10 Top Tips To Improve Your Business Presentation Skills
July 08, 2023
To present successfully in business, you need to know how to put together a winning presentation.
Your biggest challenge when upping your corporate presentation skills is that it’s something you need to work at. That means it’s not just a quick win. For this reason, we have tried to make it easy so that you can take concrete steps to improving presenting skills.
But there is good news: Nobody is a natural presenter. Business presentation skills are learned skills that all the best presenters learn. Anyone can get better at presenting in business.
Benefits of Improving Your Business Presentation Skills
There are many benefits to improving your corporate presentation skills. For example, better presentation skills can help you:
- Advance your career. Effective communication is essential for success in business. Good presentation skills are often cited as the number one skill for business leaders. When you can deliver clear and concise presentations, you’ll make a positive impression on your colleagues, clients and competitors.
- Build your confidence. The more you present, the more comfortable you’ll become. This can boost your confidence in other areas of your life, such as job interviews and networking events.
- Become a more effective communicator. Corporate presentation skills are not just about speaking; they’re also about listening and responding to your audience. By being able to connect with your listeners, you will build rapport and influence opinions.
How to Improve your Business Presentation Skills
To help you build your business presentation skills, our presentation coaches have given you ten of their top lessons for creating and delivering world-class business presentations. These tips are equally valid for all types of corporate presentations. This expert advice is based on over 15 years of successfully supporting companies and teams to improve their presentation skills.
Top ten tips for improving your business presentation skills
To learn what skills are needed to develop business presentation skills, here is each tips in more detail:
1. Never start planning your presentation with PowerPoint
The biggest mistake bad presenters make is opening PowerPoint and starting by creating presentation slides. This is bad news. You’ll find it hard to be a good presenter if you use a PowerPoint-first approach. So, what do you do to become a better presenter? What do people with great business presentation skills do? Three behaviours that we coach people to adopt when we work with them to prepare powerful presentations include:
Understand your audience. If you are good at listening and good at asking questions then you are on your way. A good customer presentation should be more like a conversation than a one-way pitch. That means you need to ask good questions when pitching to customers. Then, carefully listening to your customer will help your customer like you more.
Have a very clear intent to your presentation. This means showing that you really care what your customer says and thinks. What your curiosity will give you is a better understanding of how your customer sees the world. For example, you’ll hear what they speak about, what words they use and what’s top of mind. This will allow you to be better liked by your customer.
Have one message that underpins your presentation. We all like people who are like us. If you read the research it tells us that we like people with whom we share something in common. The link could be a school, a hobby, friends, past employers or even nationality or first name. Find that link and you’ll find it easier to persuade people.
2. Make your audience feel comfortable during your presentation
If your audience does not feel comfortable, they will not listen to you. A business presentation skill you want to work on is connecting with your audience. You have many ways of making your audience feel comfortable. One simple idea is to avoid Death by PowerPoint. Many presentation techniques do not involve going through a PowerPoint presentation. Read more here.
You can make your audience feel comfortable by empathising with what they think and believe. For example, if you start your presentation by flattering the audience and telling the what they want to hear, you will get them nodding and listening to you. This will help you be a more impressive presenter.
3. Understand that logic alone is not enough
“Don’t be a logic bully”. Logic alone does not persuade. If logic alone was persuasive, then we would have no need for presentations, speeches or pitches. We’d all be communicating with spreadsheets.
Two and a half thousand years ago, Aristotle described what’s needed in a persuasive argument. You need a good balance of (1) logos, (2) ethos and (3) pathos. You can translate these Greek words as (1) Logic, (2) Credibility and (3) Emotion. What this means is that those with good presentation skills use a healthy balance of logic, credibility and emotion. To understand this in more detail, have a look at this article.
4. Give your audience a simple story
One of the most common mistakes people make when presenting is to make their presentations too complex. They assume that because people in the audience are smart that they will want complex ideas and complex presentations. This is wrong. Complexity is off-putting. Our brains love simplicity. A great presentation is a simple presentation.
Having worked on hundreds successful business presentations, we often surprise ourselves how simple the best presentations are. But making complex presentations simple is hard work. Anyone can pack a presentation with bullet points. It takes real skill to present with just a handful of words and diagrams on a page. We can help you do this.
5. Speak to your audience using their language
Which words do your audience use? What phrases will be familiar? Do they speak amongst themselves in corporate jargon or do they use the language of the pub. One of the presentation skills used by leaders is to speak using the simplest words possible. And they use words that are familiar to the audience.
For example, what do they speak about? Is it ‘corporate strategy’ or is it ‘where are we going as a company’? Is it ‘customer engagement’, or is it ‘what our customers say’? If you know the language they use, you too can use that language, which will be more meaningful. That’s how you present like a pro.
The more you can get into your audience’s head and speak their language, the better you will persuade.
6. Be a teacher, not a presenter
Generally, nobody wants to be taken through a presentation. Audiences prefer to be spoken to as if one to one. If you can turn a ‘presentation’ into a ‘teaching experience’ you will be more successful. For example, you are probably an expert on something when you present. How can you share that expertise?
People love learning new things. If you can explain, teach and help people understand, then you will demonstrate great presentation skills.
7. Acknowledge weaknesses
The weakest presentations paper over cracks and say that everything is fine. If you want to be convincing when you present, then you want to be clear that you understand what weaknesses exist and that you have plans to overcome those weaknesses.
And if you can’t see any weaknesses? Then ask people. Identify something that’s not completely perfect and show that you understand that problem.
By demonstrating that you acknowledge problems or weaknesses, you make it clear that you are good at running a business and forecasting problems. That is how you demonstrate you have good business presentation skills.
8. Use stories, examples and anecdotes when presenting
One of my favourite sayings for great presentations is “Facts get forgotten, but stories get repeated.” A good story is more compelling than the most convincing numbers. Yet, too many presentations fail to harness the power of compelling stories.
A good story in your presentation can be like one of those multi-tools. It can do many jobs at once. A powerful presentation story can help bring a complex idea to life. An story can make it easy for someone to understand what drives your facts and a strong story will help your audience. A good story can show how you deal with adversity.
9. Use a clear, simple structure
A great corporate presentation usually has a great structure. And a great presentation structure has common elements. To be successful, your presentation will use:
a. A strong start that connects with your audience
b. Clear messages, stated early in your presentation
c. Systematic sections, each of which push your story forward
d. A powerful, enthusiastic end.
If you can create a great structure like this, it’s much more likely that you will be have a successful presentation.
10. Make your presentation easy for your audience
For you to be successful in persuading your audience, you need to make it easy for your audience. What does that mean? It means you need to do the hard work so that your business presentation is easy to understand. And your audience does not need to work hard. Following the steps above will help you improve your presentation skills and become a much more effective presenter.
How do you improve your business presentation skills?
We are often asked for tips on improving corporate presentation skills. To complement our various free presentation and pitching guides and presentation training courses we run, here is some practical advice to help you build effective presentation skills.
If you want really good business presentation skills, you probably need to re-think how you prepare your presentations.
If you, like most people, switch to PowerPoint as soon as you hear the word ‘presentation’, then we have something to show you. This solid advice is from our presentation coaches who have been coaching business leaders to improve presentation skills for over 15 years.
Three Persuasive Videos – Better Business Presentations
Despite huge differences, in the following three videos, you will see that all three speakers use have impressive presentation skills. You will notice they they all:
- Make a connection with the audience in the first 15 seconds
- Explain complex ideas clearly and simply
- Look and sound confident
They do this using different presentation skills. For example, as you watch, note how they:
- Tell personal stories
- Use short sentences
- Incorporate many pauses
- Talk directly to the audience
- Ask questions
- Use rhetorical techniques such as contrasts and triplets
Each talk has a different purpose. But each works well for similar reasons. You too can learn how to use these persuasive techniques for better business presentations.
Sheryl Sandberg – Why we have too few women leaders
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She gives a highly personal and compelling talk explaining why few women get to the top. She has practical advice about how to change this.
Lt Tim Collins – Eve of battle talk
How do you get your men fired up to risk their lives and still remain disciplined under pressure? This re-enactment by Kenneth Branagh of a reported off-the-cuff speech is a perfect example.
CFO of Walmart – annual shareholders meeting
Not every firm has an annual shareholders meeting as big as this. Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley of Walmart shows how you can speak to analysts, shareholders and employees and keep them all engaged.
How to improve business presentation skills – Tips from the experts
1. “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Peter F Drucker
What this means is that sometimes you should not be preparing a presentation. For example, should you write a memo, just have a chat, or outline your thinking without PowerPoint. Remember, leaders rarely use PowerPoint.
2. “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” David Belasco
What this means is that any great presentation has just one big idea behind it. That is the hard bit about preparing a presentation.
3. “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” Charles Mingus
What this means is that your job as a presenter is to make it easy for your audience. The easier your presentation is to understand, the better you are as a presenter.
4. “For an author to write as he speaks is just as reprehensible as the opposite fault, to speak as he writes; for this gives a pedantic effect to what he says, and at the same time makes him hardly intelligible.” Arthur Schopenhauer
What this means is that spoken language and written language are completely different. To present well you need to learn about powerful spoken language. Read more here. Similarly, don’t confuse written document and visual aids. They are as different as a book and a film.
5. “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Thomas Jefferson
What this means is that presentations are made in the edit and the practice. One of the greatest mistakes you can make is to put too much into your presentation. Instead say less, and say it better.
6. “Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge. Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all.” Winston Churchill
See the link above on Power Language. The language of leadership is clear and simple.
7. “The shorter and the plainer the better.” Beatrix Potter
You can achieve much more with a short presentation than a long one. A great planning tool is to summarise your talk in just one minute. If it works well in one minute it will work well as a longer presentation. Keep hammering away at your one minute version of your presentation until it is tight and compelling.
8. “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain
The Pause. The presentation skill master’s true friend. You should pause every 5-12 words. You’ll sound more authoritative. Learn how to pause in your presentations.
9. “Don’t be nervous. Do just as I do. Whenever I get up to speak, I always make a point of taking a good look around the audience. Then I say to myself, ‘What a lot of silly fools.’ And then I always feel better.” Winston Churchill
Nerves are natural. The trick is to hide any tells. We have a great toolbox of tricks to transform nervous presenters into compelling communicators.
10. “The more I practise the luckier I get.” Gary Player
Great presenters practise, a lot. The more you practise, the better you will become.
How to improve your business presentation skills quickly
If you want to learn more about acquiring brilliant business presentation skills, speak to us.
We have been coaching presenters for the last 15 years, transforming them into great confident speakers.
How to make a stand out business presentation
Learn how to improve your business presentation skills.
About Benjamin Ball Associates
At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.
Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.
We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.
Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email email@example.com to find out more and discuss transforming your speeches, pitches and presentations.
Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.
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