Presenting Confidently and Persuasively in a Professional Setting

Your boss has asked you to present your team’s work to management…

A potential investor has asked you to pitch your idea….

Your client needs a little more convincing before they’ll sign on the dotted line….

…and you know that your presentation will make or break the deal. It’s got to be slick, persuasive and delivered with confidence.

Gulp. How are you going to pull this off?

Firstly, breathe! While public speaking can be daunting, almost anyone working in a business setting will be asked to present a product, project, or pitch at some point in their career. It’s totally normal to feel anxious about speaking in front of a group, and there’s only one way to beat the fear – prepare and practise! This blog will give you all the tips and tricks you need to prepare and deliver a convincing presentation in a business setting.

But where to start? The first step is to open PowerPoint, Prezzi, or Canva, right?

Wrong! Before you can even think about creating your presentation, you need to plan out the content. Delivering a good presentation isn’t all about creating snazzy slides and delivering your message with confidence; more important than this, of course, is what you’re actually saying.

Once you’ve decided on your key messages and completed your research, open up a new document and write out a script for the entire presentation. This will make sure that your presentation flows logically and will make creating your slides much easier.

Have your key messages and audience in mind as you write and try to take your audience on a journey. We are much more likely to remember information if we have an emotional reaction to what we’re hearing, so try to make your audience feel something. Incorporate stories from your own life, add humour, or surprise them with interesting facts and statistics. It’s all about capturing your audience’s attention and sparking their imaginations.

When you’ve decided on what you’re going to say, it’s time to create your slides. You don’t need to be a design guru to make your presentation visually effective, just follow these simple rules:

Limit the amount of text on each slide.

If your audience wanted a written report, they would have asked for one. If your slides are too text heavy, your audience will engage with what they’re reading rather than with what you’re saying, so limit the text on your slides to one or two key points.

You may even leave the text off completely, and instead use images to reinforce what you’re saying. Your audience is much more likely to remember your key messages if you support your points with thought-provoking images.

Use high-quality, modern templates

Try to avoid the most popular presentation templates (such as PowerPoint’s Atlas theme). If you’ve seen and used them a thousand times before, so has your audience!

This doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch – there are plenty of free PowerPoint templates available online. Start by taking a look Microsoft Office’s 66 Free PowerPoint Templates to Make Your Life Easier.

Keep it simple.

While your slides should be visually appealing, try to avoid ‘over-designing’ with flashy transitions and unnecessary effects. Choose design elements that reinforce your message and avoid those that only serve to distract your audience.

Once you have finished preparing your presentation, it’s time to shift your focus to how you will deliver your presentation. It’s true, some people find speaking in front of a crowd easier than others, but with practice, we can all fake it ‘til we make it!

Here are some simple tips to help you capture your audience’s attention and keep them engaged throughout your presentation.

Use body language to project confidence

You don’t need to be a natural performer or an extrovert to deliver a great presentation…you just have to act like one!

One way to communicate confidence is through body language. Put your audience at ease by making eye contact, smiling, and relaxing your stance.

When you’re standing still, anchor your feet firmly to the ground and use hand gestures to emphasise key points.

A little movement is great, but you should always move with purpose. Avoid pacing for no reason – only move if you have a reason for doing so (like to gesture to your slide or to interact with your audience).

Use voice to project confidence

In order to speak confidently, you need to pay attention to the three ‘Ps’: Pace, Projection and Pause.

Pace, of course, is about how quickly you speak. Most of us tend to speak quickly when we’re nervous, giving our audience less time to absorb what we’re saying and giving ourselves less time to think! Often, we don’t even realise that we’re doing it, so try recording your presentation and listening back so you can settle on the perfect pace.

Put simply, good projection means making sure that everyone in the room can hear you, including those people playing Candy Crush in the back row. Practise delivering your presentation to a friend on the other side of the room, and ask them the following questions once you have finished:

  • Could you hear what I was saying clearly?
  • Did I sound passionate about what I was talking about?
  • Did I sound confident?

You may not get a ‘yes’ to each question on your first time, but with practise, you’ll get there.

Interact with your slides

While it’s important to avoid reading off your PowerPoint slides, don’t ignore them completely! Give your audience a moment to absorb the images and information on each slide before you begin talking and take some time to explain the slide content and relate it to what you’re saying. Think of your PowerPoint presentation as your teammate – you’re the captain of the team and it’s your job to deliver your message, but your slides are there to back you up. Together, you’ll clinch the deal!

Practise, practise, practise!

This may be last on our list of tips, but it’s also the most important.

All of these tips and tricks will go out the window if you’re trying to remember what to say next throughout your entire presentation.

Practise with friends, practise in the shower, practise with your slides…practise so many times you could deliver your presentation in your sleep!

The more you practise, the less nervous you’ll feel on the day, and the more likely it is that you’ll deliver your message confidently and get your client to sign on the line.

Get ahead of the curve and upskill now

We know, we know – there’s so much to think about! There’s truly an art to public speaking, and there’s a lot to learn.

That’s why our short course in Mastering Public Speaking is so popular. The course is designed to help you become an effective public speaker by teaching you how to talk confidently and persuasively. You will also learn how to plan and deliver your presentations skilfully and how to manage one of the most common public speaking barriers—fear. All of our short courses consist of 12 online lessons, including interactive quizzes, assignments, tutorials and online discussion areas.  The courses can be accessed over the internet 24/7, making them a great fit for learners with other professional or personal commitments. Follow this link to find out more and enrol today!

If you’re interested in team leadership and want to learn how to present like a leader, New Zealand Certificate in Business (First Line Management) (Level 4) may be the perfect fit for you. As part of this qualification, you’ll work through our course in Achieving Team Objectives. The assessments in this course place you right in the business context, as you’re tasked with planning an event to showcase New Zealand bands to 300 attendees.

“This is an awesome course because it teaches you how to think about a project and link it directly back to achieving the objectives of an organisation,” says Facilitator Melanie Baynes.

As you plan your music festival, you’ll put yourself in the role of the team leader and develop a work plan, set team objectives, plan for unforeseen events, delegate roles to suit your team members’ skills, and ensure that the event achieves organisational and operational objectives. The final assessment of the course involves analysing and presenting your work plan and team objectives as if you are speaking to business stakeholders and your team members.

“One of the things that we do with all of our courses is help learners develop core skills that will be needed in the workplace. Clearly the ability to communicate within a team and with other stakeholders is incredibly important in almost any work situation. This assessment gives our learners the opportunity to try presenting in a safe environment, helping them gain meaningful experience at using these skills. They also gain experience in presenting in an online setting, which is increasingly important in a post-COVID environment with the increasing use of video meeting platforms and software such as Skype and Zoom.”

If you want to take your business presentation skills to the next level and practise producing professional presentations in a safe, real-world context, get in touch with eCampus NZ by phone on 0800 328 269 or enquire or apply today!

Break a leg!

The eCampus NZ learning platform is being closed on 29 February 2024, as part of the completion of the amalgamation into Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga. Therefore, access to courseware for ākonga (learners) will be available for three months post course completion or 29 February 2024, whichever happens first. If you have any questions, please contact eCampus NZ : [email protected] or call 0800 328 269.