Four Rules for Good Business Presentations

by Denny Strigl

Last week I presented some basic concepts to help managers conduct meetings. As you know, meetings come in many varieties. For managers they are usually one-on-one meetings, group meetings, staff meetings and “town hall” meetings. The “basics” discussed last week apply to all meetings, large and small.

It’s easy to know the good meetings from the bad when you are a participant, but not as easy when you are a presenter. This week I’d like to discuss a few ideas to help managers deliver their presentations clearly, concisely and effectively.

What follows are my four rules for delivering good business presentations:

  1. Don’t spend any time talking about your own issues or problems or anything else about yourself. A couple of pleasantries are always appropriate to open a meeting, but quickly get right to the point. Too many managers start meetings talking about themselves. The meeting is not about you. The audience members are seldom interested in you, and they don’t care how long you prepared, how challenging your job is, or how smart you are. Some presentation courses tell presenters to start with a humorous story, a human-interest story or some such nonsense. Save those for a presentation to the local chamber of commerce or Rotary Club.
  2. Imagine yourself as a member of the audience. Present only information audience members need to know. You will not impress them by telling them everything you know about a subject. They don’t want to know what you know. They want to know what they need to know or do. Anything more will cause them to look at their watches, read their e-mails and generally lose interest.
  3. Be prepared to talk without your PowerPoint presentation. Remember, if you have thoroughly prepared, no one knows the subject better than you do. The best presentations I’ve seen are those in which the presenters put the charts aside and simply explained why they were presenting, what they would ask the audience to do when they are finished, and why they should do what they are being asked to do.

    When I attended meetings in which presenters intended to cover a large number of charts, after about five minutes, I would ask them to move to the two or three charts in their presentation that best made the points they believed the audience needed to know. I would then tell them to stick to those charts and ignore the rest. This technique almost always led to better presentations in much less time than originally allocated.

  4. Finally, conclude every presentation with an opportunity for members of the audience to ask any questions they haven’t already asked, and, if appropriate, be sure to provide the audience with a clear summary of action items.

Managers who follow these four simple rules for delivering business presentations will significantly improve their managing skills and lead their organizations to better results.

Follow me on Twitter @dfstrigl

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