When you speak before an audience, have some fun with it. Stop concentrating on ‘Will they like me?’ and instead focus on ‘What will they gain from hearing me?’
– Leanne Anderson, Anderson Business Resources
We know that many people aren’t big fans of public speaking but being able to give a good business presentation is an important part of promoting your business, communicating with potential investors, and connecting with your future customers. The good news is that by building your business plan, you’ve already planned out most of the content for your presentation “pitch.” Now, it’s a case of organizing your information carefully, focusing on your audience, and practising your presentation delivery so you can feel confident.
Elevator Pitches and Elevator Speeches
In Lesson 6: Building Your Vision, we mentioned that elevator pitches answer the question “what do you do?” and that your positioning statement is essentially your elevator pitch. Given they’re a type of business presentation, let’s look at elevator pitches as well as elevator speeches in a bit more detail.
Although both are very short, there’s actually a tiny difference between an elevator pitch and what’s called an elevator speech.
Tips for putting together elevator speeches:
- Focus on your positioning statement
- Describe what problem your idea/service/product solves
- Connect with your audience by using engaging language (e.g., “Did you know that…?”)
- Describe your target market
- Explain your solution to the problem and what value you provide
- Show your experience
- Explain your goals (if you’re talking to investors)
- Keep it short
- Have a “takeaway” – make sure your audience has a way to contact you if they are interested and want to know more.
Just remember, you’re doing all of this in a short space of time!
According to Bplans.com, you can use the following formula to create a short elevator speech/pitch:
We offer/make [solution] for [target market] so that [value].
And this one for a longer speech:
Did you know that [target market] have [problem]? I’ve created [solution] that [value]. So far, we’ve [traction]. Now, we’re hoping to [goal]. My team and I have [experience].
In this course, we’re focusing more on the elevator pitch concept, but it’s good to formulate your elevator speeches, as they tie in to the pitch and your positioning statement.
Analyzing Your Audience
You’ve done a lot of work identifying your target customer; it’s the same kind of concept when you’re communicating with any audience. It’s very helpful if you do an analysis of your audience before you present to them. What this means is, like with your target customer profile, you need to think about who your audience is, what they need to know, and what they don’t need to know.
For example, compare presenting your business “pitch” to potential investors versus your target customers. What will each audience care about when it comes to your business? What will help persuade them to invest in you and your ideas or buy your products? Use what you know or can guess about the audience to pick what information to select, how much detail to include, and what type of language to use in terms of how much technical detail they will need (or not need). You can use your persona to guide you for presentations to target customers, and you can consider building a persona for potential investors.
In general, you can use the information and order of your “lean” business plan as your guide for shorter pitches and the longer business plan for longer presentations. Remember your audience, though, as well as any potential restrictions like time, location, and the point of your presentation (e.g., grant application, pitch competition, investor meeting, etc.) as these will also impact the choices you make for your presentation.
Structuring Your Presentation
It can be hard to decide how to structure a presentation, even if you’ve carefully analyzed your audience. Think of your presentation as a story you’re telling your audience – it needs a strong beginning, middle, and end.
Opening: Use a “Hook” & Agenda
Middle: Focus on Key Details
Closing: Sum Up & End Strongly
A big part of any business presentation is “selling” yourself and your ideas to your audience. You want to persuade your audience that your product or service is the best option/worth investing in/what they need to solve their problems. So, try to focus on being persuasive – in your language but also in your presentation organization. Use interesting, descriptive language; make numbers and statistics meaningful by using everyday examples to clarify what you mean; and balance out more emotional information and language with logical, fact-based information.
Most audiences want to know “what’s in it for me?”, so make sure you focus on the benefits of your product or service and how it’ll help your audience. Don’t just list off the features of your product/service (its characteristics, elements, qualities, etc.); keep the focus on what it can or will do for the audience (the benefits). Emphasize the “selling points” of your business. What sets you apart?
Overcoming Audience Resistance
Sometimes, no matter how hard you prepare or how great your business idea is, you can face the “Four P’s of Resistance” from your audience:
Product – they don’t like your idea/product/service
Postponement – they like the idea but the timing is off for them
Price – they don’t like the cost or are afraid of hidden costs
Personal – they don’t want to change or they just don’t like you or what you’re offering
The good news is you can strategize and prepare for these “Four P’s.” Think about any questions or objections your audience may have before your presentation and prepare answers and potential solutions. For example, if your audience mentions that your prices are higher than your competition, you can re-emphasize the main benefits and what you do better than your competitors. You might mention long-term return on investment (e.g., it saves money in the long term vs. your competitor’s product), offer discounts for large orders, or suggest a payment plan. If timing is an issue, suggest a trial period or a phasing in of the service/product. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do if they just don’t like the idea but try to focus on the benefits – the what and the why of what you do. Just make sure any responses to objections are realistic and that you keep calm and polite in the face of criticism.
Using Presentation Visuals
Making use of PowerPoint, Prezi, or other presentation slide software can be a great addition to your presentation. It helps you keep track of your presentation, and it also gives the audience something else to look at besides just you! Here are some tips for better presentation visuals:
- Include a title slide (with your name and business name, logo) and an agenda slide (that includes the topics you’re going to cover)
- Keep bullet points short and focused (avoid too much text)
- Keep images relevant and easy to see
- Make sure your font size is large enough
- Proofread carefully for any errors
- Use whitespace effectively (i.e., balance out everything on the slide)
- Keep your slide design consistent, relevant, and not too “busy.”
Remember, visuals are usually better than a chunk of text, so think about how you can balance these out effectively.
Take a look at the pitch deck for the Grow-Well business below. See what information they’ve chosen to include and compare it to the “lean” business plan. Make notes of anything you think you might be able to use for your own pitch deck.Grow-Well Sample Presentation
Delivering Your Presentation
When we present to an audience, there is a lot going on! It’s not just what we say or our slides/visuals, but also our body language and vocal characteristics. It’s a lot to remember, but take a look at the following potential problems when it comes to presentation delivery.
Yes, a lot can go wrong, but the more you practise your presentation material and be aware of these potential problems, the easier it’ll be. Try videoing yourself; it’s embarrassing, but it’s a great way to figure out where you might be saying “um” a lot or looking at your notes too much or playing with your hair. We don’t know what we look like when we present, so it’s a good way to see what your audience sees.
Tips for improving your delivery:
- Memorize the opening of your presentation and a few key points but not the whole presentation
- Do not read from your notes – present to your audience and use your notes as quick reminders
- Speak clearly at a good pace – not too fast or too slow
- Remember to breathe!
- Try to avoid “fillers” – e.g., “like”, “um”, “ah”
- Avoid slang – keep language conversational but professional
- Keep up your energy and enthusiasm – if you sound bored, your audience will be bored!
Engaging with Your Audience
Even a short presentation can be boring for an audience if they feel disconnected from the presenter. So, how can you make a connection with your audience, without it feeling cheesy or scary?
- Ask questions or opinions (just make sure you’ve prepared responses for possible objections or questions ahead of time)
- Use everyday examples for clarification and adapt the material to your audience’s level
- Use transitions between sections of your presentation (e.g., “Now that I’ve told you a bit about…, let’s move on to…”)
- Keep eye contact with your whole audience (not just one person or no one at all)
- Know your material really well
- Speak clearly and not too slowly, using appropriate volume and energy in your voice
- Practise! Practise! Practise!
The more prepared you are, the smoother the presentation.
It’s often a case of “fake it till you feel it” when it comes to presentations; you might be very nervous, but if you can project confidence and enthusiasm, and keep a smile on your face and in your voice, you’ll start to feel less nervous. Practise enough times that you feel comfortable with the material, without memorizing your presentation word for word (it’s very obvious when someone has done this; it makes the presenter sound like a robot!). Try to focus on your breathing and maintaining relaxed body language; if you keep yourself from hunching your shoulders or standing stiffly, you can trick your brain into thinking you’re more relaxed than you actually are!
It’s totally normal to lose your place in a presentation; if you do, just move on to your next point. It’s better to keep going, so you don’t get stuck and start to feel more anxious; you can always go back to your previous point when you remember it. Keep focusing on the fact that you’re the expert, so you’re the one with the power in the room. This is your business, and you’re passionate about it, so share that passion and knowledge with your audience, and yes, even try to enjoy the process.