So you’ve got a big presentation coming up and it has to go well—there’s no room for error. Your company is competing for a specific buyer… or you’re presenting a new product to an existing client… or maybe it’s the board of your company that you need to impress with your idea for a project. Any of those situations sound familiar? Then this article is for you. In it, I’ll give you an outline of the steps for creating an effective presentation by using a phrase that you can reference every time you need to deliver a persuasive message:
You need to determine every important “WHAT” about WHO you’re talking to in order to understand HOW to create an effective presentation that clearly conveys WHY they should value what you’re saying or selling.
Research and Outline The Strategy Of Your Presentation
In this article, I’m going to assume that you know your product or service like the back of your hand and have a thorough understanding of its characteristics and how to integrate them with the framework I’m about to outline for you. That being said, let’s dive into the WHAT, WHO, HOW, and WHY of your presentation.
WHAT are the demographics of your audience?
What do they value? What do they need? What kind of person are they? Try to keep your demographic research relative to the presentation. If you can’t justify the information as it pertains to your presentation, then it’s only going to slow you down. Be detailed, but don’t be obsessive.
Your WHO is more important than you.
You should now have a clear understanding of the perspective of your audience—now use that to your advantage. Don’t get wrapped up in your own personal preferences. This presentation is for your audience, not you. Filter every element of your presentation through their perception, not yours. Walking in someone else’s shoes is easier said than done, but it’s crucial to connecting with them on an emotional level—and it’s one of the biggest things people get wrong when it comes to executing a persuasive presentation.
HOW are you going to implement your strategy in the presentation?
It’s time to take what you’ve researched and begin crafting your presentation strategy. Usually, it’s best to start with the main element of your presentation and finish with the details. Roughly write out or sketch your plan, review it, and make tweaks where necessary. Add in details and finishing touches and, if possible, have a trusted peer look it over and critique it.
Have you made it clear WHY they should value your product/service/etc?
This is the most important question to answer when presenting. If you aren’t answering this throughout your entire presentation, then you aren’t going to be able to drive home your value in the conclusion. Don’t risk ending with a weak, unconvincing statement that falls flat because you didn’t build a foundation of value throughout the entirety of your presentation.
Create Your Marketing Materials Based On Your Strategy
So you’ve got your strategy in place… now, it’s time to craft your presentation materials. Reference your research to figure out the best tools to use to convey the value of your product. In other words, what methods of message delivery will identify with your audience? Below is a short list of tools and materials that can help impact your audience and strengthen your message. Use the list as a starting point to think about what elements you should use to create your presentation, and then brainstorm other creative ways you can connect with your audience.
Does your on-screen presentation match your company’s branding? Does it convey your company’s image and level of quality? Have you made it flow with your speaking style in order to better engage with your audience? Is your message bullet-pointed so that it doesn’t overwhelm or distract your audience—are they going to be reading your slides or listening to what you have to say?
Trade Show Booth Display/Roll-Up Banners
If you’re doing a trade show… is your banner readable from a distance? Is the look of your booth display consistent with your branding and marketing materals—is your company immediately recognizable?
Mock-Ups: 3D Renderings/Physical Prototypes/Etc.
If you don’t have your final product to show, should you consider having 3D renderings or mockups made? Which do you choose? Or do you need both?
Are your marketing materials consistent with the look and feel of your company’s branding? Are your brochures providing the right information? Do they allow the reader to easily navigate through the content? Would it be more effective to offer your target a booklet or a pocket folder?
Consider Outside Factors That Could Affect Your Presentation
Check over the technology you’re using for your presentation.
What sort of equipment will be provided for you to present with? Is your presentation file format compatible with that equipment? Are your visuals a high-enough resolution to come across well on-screen? Do you know how to make sure that your presentation is properly formatted for whatever screen you’ll be presenting on?
In what ways could the venue affect your presentation?
Are you in a conference room? Is the space bad for echoes? Is there a screen big enough for your audience to clearly see everything that you’re presenting? Maybe you need something to pass around so that the group can get an up-close look.
What kind of environment will you be presenting in?
How might the weather affect your materials during transport? Are you presenting in a humid place where your mock-up boards may warp or your print mock-ups may wrinkle? Is the wind going to be strong enough to bend a thin piece of cardboard? Should you tarp your presentation boards if there’s a chance of rain? (Better safe than sorry, don’t you think?)
How could the time of day affect your audience?
Is your presentation going to be early in the morning? After lunch? Late in the day? Could your audience be lethargic or anxious due to the time of your presentation? If so, how will you address the problem of keeping them engaged? Would it make sense to give them some sort of relevant object or marketing piece to interact with in order to wake up or stay focused?
Again, the above list is only a starting point. Along with all the little details, be sure to think critically about what it’s really going to take to influence your audience. What extra things are you going to include that will set you apart from the competition? Think about how you’re demonstrating to your audience that you are competent, genuine, and that your product will bring them value. Have you presented to this audience before and have a sense for what resonates with them? You’re not always going to be able to find out the answers to some of the questions you might ask—you’ll have to wing it sometimes. But if you’re asking the questions in the first place, then you’re already a step ahead of the guy who’s leaving the details up to chance.
Extra Advice, Just For You
Practice Your Presentation
Above all, don’t let all your strategy and planning go to waste—PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. If possible, do it in front of one or more people and get feedback on both your message and delivery. Have them watch for the following things:
Is your voice resonating with authority?
Is it steady or shaky? Are you saying things like “um” and “uh” to fill space? Are speaking with the right tonality—is your voice monotone or too pitchy? Check out Julian Treasure’s TedTalk to learn how to speak in a way so that people will want to listen to you.
Is your body language confident?
Are you standing up straight? Are your gestures steady and effective? Or are your movements distracting your audience? Are you looking down at your notes or making appropriate eye contact?
Is it clear that you know the material?
Don’t worry about memorizing every word, but make sure it’s clear that you are coming across as competent. If you’re fumbling through slides or not sure about the information in your brochure, your audience will lose trust in your expertise.
Prepare Yourself To Succeed
You’d be surprised how many people show up to a big pitch without considering how their hygiene will affect their audience. Make sure you’ve prepared yourself mentally and physically in order to execute your presentation with poise.
Get enough rest.
Try to get 8 hours. If that’s not possible, use the caffeine + 20 minute nap trick. (It’s backed by science.)
Don’t drink too much or too little caffeine.
Don’t consume more or less than you normally do on a daily basis. Withdrawal side-affects are just as detrimental as overdoing it. Being jittery in front of your audience will only distract them.
Dress professionally, but comfortably.
You need to look sharp. But if you can’t walk gracefully in heels, or you’re struggling to move your arms because your suit is too tight, your audience will notice. Dress in a way that won’t distract from your message.
Be positive about the presentation, both before, during, and after.
Do your best not to psych yourself out. Approach each aspect of your presentation with confidence and determination… and a little bit of humor probably wouldn’t hurt. Whether you’re talking about your presentation or working on it, try to genuinely keep your attitude positive and upbeat. People will notice if you’re faking enthusiasm, so practice being genuinely confident from the very beginning. Don’t let the side affects of negative talk or worrying sabotage your pitch before you’ve even given it.
Now, go out and rock your next presentation!