How often are you called upon to present on behalf of your small business? Whether you are presenting before customers, investors, or your own team — face-to-face or virtual — you want your delivery to encourage the action or change your business needs to keep growing.

While some people are more relaxed and confident about presenting, there are skills and techniques you can learn to increase your confidence. A successful presentation begins by understanding your audience. Find out about the interests of the group, what they know and what they hope to learn. Once you understand who your audience is, you can begin to prepare your content.

Here are some key things to keep in mind to ensure you deliver a compelling presentation that engages your audience.

  • Set expectations: At the outset, let your audience know what you intend to cover so they know what to expect.
  • Start out strong: Capture the attention of your audience as soon as you begin. Use a relevant fact that you’ve uncovered in research or throw out a concept that stimulates thought and debate.  You might even ask a question of the audience to get them engaged.
  • Focus on a few key points: Organize your presentation into five or so key points or messages and go through them in an order that makes sense. It helps the audience follow you and remember your messages.
  • Avoid lots of details: Don’t overload your audience with too much detail as you go through each point.  When there’s too much information, your audience loses interest. If you are using a slide presentation, use simple phrases to prompt you what to say about each point. Your audience is there to hear what you have to say, not to hear you read your slides. On the other hand, use examples to support your points. Real life examples and stories liven up your presentation and make it more engaging.
  • Speak their language: Don’t alienate your audience with overly technical terms and acronyms. If you must use an acronym or industry term, be sure to explain it.
  • Practice your delivery: Practice your delivery until you feel confident that you will sound natural and not rehearsed. This doesn’t mean you have to memorize your presentation, but be familiar enough with the content to speak comfortably and naturally.
  • Invite questions from the audience: You can encourage people to ask questions throughout your presentation or ask them to hold them until you are done. The former ensures that people won’t forget their questions. If they are uncertain about something you said; you can clarify it at the time. However, if you prefer they wait till you are done, let them know before you begin your presentation. Suggest that they write down any questions they have so they won’t forget them.
  • Test equipment: As a reminder, don’t wait till the presentation to make sure equipment works. Rehearse your presentation using whatever audio and visual equipment you need.  This is particularly important if your presentation is a virtual web or video conference.

The key to presenting is to enjoy it. You have something to say and your audience wants to hear it. Try to have a good time and your audience will too.