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Get your presentation started on the right foot

Published: May 19, 2016

Author: Oliver Eldredge

Your first time presenting during a large meeting or QBR can be a bit daunting. One of the most important, and sometimes undervalued, aspects of nailing those presentations is to put energy into preparing a great introduction. This post will cover some of the most commonly overlooked best practices for ensuring that you hit the ground running with confidence, and set yourself up for success to have a great client presentation.

Identify your audience

Before you get started, there are some things that you can do to prepare. Reading your audience before you need to be in front of the group is a great way to improve the connection you make with them when it’s your turn to present.
In a larger group, you should have already identified the stakeholders who are most interested in your message. In addition, you can also read the room to figure out which audience members you will most likely be able to connect with while presenting. Identifying a couple of engaged and friendly audience members can help you to establish a connection with the whole group. Leveraging these folks for eye contact, questions, and interaction can go a long way towards making you more comfortable and making your presentation more engaging.

Manage your audience’s expectations

One of the first things you want to avoid is diving right into your content. Always take a minute to introduce yourself and set your client’s expectations before getting into the details. This can include simple things like a quick abstract agenda, as well as more subtle queues like suggesting a tone for your material, or establishing a context for what you’re presenting.
Two great rules of thumb to follow when calibrating how much time to spend on an introduction are:
First of all, if your audience left right after you finished your intro, they should be able to explain to someone what you covered in your presentation. They shouldn’t be able to explain away all of the details, or dive into specifics, but they should be able to describe the topic and maybe the big takeaway.
For example, “We had a great quarter and set a few records for overall revenue and single day revenue. I’m going to go over the optimizations that we made to the account that helped to accomplish that.”
Second, leave specifics and explanations out. An abstract description of what you’re going to cover, delivered in a conversational tone, will help to set your audience’s expectations and get things started. Including specifics in your intro can confuse your audience and make it seem like you’ve begun diving into your actual content.
For example, avoid “We had a great quarter last quarter with $5,749,992 in revenue, which was a record for a quarter, as well as setting a single-day revenue record of $975,392. I’m going to cover the account reorganization, ad copy testing, and bid optimization that went into achieving that performance.”
Too much detail, and it sounds like you’ve started to present your main content, and not enough; you can come across as having jumped into things too quickly. If you follow these two rules, though, you should strike a great balance and nail an effective conversational introduction.

Prepare for things to go wrong

Few people get through an entire presentation without a few hiccups. Before you get started, it’s a great idea to have a plan for not letting small problems derail you.
Identify the mannerisms and body language that you use when you’re tense or uncomfortable, as well as what you use when you’re confident. When something does go wrong, or if you catch yourself using a nervous tick, then make a deliberate effort to slow down, take a deep breath, and shift back into your more confident habit.
A common example of this in motion would be a presenter who uses lively hand gestures when they’re confident, and clenches their hands together when they’re nervous. If they have something go wrong (happens to the best of us), they might catch themselves clenching their hands. At this time, they can take a deep breath, stand up straight, and make a point of using some of their more familiar gestures.
Presenting well takes a lot of practice, and we all have our own style. If you start by connecting with your audience, set their expectations, and prepare for a few bumps in the road, then you’ll be set up for success and have laid the groundwork to get started on an awesome presentation.

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