8 Master Business Presentation Tips

April 1, 2015

A version of this article first appeared on Inc.com on March 25, 2015.

Sometimes we have just one shot to get our point, our pitch, our cause across with impact. Inc. spoke with some of the presentation-business leaders to learn their secrets to a great pitch and presentation. From corporate trainers to authors, professional presenters to the people who make the new breed of software, here are the tips and tricks of the industries’ brightest and best.

First – a primer on the consensus of the experts: PowerPoint is losing ground. The old mainstay PowerP nmTell Stories - Business Presentation Tips - FlowVella

1. Tell A Story

Instead of boring your audience to tears, develop a genuine connection with your audience. How? Throughout your presentation, tell stories that add meaning and depth to your message. Telling personal stories will make you more likable, trustworthy, and interesting. In addition, facts and stats typically only stimulate two areas of the human brain, but stories can activate up to seven areas of the human brain as well as trigger emotional responses within listeners. Presentations that are engaging both mentally and emotionally are more memorable and influential, thus more successful.
- Leslie Belknap, Engagement Committee Chair and TEDx Nashville board member

2. Tricks of the Ace Trade

Here are some of the Ace’s Tricks of the Trade: Vary The Template. If it looks stock, it probably is. Altering an existing template doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time. It also indicates that the presenter knows how to represent the idea and narrative visually. Some programs like FlowVella offer easy drag and drop customization and more diverse templates. Don’t be afraid to change colors, add logos and alter the elements for a totally unique look with just a few minutes of work. Font Selection – Much like the above point regarding custom templates, font selection is very important. The font is not just typeface. It represents the idea through the actual look of the word. It should align with the tone of the core idea/narrative. Furthermore, font selection is most critical for readability. You need it clean. Mix Up Your Media – Adding a bursting star doesn’t mean you are increasing the impact of a point or a component of a slide/frame. Instead, add punch with mixed media. Bringing an idea or point to life through text, images, photography, video, etc is much more memorable than cheap movements. Your software should allow for insertion of PDF’s and video. No Bullets – just don’t use them. High Contrast – When piecing the various design elements together, make sure big points and key visuals are high contrast and pop for the audience. Image vs. Text – Images are very important. But an image heavy presentation without explanation or substance, is simply a series of pretty slides. Voice over is obviously an important part of a presentation, but ultimately an audience will ask themselves what they just learned. Takeaways and insights need to be stated to be remembered.
- Ryan Mack, President, Carrot Creative, a VICE Company

3. Digital Tips

After I’ve crafted my presentation, the best way to share the presentation is via a URL, or web link. This has many advantages over sending a file. You’re not sending your prospect, customer or co-worker a big file to download, and there is no risk that the link won’t go through a firewall. More importantly, you can continue to work on the presentation and make updates even after you’ve sent it. With presentation analytics, I can know who has visited that presentation which gives me further insights and huge advantage over sending a presentation file.
- Brent Brookler, Founder/CEO, FlowVella (Formerly FlowBoard)

Storyboard It - Business Presentation Tips - FlowVella

4. Storyboard It

The most traditional (and foolish) way to create a presentation is to open up a blank PowerPoint document and try to make magic happen. This can result in mistakes in flow, logic, and overall cohesion as you try and write and design each concept in real-time. Steal a writer’s tip and create a text-only framework for the entire thing before you launch into the full draft. It’s just like the outline you used to create for 5th grade book reports, where all of your sub-points support your main points, and the intro and outro tie everything together nicely. Aim for a single summary of your core idea, supported by three smaller sub points which will prove your summary. And of course, don’t start to design your work without making sure that the outline is airtight. The result? No more strange tangents, lost points, and unnecessary slides.
- Sunday Avery, Content Writer, Ethos3

5. Introverts and Extroverts

One of the best pieces of advice came to me from a mentor years ago. He told me all audiences are generally comprised of a 50/50 balance of introverts and extroverts. I have tested his theory on audiences since then and can attest to it’s validity. The grand lesson: never lean your presentation in one direction. For instance, if your presentation is dominated by workshops and activities, your extroverts are going to love you and your introverts are going to despise you. On the opposite end of that spectrum, if you lecture the entire time, your introverts will feel comfortable and your extroverts will get bored. Presenters must make the extra effort to balance their message and activities. Like most things in life, moderation is key.
- Scott Schwertly, CEO, Ethos3

The Beauty of 3 - Business Presentation Tips - FlowVella

6. Keep it to Three Points
The human brain works like this: 1, 2, 3…I forget. No one is going to remember your 4th or 10th point, yet most presenters today feel it is necessary to showcase everything they know about a specific topic. The sad reality is that we live in a world with a short attention span. Presenters either win hearts by being succinct or they can choose to neglect this responsibility and be forgotten forever. Therefore, the stage or front of the room is not the appropriate place to exhibit your depth of knowledge via 17 different takeaways. No one is going to remember them, or you.
- Scott Schwertly, CEO, Ethos3

Stay on Track - Business Presentation Tips - FlowVella

7. Whatever You’re Selling, You’re Just Selling IDEAS

It doesn’t matter what the widget is you’re offering, or the service. These days people are not buying either – they are buying IDEAS.  Nobody is buying an Apple Watch. They are buying the ideas of new fitness for some, faster communication for others, prestige and early adopter status for others, and a blend of those ideas for many. A presentation is no longer about closing anything but rather about germinating an IDEA that resonates with the audience. The idea then drives a passion to acquire the product or service. That’s a much stronger way to sell. But how do you create a presentation that plants the idea you are communicating into the mind of the viewer? And how do you STAY ON TRACK when working with IDEAS? First – you have to ask who the audience is. Before I start a presentation, make slide #1 and list all you know about the audience on it. Tech Savvy or Consumer End User? Decision Makers or Influencers? Buying for Self or for The Firm? Likes Short and Sweet or Likes Story and Emotion? After that, put a topic in logical order on each of your following slides and build the images and the story to fit all the info you placed on Slide #1. Slide #1 will keep telling you how to position your points to create ideas that the audience can relate to, and which fan the fires of desire for your solutions.
- Jonathan Todd, Managing Director, 808 Marketing, LLC

50/50 Business Presentation Tips - FlowVella

8.  Balance the Theatre and the Scholar

George Lois said selling is the ultimate mix of scholarship and theatre, expertise and style. This could not be more appropriate to consider when designing presentations because at their core, presentations are a sales pitch – we communicate an idea to another individual or group of individuals in an attempt to make them agree, or ideally, fall in love with the idea. So, always be sure you are demonstrating scholarship with style. If you are all style, then you’re a poser. Potentially a hack. If you are all scholarship, then you’re boring… or worst off, forgettable. The balance is incredibly important.
- Ryan Mack, President, Carrot Creative, a VICE Company

Whether you implement one or all of these tips right away, you’re sure to see improvements in your presentations. Now we’d love to hear from you – what do you think makes a stand out presentation? Let us know in the comments below!