As a manager you will have to do a business presentation once in a while, either internally or extrernally e.g. in a customer meeting.
If you have to present your company, what should you pay attention to? What makes a good business presentation?
Bad business presentations
I recently met the Managing Director of an high-tech company. He told me that he finally commissioned the preparation of a company presentation. When I asked him why he did this he replied:
“We need this urgently. I want my sales employees to use coordinated PowerPoint slides when they present our company.“
That’s just great. The boss is forcing every sales employee in this company to bore customers with the same image oozing PowerPoint slides:
- Our service portfolio and our organization
- Our history and our technology
- Our processes and our products
Our, our, our …
Sorry, but nobody wants this!
Simply because large corporations spend tens of thousands of Dollars on these tiresome company presentations doesn’t mean that you have to do it!
Initial meeting with the customer
Spot this example: You were finally able to get that hotly desired appointment with your important customer. The decision maker actually took half an hour of his time to meet you. – Do you seriously believe that he now wants to hear your “We are the Champions”- company presentation?
Nonsense! He wants to get to know you as a person. He wants to get to know your company – but very briefly. That means, he wants to waste no time getting to the most important point – and this point is not your company but his own problems instead.
After all, the point of the meeting is to determine whether you can help him solve his problems! He’s meeting with you to explain his problems. This means that you have to listen and ask questions – instead of shoving your “We are the greatest and can do everything for you” speech down his throat!
When a customer asks for an introduction to your company, he wants a concise summary – a 2 minute “elevator speech“. You don’t need a PowerPoint presentation to accomplish this!
Initial meeting with suppliers and partners
When meeting with suppliers and partners you should also only present your company briefly. The issues that are important for the suppliers and partners will be talked about during the technical discussion anyway.
Nobody is likely to remember the facts and figures. It is therefore much more effective to refer to the website or to hand out a company brochure. Don’t waste time, but get to work on the important topics that you need to spend time on together. Forget your PowerPoint based business presentation.
Official events or competitive presentations
When you are asked to present your company for an official event or as part of a competition you should never use a canned presentation! Standards are boring. Without fail!
Consider: You can make many mistakes during a presentation. Your audience will forgive you almost anything. But there is one thing that you must not be – boring!!!
You must therefore clearly understand who the presentation is for. What does your audience expect and what objective do you have in mind?
A presentation is not about facts and figures or detailed information. Your listeners can more easily read up on these. The point is to have listeners keyed in on you. Therefore stop pontificating, but impress and inspire instead!
“Your slides will not impress or inspire, only you as the person can do so.”
When presenting your company during an official event, don’t start by talking about yourself or your company. Begin with an interesting or intriguing statement. Then transition to a problem that the listeners regard as important. Describe the negative impact of the problem in broad strokes.
Only now demonstrate briefly how your services or your product solves the problem. This allows you to make an interesting business presentation without boring self-promotion and will also position your company as a problem solver.
Company presentations have to be catered to the audience and the speaker. Generalized PowerPoint slides to present the company are rarely useful for this!
But my customer wants a business presentation about our company…
Really? Do you truly believe that your prospective customer simply grants you an hour out of his valuable work schedule? No, he has made advance inquiries about your company, for instance on your company’s website.
Decision makers have very little time. If he did not inform himself in advance, and still grants you an hour of his time, chances are that you are presenting to the wrong individual anyway.
Here are 3 objections, you may hear when people think they need to do a boring company presentation the old fashion way.
“Yes, but the company presentation is the best tool I have to speak to the benefits our company can provide!”
Wrong! Company presentations are boring and useless! Think about it: Most company presentations follow this format:
The first slide shows the company logo, which is followed by a world map with lots of dots.
“Absolutely, Mr. Customer, we even have sales offices in the Congo, in Timbuktu and the far reaches of Mongolia.”
Honestly: does anyone actually care about this?
This is followed by a black and white photo of the company founder, and a photo of the production facility dating back to before the Second World War. This is intended to demonstrate stability and continuity.
The next slide shows a steadily growing revenue stream, followed by a convoluted org chart. The org chart has lots of circles and arrows and hopes to convey the customer oriented matrix structure. – The truth is that not even the consulting company that prepared this chart for the company understands this slide. The customer cannot and will not understand it. He puts up with this out of courtesy.
Then the following 20 slides show all company products with details about a multitude of specifications, compliance with various ISO regulations and quality guidelines. No later than now, the customer will be begging that this presentation comes to an end soon.
Don’t do it.
“Yes, but this is what we always do.”
Bad enough. In fact, there are companies that direct their sales employees to introduce their company to the customer using exactly the slides that were prepared by the marketing department. Unbearable!
“Yes, but my customer demanded that I show him the company presentation.”
Truly? Please listen carefully. When the customer says that he wants to know more about your company, then he’s asking for a brief summary. He wants a so-called “elevator speech“, i.e. you have no more than two minutes to present your company to the customer in a concise manner. No more than that. You don’t need a PowerPoint presentation to accomplish this!
Here is how you can do this correctly
It is particularly important to get to know your customer during the introductory meeting, to understand his business and to find out about his problems. You or your company is not what this is about.
There is no need to demonstrate what a great guy, or company you are, and all the great things you can do. The customer wants to be understood and not persuaded. You have a particularly good shot at winning the customer over if you do not want to persuade.
Death by Powerpoint?
If you need to give a business presentation internally or on a conference. Should you use Powerpoint slides?
Do you know, that there are more than 300 million Powerpoint users world-wide. More than 30 million presentations are made each day.
Precisely at this moment, more than a million presentations are made world-wide – and more than half of these are painfully poor and mindnumbingly boring.
These tiresome presentations are called hey waste valuable time, and in our professional environment are one of the most feared torture methods for committed people!“Death by Powerpoint“.
How can you make sure that your presentation doesn’t drive your fellow men to madness? What makes a presentation exciting, inspiring and worth remembering?
Should you use PowerPoint?
Some purists claim that good presenters speak freely and by rule do not use PowerPoint. I believe this is an incorrect generalization.
During my professional career, I have seen many outstanding presentations with and without PowerPoint support. But I was also frequently driven to the edge of despair by poor presentations – PowerPoint or not.
PowerPoint is a tool – nothing more and nothing less. Whether you make a good presentation or not depends on you – not on PowerPoint. You are the presenter and must decide whether and how to use this tool.
The 3 most important questions
Three questions are the key to your business presentation. Answering these questions correctly will determine whether your presentation ends up being a success or a disaster!
By the way: None of the questions includes whether you want to work with or without PowerPoint.
1. Why are you making this presentation?
Be honest with yourself. What do you want to accomplish?
“I am making this presentation for others to …
- … see how important I am!”
- … see how much I know!”
- … realize how little they know!”
You are probably getting the clue: None of these answers will help you make a good presentation.
I have to do it!
You may also say:
“I am making the presentation because I was told to do so!”
Are you sure about that? Were you told to make a presentation of any kind? It is likely that this involves a certain topic, right? You were surely told to report something of interest or importance about this topic. A small but essential distinction!
Do you have something important to say?
Only if you have something important to say will you speak with passion. If you can show this emotion for your topic, your listeners will reward you with attention.
Only make a speech or a business presentation if you have something important to say. Your message must be of interest for your listeners.
Even if you only make a brief, humorous address: What is your central message? At a company function this could also involve opening up the buffet. Trust me, for many people this can be very important. But then please keep the speech to a minimum!
2. Does your business presentation have a logical structure and is easy to understand?
Any good presentation has the following structure:
- an interesting introduction
- a compelling main section
- a worthy conclusion
It’s completely irrelevant whether you speak for 5 min, 15 min or 1 hour: This structure of a good business presentation always remains the same.
Start your presentation in an interesting way! Do not bore your listeners with insignificant forewords or by introducing yourself, or worse, your company. Get right into it!
Do not introduce yourself, but instead begin by making a compelling statement, with a question or with a brief anecdote that should underscore or lead into your topic.
The main section
Your main section should not contain more than 3 key messages. Most people cannot remember more anyway. If you have time, you can substantiate your key messages in detail, but do not deviate from your topic.
Make sure that your presentation has a line of reasoning. This should not simply consist of a list of bullet points. You should be telling a well thought out story.
You end your business presentation by concisely summarizing your 3 key messages.
Avoid endings such as
“Thank you for your attention. Are there any questions?“
Allow your last sentence to impact on your key messages. Then quietly scan your audience for several seconds. Then briefly nod and only say
Is your presentation easy to understand?
Do not read from a manuscript. But also do not learn every sentence by heart. Formulate and speak freely. This forces you to express yourself in easy to understand language. The listeners will thank you for that.
Be concise and speak freely!
Use short sentences and speak in clear terms! Do not be upset when you make grammatical errors. A speech is not an exercise in English grammar.
Don’t read, but speak to the listener!
Your listeners aren’t interested in reading. They also don’t want you to read the slides to them. The purpose of your presentation is to inform, to excite and to elicit critical thinking. When using PowerPoint slides, these are only intended as support.
Condense the speech to the substantive points!
Many outstanding PowerPoint business presentations consist entirely of images. They visualize the presented idea and therefore optimally underscore the spoken content.
Reduce your slides to the substantive content:
- Only one key message per slide!
- Whenever possible use images and no text!
- If text is needed, use only few keywords!
- If graphics are used make them illustrative and readable!
3. Do you dry-run your business presentation?
Even professional speakers dry-run their presentation. One could actually say: The professionalism of a speaker is demonstrated by the fact that he dry-runs his presentation. After all, a presentation never works on the first pass. Practice makes perfect.
Practice out loud!
When practicing a presentation stand up and speak out loud. You must do this even when nobody else but you is in the room and you feel funny. Your thoughts might sound great in your mind. But you can only find out if this is true when speaking out loud.
Time the length of your presentation during the dry-run. It is OK if your presentation is a little shorter than planned. But avoid speaking longer than what was agreed.
Does everything work?
Before your business presentation: Test the equipment in the presentation room. Do the microphone, remote and projector work? Is the computer booted up and the current PowerPoint presentation ready to go? Will you be supported by a technician or will you have to take care of everything yourself?
“Detailed preparation requires time, but is easily more desirable than a disaster in front of the audience!”