In a world drowning in data, it’s not the data analysts who rule. Those with the most influence are the ones who can extract the most impactful story from the data – that’s why today we’re breaking down business presentation basics. If you can’t tell a story that will gain buy-in and motivate action, you won’t be an effective consultant, banker, lawyer, engineer, entrepreneur, scientist, or anything else.
In fact, we get more corporate training requests on this topic than any other. We’ve been developing and delivering business presentations for over 15 years and these presentation tips will make you an effective storyteller and presenter. Here are some business presentation basics to keep in your back pocket!
The Top 5 Fundamental Business Presentation Basics
Lead with the Punchline
If you’re presenting at an open mic night or comedy club, feel free to ignore us. Otherwise, your audience has neither the time, attention, or interest to wait for you to get to the point.
What’s the key takeaway of your presentation? What do you want your audience to do or believe afterwards? Tell them this right up front.
You’ll capture their attention, shorten your presentation, lessen confusion, and convey executive presence.
Now we can hear you saying, “What if they don’t like my takeaway? What if my plan was to build a case before ending with the key point?”
We’re not saying don’t build a case. We’re just saying – begin with the takeaway and then share your rationale afterwards. Your audience will interpret your takeaway differently if they know what it’s leading to.
And if they disagree with you right up front? Congratulations! You just garnered engagement and clarified for yourself what your audience really cares about. These are both big wins.
Leading with the punchline is a key tenet of The Pyramid Principle®, which we teach and train on across the Fortune 2000.
Know Your Audience
This business presentation tip is directly related to the first. You must know your audience to create an effective business presentation! Even if your key takeaway is one you’ve presented before, the reasons why you came to that conclusion may need to be adjusted based on who your key stakeholders are. Tell a story that will resonate with them!
Before you build your presentation, ask yourself three potential objections that your audience could have to what you are presenting. Then, build a story that proactively addresses these.
KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
Our 3rd business presentation tip builds on the first two – keep it simple! Each slide should have just one key takeaway – ideally communicated through unique data visualizations. If your audience must choose between reading your slide and listening to you, something is wrong!
Ensuring there is one key takeaway per slide makes the story you’re telling clear and easy to follow. Busy slides are one of the most common mistakes we see when working with teams at our corporate partners.
Build in Engagement Points
Be intentional about engaging your audience. The best presentations are tailored to your audience (see the 2nd tip!) and one of the best ways to figure out what they care about is to engage them early and often!
Build in polls, questions, and discussion points throughout your presentation to keep attention and make sure you’re hearing your stakeholders as much as they’re hearing you. Best practice: build in an engagement point every 15 minutes at a minimum.
If you can’t get the little things right, clients won’t trust you with the bigger things. It’s just that simple. Double and triple-check that your formatting is consistent. Here are a few examples to keep in mind:
- The sizes of your fonts should be consistent amongst types (titles, headers, body text, etc.)
- Repeating items such as company logos and page numbers should always be in the same spot
- The same font should be used throughout the entire presentation
In addition, stay away from using SmartArt and build custom visuals instead. It makes all the difference in the world. If these things are off, here’s the hard truth: your audience doesn’t owe you any more of their time or attention.
Building an effective business presentation is one of the most powerful ways that you can move progress forward – either in your organization or for a client. Though there are an infinite number of ways you can build a PowerPoint, keeping these fundamental tips in mind will maximize the effectiveness of your presentations.
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