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How to Make an Effective Business Presentation

Advice for tribal business owners on presenting to potential customers and investors

Most commercial products and services aren’t unique, and their benefits aren’t always immediately obvious. 

Their value must be communicated in a compelling way to make a sale to customers, convince investors to provide capital, or acquire partners. 

A successful business presentation will convey that value.

Preparation

The first step to creating an effective business presentation is to study the target audience you are trying to reach. 

An effective business presentation must speak directly to the needs and aspirations of your audience. You’re aiming to inform your listeners about how your product or service will solve their problems or help them achieve their goals. 

You should develop an outline of what you want to say or “pitch.” Your presentation should tell a persuasive story, establish your business expertise, address any concerns of customers, clients, investors, or partners, and end with a call for action. 

You should also prepare answers for questions that you expect your audience to ask.

The Delivery

Business is a serious subject that demands a serious approach.    

While humor may be appropriate in some situations, using it in a pitch is risky. It can distract from your message and leave your audience with the wrong impression of your business. 

Start and Finish Strong 

The most important parts of a business presentation are the beginning and the end. 

At the beginning, you must capture the audience’s attention. You can do this by asking an interesting question, polling the audience, or by making a bold statement. For example, you could say: “I have a product that could increase your sales by 100% or more.” 

At the end, you must make a clear and direct call to action. You must tell the listeners how to take the next step such as ordering your company’s product or service or contacting a representative of your company. 

Connect with Your Audience 

You should remember to involve the audience, which includes making eye contact, smiling where appropriate, and thanking the audience for their attendance and attention. 

You can walk around during your presentations if it’s appropriate and comes naturally to you, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to do so. 

You should treat questions from the audience as an opportunity to address concerns or skepticism and be willing to invite questions during the presentation instead of waiting until the end. 

When you speak, you should avoid using acronyms and technical jargon unfamiliar to your listeners and keep your pitch brief. Audiences in business presentations sometimes complain that pitches are hard to understand and too long.

Multimedia Tools

PowerPoint and other multimedia tools are commonly employed for business presentations. They can either add or detract from your message depending upon how they're used. 

When used well, slides can sharpen your message, particularly when they contain graphics that illustrate points in a dramatic or memorable way.  

When misused, slides can be boring. A common misuse of slides is when a speaker retreats to the back of the room and simply narrates what’s already on the screen.

Tips for effective slides: 

  • Limit the number of slides you use: a good rule of thumb is no more than 20 total slides for a presentation
  • Place titles and the most important information at the top of each slide 
  • Use images, charts, or graphs instead of text wherever possible 
  • Delete unnecessary words and images from your slides 
  • Use as little punctuation as possible and avoid using all uppercase text 
  • Choose readable font that people sitting in the back of room can read 
  • Avoid white backgrounds and make sure there’s enough contrast between the background and the text on slides 
  • Never skip over slides because it suggests to the audience that you’ve miscalculated the time or didn’t carefully organize your slides 

PowerPoint slides are now used for more than just presentations. Potential investors often request an electronic version of your slides (sometimes referred to as a “deck”) beforehand.

Technical Issues  

You should always be prepared for unexpected issues with technology.  

If it’s possible, you should visit the presentation site ahead of time to become familiar with the audio-visual equipment (e.g., computer, projector, and microphone) available and know how to use it. 

It’s also wise to bring a back-up thumb-drive for your slides if necessary.

Business Presentation Training

The Division of Economic Development (DED) organizes and co-sponsors conferences throughout the year to connect tribal businesses with potential public and private sector customers and partners. 

Some of these conferences offer business presentation training sessions where business experts give feedback to American Indian and Alaska Native business owners about their pitches. 

If you’re interested in attending these training sessions, please contact DED.

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