Reading: Business Presentations
If you think about presenting a business plan in a classroom setting, the situation is admittedly a bit staged. You are not presenting business recommendations to coworkers who will evaluate them, critique them, and come together around a revised version of your work. Sadly the classroom environment cannot simulate that experience. In spite of this limitation, it is worth sharing some pointers for good business presentations, which may come in handy down the road when you get a chance to do the real thing. Also, there’s no substitute for practice—which your marketing plan presentation will certainly provide.
A good business presentation should drive action.
The biggest difference between a business presentation and presentations in other settings is that you are trying to achieve specific business objectives in your job. You are not graded on presenting well. You are graded on achieving your objectives. Others in the audience also have objectives that they hope to achieve. Are those objectives the same? Possibly yes, possibly no. Your presentation should result in someone taking action that supports your business objectives.
Start your presentation by asking yourself, “What am I hoping to get this audience do as a result of my presentation?” If the answer is that you hope they will understand something better, why? Just as marketers want their target customers to respond to a specific call to action, you want to get your audience to do something that supports your objectives.
A good business presentation is short and focused.
In preparation for a business presentation, you will probably work and think and do a lot of research. There is a temptation to share everything you’ve collected and learned with your coworkers. This is generally a bad idea. The research you’ve done is the groundwork for understanding what should happen next. Your job as a presenter is to give people only the most relevant and important information to get them to where you are. Consider each point that builds your case, and ask yourself, “If I leave this out will they still understand why this makes sense?” Eliminate anything that isn’t critical.
Most business people quickly lose interest in presentations, so use your time wisely, and try to stick to the key points. Once you lose an audience, it’s difficult to get them back, and they may miss your call to action—or worse, not care.
Begin with recommendations and then support them.
If someone has to leave your presentation for another meeting, you don’t want them to miss the grand unveiling of your main point. Start with the recommendation. Follow with a streamlined, logical path that supports the recommendation. You might have fifty slides of supporting information and data that justify your thinking, but don’t present them! It’s much better to include them in an appendix. If someone asks about the competitive landscape in a new market that you have considered, you can always pull up the slide that includes that information from the appendix. If you’re sure that a slide is central to your case, move it to the back and use it if needed.
Use your presentation as an opportunity to learn and collaborate.
For a very small number of presentations, it’s important for you to be the expert and have all the answers. Much more commonly, though, your role is to work with a broader team to achieve results. Others in the room will have more expertise than you in a given subject. That’s a good thing. Once they understand your ideas, they can help you shape them and improve them. Be confident enough to present the fact that you are unsure about something, and ask for input. When a business presentation is really excellent, everyone in the room leaves feeling like they have something to contribute and are a part of the solution ahead.