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How to make a better business presentation

Business Presentations - 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid!

Have you ever asked yourself how to give a presentation? The 7 most common mistakes to avoid can be remembered by using the mnemonic “M.I.S.T.A.K.E”.


Monkeys

The Public Speaking Monkeys are the quiet whispers or loud yelling of negative voices in your head saying things like "You're Boring!”, “You’re gonna forget what to say”, or “You’re gonna make a fool of yourself.”

These negative voices then cause the presenter to think more and more negatively in turn, creating a downwards spiral of negativity. Consequently, this impacts on their body language. As a result the presenter starts to look hunched and worried, before they even start talking. The monkey voices must be tamed before giving a presentation, or the presenter won’t find it easy to be themselves. They will find it even more difficult to have their thoughts fully focused on their audience and they will be more concerned with their own self worries and fears.

Individual

Once you have eliminated self- worry, you need to spend time discovering who you are as a presenter. What style suits you best? You don’t want to be a “mini me” of your boss! You want to be natural and find the best style that suits you and the situation. If you are funny, bring in appropriate humour; if you are knowledgeable, bring in appropriate facts. Doing things like discovering what “natural” body language matches what you are saying or how to best explain any complicated ideas will help with your presentation. For experienced presenters, it’s a good idea to find your personal style.

Story

Every good presentation, film and pieces of music tell a story - with a beginning, middle and end. We are pre-programmed to listen to stories, so if you want people to listen, telling a story is a great way to capture their attention. In business presentations people sometimes shy away from this, thinking it is not businesslike – but it is. Case studies are stories, testimonials and even adhoc customer stories are all appropriate, assuming confidentiality is never breached. When mentoring Finance Directors they often say “yes, but I have to deliver numbers!” But numbers should and can tell a story too. As an example: “Things were difficult last year, but because of project abc we increased our profits to X, despite the challenges we faced, which means that next we are focusing on…” A story often has key characters; a challenge to overcome (think of those reality shows you accidentally watch). They also have a before, during and after, or another way to think of it is a past, present and future.

Timing

The most common mistake in business presentations is to underestimate the time required. It is very rare for people to use less time than they are given and only too common to see people being cut off and told their time is up. This can be very unprofessional, especially if you really are telling a story and the end is your key point. E.g. why your product did so well in testing etc. So always time yourself before making a presentation. Practice out loud and allow for questions, breaks etc. The more people in the room generally, the more time it takes to do anything even sit down! So if you have structured your presentation using the 4MAT the good news is that timing can be worked around that, and if at the last minute you are given less or more time than you had expected, you can adjust your presentation accordingly. If you have scripted it – you have much less chance of success if this happens. Having to cut a presentation is more frequent than you may expect as the last person often over runs!

Action

Without any action at the end, surely any presentation becomes a little pointless and no more than an ‘awareness exercise.’ But even so, plenty of presentations may have contained all of the elements above, but still do not instruct on what to do afterwards. Please get in touch is not enough – there needs to be a greater call to action. Even with the best intention in the world, the listener won’t get round to it unless you influence and persuade them to; plus you need to tell the listener why it’s important that you do a particular action or at least commit to doing it right now and not later. Later rarely happens. So think about what action you want the audience to take. Consider where you are in the relationship with the audience and what action is appropriate. In a sales meeting, it is very appropriate to ask for the buying decision to be made. In a newer relationship or bigger audience you might want the action to be lower risk for the audience e.g. “If you like what you have heard, then please grab your diaries and come over to my stand to book an appointment with me today; we can then chat over a coffee, begin to understand your business and any challenges you face in more depth.”

Keepsake

Many purchases are what might be described as ‘distress purchases.’ People buy them when they really need them and not before. Take presentation skills training for example; ideally in a personal review, a professional will have identified the need for training on presentation skills. However, in many other companies they wait until something is coming (e.g. “We have a company conference and don’t know how to give a presentation that is engaging and motivating”) or another distress purchase is “we have been bidding to retain our business but just lost the first of 2 pitches. We have been told it is our presentation and delivery that let us down. The second pitch is next week can you help us?”

Someone can only ask for help if they remember who/where/when they saw the person likely to help - which could have been years ago! Your business may well be the same. A keepsake allows people to re-find you when they need you. The most basic is a business card, or a connection on LinkedIn. You can purchase promotional items like data sticks, stickers or mugs relatively easily! Here are some of the giveaways we sugggest.

Choose a relevant point to highlight and associate the gift with the message you want them to remember. Think about your desk now and see what you have kept and if you even know whom it’s from! One of the best leave behinds for an informational business is a product you have produced for example.

Engage

In today’s busy world you have to work harder and harder to keep peoples interest. You have to be engaging otherwise they’ll be on their iPhones facebooking, texting or just twittering away! To engage with the audience you need to understand them and do some pre-presentation audience research. Who are they, what are their fears and concerns? What are their goals and hopes? Audience interaction throughout is key to keeping them engaged and involved mentally and physically with your presentation as you go along. You can ask them questions, get them doing exercises, ask them to jot a few key points down – anything relevant that helps them to feel part of the presentation, to be in it rather than just an observer on the sidelines.


So these are the 7 most common mistakes made in business presentations and if you don’t take heed you may be wasting everyone’s time not only yours. You may deliver a “good” presentation but if no one takes action, what is the point? You may deliver a technically correct presentation but if the audience isn’t engaged, what is the point? You may deliver a great presentation but when they need you 12 months later and Google your category, because you didn’t give them some sort of keepsake that’s memorable, they don’t know which one is your business and instead they pick the competition!

By considering these 7 common mistakes and developing strategies to avoid them you will be delivering even better business presentations. Yes, it may take a little longer to prepare upfront, but it will be well worth it when you get more high quality appointments, sales or leads from each presentation or talk. Wishing you even more successful business presentations. 

Author: Dee Clayton.

For further information please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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