7 Key Tips to Deliver a Killer Business Presentation

Emma Buckby

23 Nov 2016

Delivering a business presentation is a daunting affair – even for the most seasoned professionals. Getting it right can mean the difference between winning or losing a big project, gaining that sought after promotion or earning the trust and respect of your peers and bosses. Follow these 7 tips to make a great impression during your next business presentation.

The importance of a good business presentation

Most professionals recognise that a business presentation is amongst the most important communication tools commonly used in the modern work environment.

Unfortunately, most presenters give very little thought to body language and non-verbal communication

Presenters generally focus on:

  • The exact content of their business presentation – which words are most effective in getting their message across
  • Making sure their presentation looks good, usually checking for anything from spelling  mistakes to ensuring video links work perfectly
  • Rehearsing their presentation so they are comfortable with the information and timing

The academic, Albert Mehrabian, has determined that body language represents 55% of how people communicate with one another

Unfortunately, most presenters give very little thought to body language and non-verbal communication in general.  Using the wrong body language with the wrong audience can easily ruin an otherwise excellent presentation.

How important is body language?  The academic, Albert Mehrabian, has determined that body language fully represents 55% of how people communicate with one another.  Yet, sending and receiving non-verbal signals can be a very confusing business.

 

What should presenters consider when delivering a consummate business presentation?

1. Know your audience

Culture is an important factor in setting expectations about how a business presentation is received.  For example, some cultures like a speaker to be demonstrative. Others find this behaviour distracting or unprofessional.

2. Hand gestures

Be especially careful about pointing with a finger; using an open palm is a better choice when speaking to multicultural audiences

Hand gestures are a common form of body language that can also send unintentional signals.  For example, in spite of stereotypes:

  • Many Italians really do rely on exuberant hand gestures to communicate and might find a docile speaker as boring
  • On the other hand, most Japanese are likely to find the exuberance of the Italians aggressive and exhausting

Other hand gestures can be interpreted as rude or even obscene. Be especially careful about pointing with a finger; using an open palm is a better choice when speaking to multicultural audiences.

Counting on fingers can cause confusion as some cultures start with their thumb and others with their index finger.  In addition, indicating two of something can become an obscene gesture in some cultures if the hand is in a certain position.

3. Eye contact

With other cultures, if the speaker uses minimal eye contact with the audience, they can come across as disengaged or not confident

Eye contact is a particularly important behaviour to get right with your audience. For example, in some cultures, holding eye contact with a member of the audience can seem threatening.

Across the gender barrier, it can come across as too intimate. With other cultures, if the speaker uses minimal eye contact with the audience, they can come across as disengaged or not confident.

Many speakers have learnt the trick of giving their presentation whilst looking either just over the heads of their audience or at an inanimate object in the middle distance, such as an empty chair or a water bottle on a table.

4. Appearance

Do not be too different; for example, showing up in a business suit in a factory environment may be too off-putting

Be aware that many cultures judge a presenter by how they dress. As a general rule, learn what the dress code is at the venue for your presentation. Then dress a bit more formally than the audience.

Do not be too different; for example, showing up in a business suit in a factory environment may be too off-putting, so is business casual in an audience dressed formally in tailored business suits.

Also, remember that good grooming includes the hands. Poor nail care, etc. is noticed by audiences. They also notice the condition of your accessories so give thought to your choice of jewellery and make sure your shoes look good.

5. Posture

By showing the bottom of your feet or soles of your shoes, you have sent the wrong message to audiences from the Middle East, Asia or Africa as these cultures consider this an insult

If you took on board your mother’s instruction to sit up straight, then you are ahead of many other presenters in impressing your audience.  But be careful what you do with your feet. By showing the bottom of your feet or soles of your shoes, you have sent the wrong message to audiences from the Middle East, Asia or Africa as these cultures consider this an insult.

6. Movement

As a general rule, audiences that expect their presenter to be an authority are more comfortable with formal behaviour

Good business presenters are also aware that their movement style can leave different impressions with various audiences. Your choice of sitting down, standing up, standing behind a lectern, walking around, or perching on a desk can engage some cultures and put others off.

As a general rule, audiences that expect their presenter to be an authority are more comfortable with formal behaviour. Audiences that are more comfortable interacting and perhaps even challenging the presenter may accept more movement and less formality. Of course, this also depends on the environment where you are presenting as well as the topic of your presentation.

7. Understand your technology

Most body language doesn’t transfer through technology

Remember that body language tips for a successful presentation are very useful when you are presenting in the same room as your audience. However, if you are presenting remotely or if you are creating a media-based presentation such as a podcast, virtual presentations have a different set of rules.

Most body language doesn’t transfer through technology. Being a ‘talking head’ remains most effective for most audiences, even if it seems boring. Be careful of facial tics and the like as they are particularly distracting when watching a virtual presentation.

The key to success in giving a consummate business presentation is to know what body language is expected by and comfortable for your audience

In summary, the key to success in giving a consummate business presentation is to know what body language is expected by and comfortable for your audience. The rest is up to you. Practice if some of the gestures don’t come naturally. Ask someone to watch you and point out body language you may not notice.

Finally, don’t change your personality too much as the ultimate key to success is your credibility.



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