Why Is An Effective Business Presentation Like A Motorway (Or A Freeway Or Autobahn)?

Back in the fifties, when the concept of a high speed carriageway was first envisaged, the planners thought, as they were intended to enable people to get from A to B as quickly as possible, that they should make motorways as straight as possible. The presumption was that speed and corners do not go well together.

Building them in straight lines would minimise the distance travelled and would reduce the number of accidents, because people would be able to see a long way in front of them and not have to slow down to negotiate bends in the road. Here in the UK, the section of the M1 as it goes north out of London, is a classic example of this style of design. It goes in a straight-line up hill and down dale for miles.

However, there are problems with this style of road design. Primarily, it is boring. Because you can see for miles ahead, you think you know exactly what is coming, and can easily lose concentration. You start thinking about other things rather than driving, some people may even start to fall asleep.

On a busy Friday evening, coming out of London on the M1, all you can see is mile upon mile of brake lights in front of you. There is little so dispiriting.

Modern highways are designed with very few straight sections, they meander across the countryside, frequently turning from side to side. Despite what you may think, this is not the effect of the influential and politically astute landowners who lobbied against the proposed routes of the new highway.

Over the years, highway designers have learnt that sweeping curves make the road more interesting. The bends mean that drivers need to concentrate more, which keeps them more alert. As an added bonus, if you are stuck in a traffic jam, there is always the optimistic view that it will clear just round the next bend, rather than knowing that it goes on and on for miles. So bends are actually safer than straight roads and the journey seem to pass more quickly.

The same design components apply when creating an effective presentation.

Don’t just rush from the start straight to the finish, take people on a journey. Add a few twists and turns, so that your audience discovers new things along the way. Back up your assertions, with a personal story that illustrates the point that you are making. People usually talk with more enthusiasm when they are recounting a personal anecdote, which in turn makes your presentation more interesting to your audience.

So, don’t give people the opportunity to fall asleep in your presentations, take then on a journey of discovery.

Ways to Maximise the Potential of Your Business Presentation

Business presentations are a collateral reflection of who you are. A glimpse of your personality could be seen in the ways and the content of your presentation.

The way you carry yourself, the way you speak, deliver your sentences, tackle tricky questions with confidence and successfully convey your message, speak volumes about your personality.

Still, there are much more ways in which you can support your business presentation to reach its maximum potential.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR SUPERPOWER

A positive way to keep your audience attentive to you is to show them that you are worth their time and trust. Rather than speaking about your achievements and future goals, speak about your credibility because if even little points will exist with which the crowd will not feel connected to then the tables will instantly turn.

Talk about your goals within the first few minutes of the presentation

Choose your presentation design which corresponds with your goals, which should be introduced to your audience as early as possible. This will help your audience to correlate what you are expressing with the ‘why’ and ‘what’ you want to achieve.

Never underestimate the impact of a powerful image/quote

A business presentation is usually a collection of fertile ideas, knit together as one to illustrate a larger picture. So, the smart use of different images/quotes to introduce different ideas will supply more power to your presentation. Vocalising the quotes or speaking few important words out loud will bring your presentation to life, especially if the presentation has numerous bar graphs, bullet points, and pie charts.

GIVE YOUR AUDIENCE THE POWER TO BRAINSTORM OVER YOUR QUESTIONS

One of the unbeatable ways to make your presentation more interactive is to begin it with a question which you, yourself will answer. Like you can start with “I asked myself what all can my team will be able to do and contribution for making this project a success?”. So, based on this question you can build up your presentation. Be alert to all the questions from your audience as they are icebergs of curiosity. The more you will suffice your audience, the stronger their trust will grow in you.

Be ready to tackle tough questions

Always be confident and logical at answering the questions from the audience. There will always be questions whose responses if given without solid facts and coherence, will put your image down in your crowd’s eyes. If you know your topic as well as you’re your audience, then always keep your business binary clean and do not ever shelve any question from the audience.

KEEP YOUR OWN QUESTIONS READY IF NOBODY ASKS YOU ANY

It could be a possibility that your audience is shy or somewhat hesitant to ask you questions about your presentations. Always remember, if you face this kind of a situation, then always compose a question to yourself because ‘zero curiosity’ turns into ‘zero interest’ overnight.

Take your crowd on a final journey

Always take your crowd on a final journey before you wrap up the presentation. Highlight all the important points and tell the crowd how they will be productive if given proper attention by the appropriate crowd.

Keeping the immense support in mind which we get from the PowerPoint presentations, one should also be able to support her/himself equally well during the closing moments of the presentation because humans invented the PowerPoint and not vice versa.

How to Start a Business Presentation

I used to love watching Sesame Street as a kid. It was an American TV show with Muppet style puppets. Every episode had some major learning point for us kids but we loved the programme for its colour, fun and songs.

One of my favourite songs was the ABC song which ended. “Now I know my ABC, next time will you sing with me”

Now this song always reminds me of the ABCD of presentations. A really clever neumonic to help you with the first few minutes of any presentation to get it off to the right start and give you lots of confidence to continue.

  • A – Attention
  • B – Benefits
  • C – Credibility
  • D – Direction

Attention

“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking….”

“Hello, my name is Paul Archer…”

“Uhm, OK, let’s get started then shall we?”

What do these three have in common? Yes of course they are bland, listless and terribly unexciting presentation starters.

Your first priority is to get the attention of your audience especially if you are selling and presenting at the same time. We don’t have the luxury of time, so we need to grab their attention in the first few moments.

Now it helps if you’ve done your circulating with the audience beforehand and have done some homework on the people sitting in front of you. This gives you some pointers as to the type of attention getter to use.

I’m not saying you should tell a joke. Perhaps you could but make sure it’s a self effacing joke to show your humility and not embarrass anyone sitting down.

  • Share a quotation. You can get thousands of these from the Internet and one might fit the bill.
  • Tell a story or metaphor which will link into the main points.
  • Ask a searching question.
  • A call to action
  • This day in history. Log onto the History Channel’s website and sign up for the email a day service. It’s great and everyday gives you something that happened this day in history. You might be able to link this in.

Benefits

Once you have their attention, tease them with some of the main benefits or the major one benefit they will get from listening and maybe staking action.

It might be obvious to you, but we have to think of our audience. WIIFM. What’s in it for me? Think in their shoes and share some benefits.

“What I’d like to do is to give you some bang up to date pointers which will help you decide your direction over the next year. These could give you a competitive advantage.”

Enough to intrigue, excite and make people want to listen more.

Credibility

Important to get this part done, if the audience have never met you before. Sometimes, in more formal settings, the Master of Ceremonies will introduce you and help to build your credibility.

However in most business presentations, particularly sales pitches or “beauty parades” you really do have to cement your credibility. Don’t overdo this bit. Don’t fall into the trap of telling them all about you, your history, your qualifications.

That’s zzzzz time.

Instead use a reassurance statement. This statement should include your name and your experience both in the customer’s industry or sector and your experience in dealing with similar problems to your customer.

“My name is Paul Archer, I’ve been working with salespeople across the globe for almost 20 years helping them to earn their bonuses. For the last two years I’ve been helping businesses like yours get better closing ratios from their Key Accounts.”

Direction

I love taking my three children on car journeys. My wife and I have a bet as to when the first one will ask “are we there yet Dad?” Normally my wife wins. So I reply “Not yet Euan, we’ve just passed Winchester and we’ll probably be at Nanas in half an hour.”

And they’re happy for the next few miles.

Now someone gave me a brilliant tip the other week to help in this arduous purpose. Keep telling them where you are and how long to go.

“Hey guys, we’ve just passed Stonehenge. Can you see it on your right? And we’ll be at Nanas in 20 minutes, in time for an ice cream”

Since that piece of advice we’ve never looked back and you can use the same idea in your presentations.

Tell your audience where you’re going to take them. Give them clear direction. Not an agenda. These are for books. Presentations need signposts which tell you where you’re going. At each junction the audience needs reminding where they’ve come from and then where they’re going to go next.

The best analogy is one of these property purchase programmes on the TV. My favourite is Phil and Kirsty doing “Location, Location, Location”. Just as they’re coming up to a commercial break, Kirsty will quickly recap the main points covered so far and one or two tempters of what you’ll see after the break. This not only gives you clear direction, but tempts you to come back after the break.

And when you return from the break, Phil takes over and reminds you what they did before the break and then tempts you further with the major benefits of the next 15 minutes.

Brilliant stuff and certainly worth repeating in your presentations.

So give direction and then constantly signpost your way to the end. And as you approach the end signal that the end is in sight, summarise each of your key points, remember the power of three – three major points maximum. Invite questions; never ever finish on a Q&A because if there are no questions, you’ll go out like a damp squid.

Invite questions, deal with these and then restate your aim and purpose and end with a call to action.

With the end in sight:

  1. Signal that the end is in sight
  2. Summarise each of your key points
  3. Invite questions: don’t end on Q&A
  4. Restate aim and overall purpose
  5. Definite finishes – call to action

And now you know your ABC…and D. Next time will you sing with me…