Check your equipment … in advance. If you must use PowerPoint, or plan on showing videos or something, check to make sure that the setup really works. Then check it again. Then one more time.
Speak to the audience. Great public speakers keep their focus on the audience, not their slides or their notes. Focusing on the audience encourages them to focus on your and your message.
Never read from slides. Guess what? Your audience can read. If you’re reading from your slides, you’re not just being boring–you’re also insulting the intelligence of everyone in the room.
Don’t skip around. Nothing makes you look more disorganized than skipping over slides, backtracking to previous slides, or showing slides that don’t really belong. If there are slides that don’t fit, cut them out of the presentation in advance.
Leave humor to the professionals. Unless you’re really good at telling jokes, don’t try to be a comedian. Remember: When it comes to business presentations, polite laughter is the kiss of death.
Avoid obvious wormholes. Every audience has hot buttons that command immediate attention and cause every other discussion to grind to a halt. Learn what they are and avoid them.
Skip the jargon. Business buzzwords make you sound like you’re either pompous, crazy, or (worst case) speaking in tongues. Cut them out–both from your slides and from your vocabulary.
Make it timely. Schedule presentations for a time when the audience can give you proper attention. Avoid end of day, just before lunch, and the day before a holiday.
Prepare some questions. If you’re going to have a Q&A at the end of your presentation, be prepared to get the ball rolling by having up a question or two up your sleeve.
Have a separate handout. If there’s data that you want the audience to have, put it into a separate document for distribution after your talk. Don’t use your slide deck as a data repository.
Now send a link to this column to all your colleagues. Maybe the worst offenders will take the hint.
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Geoffrey James is an award-winning journalist who has written hundreds of articles on sales and marketing, and has helped thousands of sales professionals communicate more effectively with customers. James’ latest book is How to Say It: Business to Business Selling. @Sales_Source
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