6 ways to create an inspiring business presentation

3-minute read

Whether you're speaking to an audience of business leaders, addressing a client or leading a staff meeting, you face the same problem: how to convey complex ideas so they will stick in your listeners' minds and encourage them to take action. You have to be both memorable and convincing.

You've probably heard that people in an audience remember only 10 to 20% of what they hear. Add slides to your talk and retention jumps to about 30%.

But you don't have to settle for 20% or 30% retention rates.

There's no limit to your ability to hold people's attention if you can engage their imaginations and inspire them with images and ideas that leave them buzzing afterwards.

Here’s how to improve your presentations

1. Think memorable moments

In her book Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, design consultant Nancy Duarte talks about adding S.T.A.R. moments to your talks: Something They'll Always Remember.

Duarte gained prominence for helping Al Gore develop his compelling presentation on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth.

From his funny opening line ("I used to be the next president of the United States") and giant photos of the Earth in space, to stark statistics on rising carbon levels and animations showing how global warming could wipe out whole species, Gore's presentation was filled with S.T.A.R. moments that ultimately inspired an Oscar-winning movie.

2. Find your S.T.A.R. moments

Think through your next business presentation, and spot S.T.A.R. moments of your own such as:

  • funny stories, especially with surprise endings;
  • anecdotes involving famous people and your industry;
  • graphic statistics that can help people see a situation in a different light; or
  • an emotional story about how your product has changed people's lives.

3. Get off to a fast start

Guy Cabana, a Montreal-based public speaker and trainer, says unless you engage today's audiences fast, they’re likely to start checking their smartphones or simply walk out. That’s why you have to make sure they know right away what’s in it for them. "The very first thing you have to do is identify the purpose of this meeting or talk," Cabana says. "Why are they here? Why are you talking to them? What will they take away?"

4. Identify potential objections

Before going into detail on what you want the group to do, cite three objections that audience members are likely to make. If you want your team to sell more, for instance, mention the current slow market, recent quality problems or shortcomings in distribution. By acknowledging these realities, you gain greater audience willingness to hear you out.

5. Offer solutions

As you discuss actions you want your audience to take, mention three solutions that will help them. You might refer to recent product upgrades, a more generous commission system and your successful online lead generation efforts.

6. Be realistic and inspire the audience

In your conclusion, let your audience know their mission will require effort. Win their buy-in by saying, "We cannot succeed in this without passion (or discipline or renewed commitment)"—anything that speaks to the conviction that will be needed to win.

With today's more aware audiences, Cabana says, you can't coerce people. You can't tell them what to do. But if you learn to hold their attention, stress shared interests and inspire them, you can be a podium hero and achieve your goals.

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