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This week I have compiled a list of 12 tips for presenting. While most are seemingly obvious, I amazed by how frequently folks get these wrong. Here goes:


  1. Start sales presentations with questions (this applies to both virtual or in person presentations) – start with list of probing questions to gauge your audience’s interests. Rather than delving right into your slide deck, spend 5-10 minutes understanding why you were asked to present. Furthermore, the dynamics of this exercise allow you to understand why each of the participants is in the room.
  2. Don’t use slides if you can help it. Rather use product or service demos, or reference customer stories to engage with your audience. If you need slides, limit each slide to one line of text. Pictures really do speak much louder than words.  Services like Webex and GoToMeeting are really good for letting you demo your offering remotely. If demoing your offering is impractical, use screenshot slides to get your point across.
  3. If you need to send a slide deck following the presentation, use "speaker’s notes" to describe what you explained when you showed the deck.  Alternatively, record the presentation and send the recording (or post it to an online site).
  4. Resist the urge to use Powerpoint ‘slide animation" and "custom slide transitions." These are so overused and they are rarely done with good taste. Also, keep slide builds to a minimum; they get sloppy quickly. I recommend using multiple slides if you need to show a transition from one state to another on the screen.
  5. On a similar note, resist the urge to wow with complex and overly colorful slides templates. Use professional but tasteful templates – minimalism is "in." You want people focusing on your presentation, not on the artwork.  Furthermore, many templates take up too much slide "real estate" – make sure there is plenty of space to present information, not just the slide header and footer.
  6. Some companies ask to get a slide deck before the presentation.  I rarely find this to be useful. In most cases, the recipients don’t open the presentation, and if they do, your "thunder is stolen" before you begin. Unless for technical reasons, your meeting partners will not be able to see your slides while you present, resist the request to send slides. If you do need to send something, do not send the entire presentation; leave something for the actual meeting. To be fair, let your meeting partners know that you are sending a preliminary set of slides and that you might be making changes.
  7. It is obvious that you need to rehearse before you present, but this doesn’t mean hiring a professional guide. Unless you are presenting to a large or business-critical audience (such as potential investors), simply use a simple home video camera (or computer microphone for audio). You will see plenty of things just by "seeing yourself as others see you."
  8. This may also be obvious, but if you are using a remote service like Webex or GoToMeeting, test out the connection with someone in a remote location before the meeting. I am amazed by how much time is wasted in online meetings just trying to get the video and audio working. If you have one hour to present and you spend 15 minutes "getting it right," you just blew a major chance to sell.  Plus, you don’t look very professional if you didn’t do your homework.
  9. Leave plenty of time for Q&A – many people over-present and there is not enough time for feedback and "next steps." Interactive Q&A is usually better if you can manage the time properly so this doesn’t get out of control.
  10. Lots of guides tell you to use humor as an icebreaker. I think this is usually a mistake. If you aren’t naturally funny (and most people aren’t) or you don’t feel comfortable starting with a joke, then don’t. On the other hand, a good introduction is important for providing context. The worst opening is just to plow into the prepared presentation. For a small group, short banter is a good icebreaker. For a larger audience, a short story or anecdote that provides context for the meeting is good. Just keep it short. I once went to a 30 minute presentation and the presenter spent 12 minutes struggling through a personal, opening story…and it was painful. And counterproductive.
  11. Another obvious point, but one that needs repeating. People are busy, and if your meeting is schedule far in advance, they often forget "what it is about." Also, with people dialing in to remote meetings from all over the world, local time changes wreak havoc with scheduling efforts. Send a reminder a few days before the meeting, with some detail about what the meeting is about, verifying the dial-in/login details, the time the meeting is supposed to take place, and with a short blurb describing the context of the meeting. If you work with a CRM solution, you can even automate this process to alleviate the administrative overhead.
  12. Lastly, resist the urge to make a slide for every single point. Many presenters come with a big slide deck and the audience gets dizzy watching slides whiz by. For most purposes, you should be able to limit the slide deck to 10-15 "content" slides for a one-hour meeting.  With 40-45 minutes of presenting, this translates into approximately 3-4 minutes of content per slide.