5 Tips for Delivering Killer Business Presentations

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Steve Towers

Invited to speak at a business conference but worried about delivering a "death by powerpoint" presentation? Or maybe you've got to make a big presentation to the board? Here are five tips from Steve Towers, a regular contributor at PEX Network conferences, to ensure your business presentations don’t require your audience to drink copious amounts of caffeine to stay conscious.

A couple of decades ago more than 200 people had the misfortune of sitting through my first ever public presentation. Disaster? Not quite. However I crumbled under the stage lights and blundered my way through a ‘death by powerpoint’ presentation. The content should have been enticing – the story of a financial services success story complete with politics, take-over and customer success. Belated apologies if you were one of my victims back then.

Speakers and panels at conferences often provide a similar experience. As a delegate it requires helpful doses of caffeine and frequent comfort breaks to stay the course. What about the key insights, the thrusting probes of the chair and the gems to take back to our colleagues?

The sad truth is, many speakers and panels are mediocre at best, which can be embarrassing for participants and delegates alike. The problem? Inexperience and lack of preparation.

The best professionals are ‘in the room’ and orchestrate proceedings for the benefit of delegates, speakers and themselves. If you are up there in the spotlight there are some key tips from my 20 years presenting and chairing, 100+ keynotes and more than 40,000 delegates. If you have a story to tell you too may wish to share.

Tip #1:

Make your customers feel good

Your customers are the delegates, panel members and conference facilitators. What do they need? What is their successful outcome from your efforts? This requires thorough preparation BEFORE the event. My first outing gave me the opportunity to repent at leisure – these days I future pace all my appearances. Recall ace presenter Steve Jobs comment "the customer experience is the process". That is what you’ll be doing – walking people through a process so be very aware of the experience you are creating.

Tip #2:

Put your ego on the back burner

Commit to mutual success. If you have the successful customer outcomes understood then ensure your story aligns with that. It isn’t about ‘Presentations for Dummy’s’ it is all about the message and the takeaways for your customers. The effort shouldn’t be about making you look brilliant (however do it right and you will) it is everything to do with a focus on key takeaways related in an interesting and provocative way.

Tip #3:

Ban the bullet point

A picture paints a thousand words so do just that. Paint a picture with narrative and illustrative slides. Sure enough if people want the detail provide a backup pack of facts and figures, however don’t bore them during your spotlight. Hook them, energise them and make it a real occasion to remember for the right reasons.

Tip #4:

Stay with the story

If you have a panel keep everyone on the same page. Encourage the sharing of insights and open the discussion to the floor. Be prepared to ask the question yourself if it helps achieve a key learning. Be praiseworthy of the questioners for helping everyone to better understand the subject in hand, and be gracious in your summations.

Tip #5:

Summarise and highlight

Whether it is ten minutes, one and half hours or a full day make sure everyone knows why they were there. Give them something to think about and if you have promised to come back to something then do so. I have always found a way to reward people for their attention including giveaways such as books, tickets and concessions. Present your highlights via email or in a micro-blog. People like that.

Follow these tips and I think you'll find yourself in front of an audience that is actually enjoying what you have to share. So, in the meantime, hoping to see you at an upcoming conference and happy presentation planning.