If only William Shakespeare had been a business coach.
Although the Bard likely didn’t have an entrepreneurial audience in mind when he famously declared that “All the world’s a stage” in his classic comedy As You Like It, it’s a point that captains of industry have understood since the earliest days of commerce: business presentations are just another form of performance, and strong presentation skills are not only an asset, they’re essential to doing business.
In his book Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story, Jerry Weissman outlines these tips to help entrepreneurs prepare and perform show-stopping presentations that speak effectively to their target audience:
Determine your objective: One of the major problems with so many business presentations, says Weissman, is that they lack a clear focal point. All too often, entrepreneurs make a sales or investment pitch without a clear understanding of how to present their ultimate objective to an audience. Understand what you’re trying to achieve with the presentation and remember that the presentation should make your audience understand, believe in, and act upon the message you want to deliver.
Understand your audience’s needs: If you’ve just invented a new and improved mousetrap, ask yourself, “What does a pest control company need to know about my new take on this very old product?” They want to know how it’s going to improve their ability to catch mice, increase revenue and propel the growth of their company. Of course, you can only arrive at an understanding of your customers’ needs after carrying out detailed research into their interests, challenges, biases and goals—so start doing your homework.
Shift the focus from features to benefits: It’s easy to simply talk about what your product or service does, but how will it benefit your audience? If your audience is going to act on what you’re selling or advocating, they need a reason to do so. So give them one—or, better yet, many.
Keep it simple: Presentations that are too long or too detailed can easily lose the attention of an audience, Weissman points out. Too many facts rolled into one presentation, including details that are overly technical or irrelevant to an audience’s needs, obscure the main point. Tell the audience only what they need to know. If you’re making a pitch to a potential investor, do they need to know every technical detail of your new invention? Probably not.