5 Tips for Presentations that Inform and Persuade

Today’s accounting and finance professionals are taking on more strategic roles in their organizations and interacting more frequently with other departments. As a result, strong presentation skills are more critical than ever. It’s crucial that you know how to present compelling points, package information and explain technical information to non-financial stakeholders.

Simply knowing how to use presentation tools such as PowerPoint and Keynote isn’t enough; you need finely tuned public speaking skills as well. Here are five practical tips for boosting your presentation skills:

1. Face your fears. If you have anxiety about public speaking, the best way to overcome it is to, well, speak in public. Begin by making short presentations to your closest colleagues or friends. When you feel ready, volunteer to give a quick talk or make an announcement at one of the professional or civic organizations you belong to. Consider joining Toastmasters International, a public speaking organization, to get even more practice. Share tips for presentations with members you meet there.

2. Do your homework. You’ll have much more confidence during your presentation if you’re well prepared. To get ready for your talk, learn as much as you can about your audience. This will help you determine how you’ll present your information to get your points across. Use concrete facts and quantifiable information from white papers, surveys or case studies from reputable sources to support your points. If you’re trying to win new business, let your audience know how you’ve helped companies or clients reach their goals.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Practice your presentation until you know it inside and out. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Run through it with a colleague or friend. Ask for honest feedback about both your content and delivery, and make any necessary adjustments. Then practice some more.

4. Stand and deliver. Remember one of the basics of giving presentations: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. And then tell them what you told them.” Keep your audience in mind at all times. Speak conversationally and don’t use jargon. Show enthusiasm for what you’re presenting. Your audience will respond to your passion. As presentation expert Gavin McMahon notes, it's helpful to season your talk with some quick asides or jokes. Also, use metaphors and anecdotes when appropriate. Keep in mind that your slides should support your presentation; not be your presentation. 

5. Anticipate questions. Your presentation isn't necessarily over once you wrap up your prepared remarks. Colleagues or clients may have questions, concerns or points of resistance about information you presented. Anticipate these by knowing your topic like the back of your hand. No matter how well your presentation went it could end on a low note if someone asks a question you can’t answer. Again, proper preparation is the key.

What tips for presentations can you share? Let us know in the comments section.

Related post: Soft Skills Spotlight: Written Communication Skills