Presentation stage tips

Large bid processes usually include a presentation phase. Since public speaking ranks alongside death as a major fear, it’s no wonder many team members dread this part of competitions.

No one likes speech making—so start by resolving not to give a speech. Instead, plan to have a conversation, one in which you’ll do most of the talking. Most people enjoy a good conversation.

With that in mind, here are five tips for a great presentation/conversation.

1. Don’t be boring

Who hasn’t sat through a boring presentation? Remember your last one and ask yourself: Why was it boring? I don’t know about you, but here’s my short list:

  • Way too many (ugly) slides
  • Way too much stuff on each slide
  • Lots of numbers I’ll never remember
  • No unifying theme or message—why should I care?
  • A presenter who obviously wants to be anywhere else

So do the opposite. Take in a well-designed deck of no more than one slide per two minutes of presentation time and no more than 20 words per slide. Lose those mind-numbing tables of data. Most important—focus the presentation on the prospect instead of yourself. Build it around one to three clear benefits you want the audience to remember.

Look (and be) glad to present. The remaining tips will help.

2. Tell stories

Everyone loves and remembers a good story. Telling stories is what old friends do when they get together. A story has three parts: what it was like, what happened, and how it turned out.

Stories are a natural way to showcase your strong team and ability to perform. Chose stories that focus on features and benefits your prospect cares about and that your competitors can’t match. Start each story by linking it to a hot button issue for your prospect.

3. Show emotion

Showing is always more powerful than telling. You’ve told the evaluators in your proposal how passionate you are about what you do and about winning their business. This is your chance to show them.

Smile. Get excited. Walk around. Gesture. Show the audience your team members really like each other and love working together. Don’t be that presenter who obviously wants to be anywhere else.

Telling stories (see item 2) instead of reciting facts makes it a lot easier to get excited.

4. Rehearse so it doesn’t sound canned

This is counterintuitive to new presenters, who often say, “I’ll just wing it, so it won’t sound rehearsed.”

That’s a recipe for disaster. Especially when—as we recommend—you’re using a small deck with too few words to simply read off the slides.

Rehearsing—out loud and together—is essential to a winning presentation. When you’re absolutely sure of what you want to say, you’ll come across as more natural. When you’ve practiced expressing ideas with your colleagues and integrated their feedback, you’ll be more convincing. When you’ve rehearsed handing off to your team members, you’ll look like a team.

Make sure everyone who will present (yes, including the boss) attends the rehearsals.

5. Don’t try to be perfect

Some great presenters purposely fumble a bit. It gives them a chance to laugh and makes them more human. The audience laughs along and thinks, “She’s all right. Not too full of herself. I can see working with this team.”

So don’t try to be perfect. If you follow the first 4 tips, you’ll come close enough that your audience will forgive any slip you make. Just be sure to keep smiling.

Good luck—and above all, don’t be boring!

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