t have remembered their pitch 10 minutes afterwards.
The most important things in creating a presentation that sticks are: proper planning; preparing the actual content of your speech by structuring your story and deciding on a design; and delivering it in an engaging way. Here are a few tips to help you make a huge impact with your next presentation:
Planning your Presentation
Give the initial planning phase the attention it deserves. Putting together a well-designed presentation takes time and effort, and the way in which you present your information should always be tailored to your audience.
One useful approach is to divide people into three categories: Factual, Creative or Emotional. Factual people want to understand the thinking behind your product, and they need concrete facts and figures. Creative people respond to well-designed presentations; they would rather have a wide overview. Emotionally-minded people can be reached best through excellent delivery and a personal touch.
Keep a balance of these different approaches, but use them to bring out different facets to tailor it to your audience. For example, Financial Directors tend to be of the “factual” type, so give them lots of detail; whereas a pitch to Operations or Marketing executives should be more creative, with big-picture ideas. In some ways, your audience determines the mood of your story.
Preparing your content
The content of your presentation is critical. What you say needs to be accurate and clear; your key message needs to be at the core of your entire presentation; and what you show your audience should be simple and well-designed.
Here’s how to do it:
Facts – First, always do your research. Double check any facts and figures; don’t be caught out by claiming something incorrect about either your topic or your client.
Structure – Once you have your information to hand, start assembling it into a story. Start with a blank page – this is your script. Remember your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as an overarching narrative. Are there obstacles and solutions, or a central character? Don’t worry about editing in the beginning just get down what you think is important.
Review – Take a break before you review what you’ve written. Go back to it with fresh eyes, and cut out anything that seems unclear or non-essential. Focus on why your idea, team or market is a “must invest” opportunity. Your watch words for this process should be clarity, accuracy, and efficiency.
Messaging – What do you want your audience to remember? The bottom line is always the most important thing. Now that you’ve developed succinct and engaging content, you need to distill the take-away message down to one sentence.
This finished script will be roughly what you want to talk though, but not what goes into your presentation. For that you need to strip out bite-sized chunks of information and headlines, which will form the basis of your visual illustration.
Design is essential for making a good first impression. This is important, and you only have limited time: people only take 15 seconds to make an initial judgement.
First of all, choose your presentation software. The software you choose can help get you noticed. Everyone knows about Microsoft PowerPoint but there are new alternatives out there that you can also use - Google Slides and Prezi are two of the more popular ones. Base your decision upon which software is most suited to illustrate connections within your story.
We’ve learnt that these are a handful of critical things to focus on when designing your presentation:
1. Keep text to a minimum – think headlines, not paragraphs! Less is more. You don’t want people to get distracted by a block of text
2. Highlight the important parts – use bold and font size to emphasis what you want people to focus on and remember
3. One thought at a time – keep it to one idea per image
4. Use color wisely – Pick a complimentary color palette and use it consistently. Use Adobe’s color wheel to find a set of colors that go together well.
5. Use great photography – invest a small amount of money (£5 - £30) on buying images from somewhere like istockphoto. Great images make your presentation standout – but avoid having lots of photos without a purpose
6. Fonts – use a business style font that sets the right tone – use a sans-serif font for a factual or tech-based approach, and a serif font to give a more stylish impression
Remember that design, and the visual impression you give, is just as important as developing excellent content, as illustrated in this Prezi.
Tips for presenting like a pro
While creating an engaging story and choosing an appealing design are already half the job of communicating well, the other essential part is how you deliver your presentation. Don’t be intimidated by professional speakers, who seem to effortlessly deliver lengthy presentations, without stuttering or forgetting a word. Storytelling will help you memorize details more easily. Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to prepare yourself, and help get those nerves under control:
Practice – the more familiar you are with your material, the better you’ll deliver it. Write it out over and over, say it out loud, pace whilst you practice it. Framing your content like a beginning-to-end story will help you memorize details more easily.
Experience – get as much experience talking in public as possible. If there aren’t many opportunities available to you, practice with a trusted friend or business partner so that you can gain confidence.
Engage – remember that you’re presenting to an audience, not an empty room. Ask questions or pause to give them opportunities to think or speak. This makes your speech more captivating, but also gives you a moment to catch your breath.
Providing there are no surprises, you should now be on your way to giving a high-quality presentation. By going through all of the above steps, your next presentation will make a huge impact.