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article imageQ&A: How important are presentations for succeeding in business? Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 25, 2019 in Business
To succeed in business, getting the message across early in a presentation is key, as is spending time on the look and feel of the presentation. Leading expert Henrik Bergqvist shares some advice.
Making an effective presentation is necessary both internally within a business and for making pitches to other firms. An effective presentation needs to tell a story, in terms of having a coherent narrative. A presentation also needs to direct and to present the key messages simply. Equally important are the graphics used and the way that the presentation is delivered, which covers the personal delivery and length.
READ MORE: Q&A: Presentation management technology saves employee time
To look at the best way to deliver presentations and the way technology can be used to facilitate this, Digital Journal spoke with Henrik Bergqvist, founder and CEO of Pickit.
Digital Journal: How important are presentations for succeeding in business?
Henrik Bergqvist: The importance of a quality presentation can’t be underestimated. A compelling pitch deck, report or product launch can mean the difference between securing an investment, getting a project approved or bringing the right team together for a new initiative at work. That’s probably why the average employee spends 20 hours a month on creating and delivering presentations.
According to studies, around 70 percent of presentations are said to be unengaging and would have made a better Word doc than PowerPoint deck. This means wasted time at work, unengaged employees and poor results. Bad presentations mean bad business.
DJ: How do presentations vary, in terms of, say, trying to sell something to lining out internal strategy?
Bergqvist: The most common presentation goals are to entertain, engage, persuade or educate.
Each of these requires a different approach, so it’s vital that every time we create a new presentation, we sit down and ask ourselves what the end goal is.
If our aim is to entertain, then exciting stories, anecdotes and humor might take center stage. If we want to persuade the audience to buy something, we’ll probably need some data, stats and facts to back up our arguments, but also need to remember the emotional component to every purchasing decision. An informative presentation can afford some more text on the screen, while most decks benefit from keeping it simple and saving most of the words for the presenter to deliver verbally.
Here are a few questions presenters can ask before preparing a deck:
Who are we talking to?
What do they know already?
What do they need to know?
What do I want them to do when they’re done?
These questions will help us create a presentation that takes people to the right place.
DJ: Is PowerPoint still the best tool to use?
Bergqvist: People have their preferences, but with 1.2 billion Office users worldwide, PowerPoint is still the leading presentation tool for people at work. And with the new range of third-party Office add-ins and apps on the market, it’s becoming a more powerful productivity and communication tool than ever.
By dividing a PowerPoint into three chunks, an ordinary presenter without a lot of skill or storytelling experience can communicate in an effective manner that’s tailored to the human brain. We’re visual creatures, wired for stories.
DJ: What other technologies can be used?
Bergqvist: Prezi, Keynote and Google Slides are three examples of great presentation tools available on the market today. However, most knowledge workers are also Office users, and PowerPoint is their default program of choice. Another difference is that programs like Prezi really only work if the person using it is already a good storyteller and communicator and really knows what they’re doing.
DJ: Is there a difference in impact between presentations delivered in person and those delivered remotely?
Bergqvist: Many presenters make the mistake of sending the same presentation they use on stage, or vice versa. Don’t!
Live presentations should have less text, leaving the bulk to the presenter to deliver verbally. Sendouts should have more information, including the key points, arguments, stories, and information included in the verbal presentation.
A good trick to accomplish this is imagining something halfway between your live presentation and a Word document, and using that as your final in-person presentation.
DJ: What advice would you give to those who are nervous about delivering presentations?
Bergqvist: Three words: Practice, preparation, and simplicity.
Most of us think we don’t need to practice, but there’s no better way to prune back unnecessary information, slides and other components, and to be sure you’re nailing your main message, than by first running through it and hearing yourself out loud. Whenever possible, make sure to prepare early and give yourself time to adjust your presentation after your first practice run.
Lastly, keep it simple. If in doubt, you should probably lose a slide or two and be confident with those you keep, rather than trying to impress people or compensate for nerves by adding extra content that just gets in the way. Less is more. For example, when presenting on stage to an audience, try removing everything but your titles and sticking to a maximum of seven words per line. Put everything else in your presenter notes and limit the quantity of text on your slides. If you want people to listen to you, don’t make them read at the same time!
DJ: How long should a good presentation last?
Bergqvist: This really depends on the audience, physical setting and ultimate goal of the presentation — not to mention the quality of the presenter. That said, it’s better to end on a high note and leave people wanting more, rather than rambling on and putting people to sleep. It’s also better to finish early if you’ve already said what you need to say, rather than carry on in order to appear more professional or knowledgeable. Generally, 20-30 minutes is plenty.
DJ: Should presenters seek to build rapport with the audience?
Bergqvist: Yes! And they need to start right from the beginning. You only get one first impression and people will decide whether or not to listen in a matter of seconds. So, instead of wasting your intro on irrelevant background info about yourself or your company, try to start out with a bang.
Then, when you’ve figured out who you’re talking to and where you want to take them by the end of your presentation, you only need to make sure you connect with them and get them hooked so they come along for the journey.
Some suggested hooks for building rapport:
A shared problem they need to solve
A common concern they care about
A compelling story relevant to your setting or message
A person struggle people can sympathize with
A question to get them interacting (and preferably saying “yes”)
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