The Professional in your Professional Presentations

So as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our goal is to come up with some general topics, such as our first The 3 P’s of Better Business Presentations, and then to go into further detail about the main points of those articles. In this article, our goal is to help understand why giving professional presentations will be more effective in both your immediate goals for that presentation, and possibly, your long term career. To do that, we will look at 2 areas of professional presentations that will make a difference:

  1. Do you stand out from the crowd? and
  2. Having Respect for Your Audience

Do you stand out from the crowd?

As a 20+ year sales veteran of the high tech industry, I went on many, many sales calls. I’ve been face-to-face with prospects, cold called for an hour per day every day, and presented to possible prospects, customers, vendors, and collaboration partners. When it comes to creating & giving a professional presentation, it didn’t take long to learn that some very basic rules apply. These rules focus primarily on your appearance and attitude, as well as the appearance of your presentation.

The first rule is that first impressions DO matter. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as many baby boomers can relate to the motto “dress for success”. While this may be a bit superficial, and reasons for how you dress in presenting may vary, a good general rule is to always dress a step above what your audience will be wearing. My goal isn’t to tell you what to wear, but just understand that audiences DO notice things like uncombed hair, wrinkled shirts, and sloppy attire – and they notice it in a not so positive manner.

This specifically holds true for my sales & technical colleagues, as you must put yourself in the mindset of prospect/customer. Who will gain credibility quicker, or be someone you can trust? The person who shows up a mess, or the professional who has their act together?

Does your presentation differentiate itself in a positive manner?

The second part of standing out from the crowd and having a professional presentation goes beyond you as the presenter, and is based on the content and look of your presentation, including (but not limited to):

  1. Does your presentation use standard PowerPoint (or Keynote, or other presentation tool) backgrounds?
  2. Do you simply rely upon the standard PowerPoint Times New Roman fonts?
  3. Do you use bullet points?
  4. Do you use cartoonish clipart?
  5. Do you have a focused message?
  6. Do you have an intended action for your audience?
  7. Have you practiced your delivery, or do you rely upon the presentation to remind you of information?
  8. Can you keep your presentation within the time limits allowed?

If you answered yes to ANY of these, we can help you become more professional with your presentations, which may make the difference between getting a new prospect, a sale, a partnership, or even a promotion.

There are many books and ideas on how to make professional presentations. You can also go and look at presentations online to see how they are being designed by artistic types. There are some great informative presentations out on the web, and so I include those in this list of places to obtain ideas:

As it sounds, this is a site for numerous free downloadable fonts. The only thing you need to remember when using non-standard fonts is that you must package them with the presentation, or others may not end up seeing the presentation you designed because their system substituted the next closest fonts. This is why I often recommend using simple san serif fonts most of the time for internal presentations (Arial, Verdana, etc.) as you don’t need to worry about what others have if you will ultimately share the presentation.

For outside of the office presentations, feel free to experiment and go bold, but realize the audience you are presenting to and what style they may prefer. After all, the goal is to get your audience to remember your message and the content of that message, and ultimately act in a way you recommend.

This is a Slideshare Presentation by Eugene Cheng that, while not done in our preferred structure, it does have fantastic suggestions and locations (including the aforementioned “Font Squirrel” site) on type, color, etc.  Eugene has the makings of a good artist, but as we have mentioned previously, while the creative is important, it is only 1 part of building an effective presentation.

Another good professional presentation on typography that will help you design better looking slides.

Paint company websites

For those of you who are color challenged (it is true, I am color blind, but luckily can duplicate corporate branding or find good color combinations), I recommend going to some house paint websites, and many of them will have color combinations that you can choose from. This is an easy way to eliminate having to worry about many of the challenges in selecting good colors for your design.

Whether you are reading some of the traditional books on presentation including Presentation Zen,  Slide:ology , etc., it is important to remember that different types of presentations could call for different thems for the look of your presentation, as well as different structures. While some people like to stick with hard & fast rules, we believe in looking at the overall big picture, and using some general guidelines that can be adapted for your audience, location, and type of presentation.

For the purpose of this article, we aren’t going to get into all the specifics, as we feel it is more important to understand the big picture – creating a good looking presentation can give you an advantage, and it is important, but it IS NOT THE ONLY FACTOR that will make your presentation more effective. Have you ever heard of the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig”? We have seen many presentations that look better, which is good, but ultimately they fall short of their intended goal because they lack structure and tools (which we’ll get into in the next blog article when we discuss “Powerful” presentations). You can have a professional appearing presentation that is all style, and still have little substance.

Some of these better looking slides that aren’t necessarily more effective are the new trend to utilize stock photo images as metaphors for what you are telling your audience. Again, this leads into the “Powerful Presentations” article coming up, but there are distinct reasons we don’t recommend using metaphorical images (which we essentially believe are just redundant), and those reasons have to do with how you are directing the audience, capturing their attention, and making them think about your messaging and then looking to you, the presenter, for the answers.

Do you respect your audience?

This last portion of being professional and giving a professional presentation is what can really help differentiate you, your product, and your organization from those who are all style and no substance. Having respect for your audience comes in a number of different forms, and we’d love to hear more from our readers if you have additional ideas.

The first concept of respect is to have common sense respect for their time. Finish your presentations in your scheduled amount of time, don’t have your cell phone on while presenting (this implies you have little respect for the time they are giving you if you answer a call or text during the presentation), and be as concise as possible while still getting your message across. Again, in the next article where we’ll discuss “Powerful Presentations”, there is a technical reason you’d like to keep presentations as short as possible – but for now, just understand that rambling, not understanding your own material, and not practicing your presentation will all demonstrate a lack of respect for your audience.

The second concept that many presenters don’t often thing about when it comes to respect is the intelligence of your audience. By loading up your slides with text and reading it to them, you insult them by implying they can’t read (even if you don’t mean it). Additionally, if they can read much faster than you can read it to them, why are you wasting their time doing it? Do you see the circle back to the respect for their time?

Essentially, any slide that has bullet points, lists, or paragraphs that can be read by the audience shows a lack of respect for their intelligence. The problem many presenters cause, is that by producing all the necessary information on the slide before the audience, they actually render themselves (the presenter) irrelevant. If the audience can understand your presentation without you, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You aren’t building credibility. In the world of technical presentations, legal presentations, or sales presentations, this can have a definite negative impact, as you WANT to be looked at as credible and an expert on the topic.

So stick with us as we progress through these articles, or send us a note, or give us a call, and we’ll help walk you through how to eliminate all that text from your presentations, reduce them in size, and end up scoring points because you look professional, your presentation is designed professionally, and you demonstrate YOU are the expert,  as well as respecting the time and intelligence of your audience.

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The 3 P’s of Better Business Presentations

While it took us awhile to get to the blogosphere, here is our initial article on how to help people become better business presenters. According to Microsoft, there are 30 million PowerPoint presentations given every day, and the vast majority of them we have learned are….well…..boring. You have heard of the phrase – Death by PowerPoint. They don’t have a goal, there is no focus, and they don’t do anything to help themselves be valuable to their audiences. In fact, some companies like LinkedIn and Amazon have mandated the discontinuation of PowerPoint for internal meetings, and although we believe it is a bit drastic, it is a good foundation to teach people how to become better at “presenting” when they finally need to.

Business presentations are a bit unique in the world of presentations, as they can have important consequences, whether they are sales presentations generating revenue for the company or the salesperson, marketing presentations that need to generate interest for your offering, or even training presentations to help staff remember what they are being taught, there are a number of outcomes that we wish to have happen in each of these instances.

So what is our magic formula? Our 3P’s of being a better business presenter are really quite simple:

  1. Be Professional
  2. Be Powerful
  3. Be Persuasive

By combining these three strategies, people can become not only better presenters, more credible at their workplace, more respected within their industry, but also potentially, they can help create a better career path and enjoy much greater success – all just because they learned a few tips to help them be more confident, engage with their audience, and produce a reaction.

Be Professional

It doesn’t take much to remind people of the old sayings about “dress for success”, or “image is everything”, or that “you only get one first impression”. Yet, for some reason, when people are preparing to give a presentation in a meeting, to an industry, or elsewhere, why do they feel it is appropriate to dress poorly, not be prepared by not knowing their material, don’t have a focused message that you want to get across, or use unprofessional images (that includes CLIPART!) and text that have nothing to do with the topic at hand?

Why is it that presenters continue to be unprofessional by disrespecting their audience, whether it is by having their cell phone on during the presentation, or writing a bunch of text and reading it to the audience like children? When they can read much faster than we can read it to them, why waste their time?

Likewise, when you could have prepared an informative graphic, chart, timeline, etc….why are you wasting their time and pausing discussion as you turn your back to draw on the white board?

Our goal is to work with presenters to help them understand that being professional in your presentation not only will provide you crediblity, and build respect, but it is the first part in helping you become more effective at presenting.

Be Powerful

Giving a powerful presentation is the second part of the equation that will help people give better business presentations. When we speak of “powerful”, we don’t necessarily mean the rip roaring speeches of great orators through history, but instead, to utilize tools in creating your presentation to help the audience engage, remain focused on you – the presenter – and to remember the content and messaging of your presentation. There are many ways to do this, but we will highlight just a few of them here:

  1. Focus your message – We think Steve Martin says it best in a line from the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles when he suggests: “Have a point! It makes it SOOO much more interesting for the listener!” We agree, and the #1 challenge each presenter faces is to figure out “what IS the point?” and “what do I want them to do?” Once you can sift through all your information, and narrow it down to those 2 answers, you are on your way to creating a powerful business presentation.
  2. Structure your message – depending upon the type of presentation you are giving, the structure of that presentation itself can either help or hinder your audience. Marketing rollouts may take a movie-like story approach, with the great revelation at the end, or sales presentations may highlight the existing problems, their recommended solution, and then detail that recommendation. While many in the presentation design world seem to think that there is a one style fits all approach – we completely disagree. Stories have their place, but tell a CEO who is only giving you 5 minutes to convince him why they are going to spend $100,000 with you – and you don’t have much time for a story.
  3. Help your audience remember – while we may delve into further in future posts, you can always email us or give us a call to discuss some of the techniques we use and recommend to help create your message in a way that helps your audience remember. Psychological techniques such as association, chunking, relevance, repetition, etc. all will help structure your message in a way so that it can be remembered.

Be Persuasive

Whether we like to believe it or not, business presentations are often persuasive – even if we don’t intend them to be. They could highlight production problems, thus requiring a change in the product design cycle, they could demonstrate the impact of a certain course of action, or any number of other things. We believe that if you are professional, and are powerful in presenting your message, it will also help you become much more persuasive.

Persuasiveness often is a result of credibility, something vital to business executives, trainers, and specifically – salespeople. So show up and be professional in your presentation, be powerful in your messaging, and you’ll persuade people to listen to you, your solution, your recommendation, or move to some other course of action that YOU would like them to take.

So there you have it – our 3P’s of creating better business presentations. If you’d like to get more detailed information about how we can help you create more effective presentations, or whether you would like us to do it for you, you can email or call us and we would be happy to discuss your challenge.


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Testing my new mobile application

Thanks for being patient. I am testing out a new mobile app to help me blog on the go. Stay tuned. ..

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Preston Presentations Blog

Happy 2013!

Preston Presentations Blog is finally up and running! Stay tuned to this blog, as we at Preston Presentations continue to try and advance the case for more professional, more powerful, and more persuasive presentations!

While we do prefer to utilize Microsoft PowerPoint as our preferred tool to assist with presentation coaching, presentation consulting, and presentation design, we also like to keep up with other presentation technologies, and invite you to contact us about any of these methods, or your presentation challenges.

Our areas of expertise are in sales presentations, marketing presentations, training presentations, and executive presentations, but we are also looking to advance our experience in courtroom / trial presentations as well as conference keynote presentations. With over 22 years of being in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of customers, Preston Presentations assures you that we understand your pain, have researched the solutions, and is willing to help you become a more professional, more powerful, and more persuasive presenter.

Thanks for stopping by, and we hope this Preston Presentations Blog will provide you with the right tools to become a better presenter.

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