At some point during your startup's progress, you'll have to walk up in front of an auditorium full of interested people and talk to them about your business. Some of them may be employees and supporters of your business model. But some of them may be members of the press, or better yet, potential investors.
The truth is, you want to publicise your startup to the largest amount of people possible. Think of it as, the more people that are interested in your company, the greater the chance for investment and other golden opportunities.
But if you're not used to public speaking, this can leave you with a dilemma. How do you address all the aspects of your business and answer everyone's questions? The simple answer is you don't.
The purpose of your presentation should be to stimulate interest in your company as much as answer questions about it. The presentation should be informative, but it should also contain elements of professional showmanship that will pique the interest of your audience.
By 'showmanship' we're not talking about flashy videos, lighting effects and motion graphics. We're talking about pacing – not making the presentation too long or short. And we're talking about structure – Have a beginning, a middle and a conclusive ending. People become bored with a presentation that seems to jump from topic to topic or drone on endlessly.
If you get these two basics right, you're on the road to an effective presentation. Here are some more tips on giving an effective presentation.
Most people these days, design their presentation around some sort of visuals, like a PowerPoint or KeyNote programme. This is all well and good. The visuals will give your presentation a sense of structure. But you should be able to give your presentation without looking at the visuals. You should be able to give your presentation forwards and backwards.
Relying on visuals to give you the cues on what to say next, shows a lack of preparedness. You should begin talking about the next point in your presentation before the next slide comes up on the screen.
Remember, you're the face of your company. If you're not radiating confidence and knowledge about your business model, then you can't expect your audience to stay engaged. And engagement is what a presentation is all about.
When you feel that you've made your presentation as good as it's going to get, try it out on people. But avoid using your work colleagues as a test audience. They know the topics you're talking about, so they don't have an objective viewpoint.
Ask a family member, friend or neighbour to listen to your presentation. After you've given it, ask them questions about your business to see if they have an understanding of the topics you covered. If they don't, make notes of the misunderstandings, and go back and refine your presentation until all points are readily understandable.
Also ask them what they thought about you as a public speaker, and except their criticisms as valid points that you need to work on and improve.
Your presentation is only as effective as your delivery. If you wander around the stage, stare up at the ceiling, repeat words incessantly, or exhibit any number of other behaviours, you take your audience's focus off your message.
Work on your presentation in front of a mirror until you no longer exhibit the unprofessional behaviours. This is good practice for future presentations as well as your role as the face of the company.
Steve Jobs used to famously hint at a surprise bit of news at the end of his presentations as a way to keep his audience engaged. Keeping your audience engaged is vital in delivering a successful presentation.
The easiest way to do this is by promising your audience a Q&A session after your presentation. A Q&A session also solves two potential problems of a presentation. It stops audience members from raising their hands to ask a question during your presentation.
If you stop your presentation every time an individual asks a question, you'll lose the attention of most of your audience. Remember, you're presenting to the entire audience, not just one person.
The second potential problem is solved once you reach the conclusion of your presentation and ask for questions from the audience. You'll notice people sitting up and a stirring in the audience as people await the start of the questions.
Be prepared to talk about any aspect of your company and answer every question honestly, no matter what the question. If you're giving your presentation in a sizable auditorium, have people holding microphones stationed in the aisles. You want to hear every question asked loud and clear.
Above all, make yourself available after your presentation. This is the mark of a true professional who's putting their company first. Be willing to engage with your audience and answer any follow-up questions. Take any criticisms graciously and accept compliments with humility.
You have cemented your reputation as the face of your startup, and your future public behaviour will continue to reflect back on your company. Make the most of your moment.