Simply uttering the word ‘presentation’ can send some perfectly rational people into a tizzy.

The thought of stepping in front of an audience sets the heart racing, the stomach churning and the mind completely frazzled.

This (all too frequent) cocktail of anxiety is scary enough for most business presenters, but add the pressure of the whole experience being a ‘must win pitch’ and it can be a recipe for disaster…

So what to do about it? We’ve spotted three key stages to powerful pitch presentations:

Step One – Recognising the importance

This might seem like a very strange thing to focus on, especially in light of the anxiety that so many people feel when presenting their pitch. The reality is that burning up lots of nervous energy doesn’t particularly equate to preparing yourself and your material properly.

Every (yes, EVERY) sales presentation should feel like a privilege that you’ve worked damned hard to get. Recognise the time that your audience is giving you (time is the one thing their money can’t buy them back) and approach the entire process professionally. Powerful, engaging and impactful presentations take time and investment, so don’t waste valuable days/weeks/months running around like a headless chicken.

Take time to build a plan, create a message and find an audience to test it on. Stop panicking and start focusing on the prize at stake – clarity around this will ensure your professionalism rises above everything else.

Step Two – Recognising there is no ‘magic template’

Presentations do not come in kit form. Each and every one of them should be bespoke and aligned specifically with your audience.

Start with crafting your presentation in such a way that it engages your audience by addressing something important to them – your wonderful product/service/widget is only wonderful if it resonates and engages your audience.

Ensure you focus your energies on getting this link between message and audience as tight as you possibly can before fretting about font size, number of slides or how long you think you should be talking. These are the details that come after you’ve built a proper understanding of your audience.

If in doubt, consider using evaluation techniques like ‘Audience Heatmapping’ to get a sense of what makes your audience tick.

Step Three – Recognise how to stand out from the crowd

The good news is that there ARE some simple rules to follow here. The even better news is that, if you commit to delivering on these, you’re likely to be head and shoulders above the competition before you even start.

Keep it as short as your audience needs. No one ever complained about a short presentation, so don’t feel obliged to fill your time slot with waffle and endless slides. Your audience doesn’t care (and if they do, they will ask…and then you can unveil your ‘hidden’ slides).

Keep it audience-focused. The success of a presentation should never be measured on how the presenter feels at the end. The real gauge of success is how the audience is left feeling and, most importantly, what they are going to DO as a result of your presentation. Everything else is ego fluffing.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Yes, I know it can be boring. And yes, we know it takes a long time (especially when done properly). And yes, it can feel a little silly presenting the same information time after time…but, we guarantee, every moment you spend rehearsing will pay you back in terms of confidence, audience engagement and peace of mind later on.

So there you have it.  Great pitch presentations happen because of damned hard work, a pragmatic approach (even when your pulse rate is at an all-time high!) and an intimate understanding of your audience. All the other stuff can come into play once you have the basics right (and not before!)

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