• Mark Hallander

10 steps to the business winning presentation

Presentations happen all the time: When we meet new people, propose a new idea to the boss or want to convince the client that our solutions will impact their business. So how can you learn to excel at this - undoubtedly important - discipline?

#presentation #interpersonalcommunication #pitch


How should you approach a presentation?

While presentations vary in effort and importance, they have one thing in common: It is something you give to the receiver. The “present” part of presentation is there for a reason and it should be perceived as such. Instead of seeing it as a frightening exercise of constant questioning - see it as a space where you can give value and learn something yourself.

While my recommendations can be used broadly, they have been written with a client pitch presentation in mind. With that premise established, we can look at the 10 steps.

1. A conversation, where you talk the most

Following on that point, think about it as a conversation - between you and your receiver - where you talk the most. Great presenters manage to keep their audience engaged by asking questions or by simply leaving space for the receiver to reflect.

2. Start and Finish strong

What is the first thing you say when you start a presentation? Most people - including myself - are actually unaware of what words they say. “Uhmm”, “ok” and “so” are common and somewhat unconscious words that do not really excite the receive. We must start strong; It could be with a hook of some kind (a question, interesting observation or a point that you will refer to later on in the presentation). And as start and finish are the parts of the presentation we often remember the best - make sure to focus here.

3. Be yourself

In a presentation, personality shines through, so don’t try to be something other than yourself. A lot of people get nervous when doing presentations (which is completely normal - especially if something is on the line), but nervousness can be used positively. Just say it out loud, have a laugh and remember that it’s ok to fail - the important thing is how you handle your mistake.

4. Know your stuff

While some people need to know very little to do an awesome presentation, I cannot stress enough how important it is to know what you are talking about. When we give an automatic reply, people can tell right away. Instead, take a few seconds to think about the answer. Pondering gives credibility. And customers often want real insight and wisdom.


5. Tell stories

A presentation needs a red thread, so consider your storytelling. What’s the name of your story? Consider using relevant anecdotes to better frame the narrative. For instance, if you are talking about core competencies within a team, it might be relevant to use a football narrative - describing everything from the defensive, stability-making midfielder to the offensive and elegant attacker.

6. Emphasize the team

While we are on the subject of teams, if you are doing a presentation as a part of a team - e.g. as part of a client pitch - it is extremely important to seem like a team that likes to be together. Customers can spot the conflicts that may be in the team at miles radius. If you have strong individuals in the team, the key is to make them work together - few individuals are as good as a strong team.

7. Know your audience

This is communication 101, but how often do you actually prepare your presentation with your stakeholders in mind? Do you always do thorough read ups on their LinkedIn profile to see their specific experience, areas of responsibility and what they value? In preparing presentations we tend to spend too much time on ourselves and too little time on our audience, so remember them in order to tailor-make your presentation.


8. Make it personal

Another important aspect is to connect with your receiver. If we can become personal and emotional, we are far ahead of the competition that might only connect on a rational level. Other than having a prior established relationship - which takes time and effort to get - a great way to connect is to become a customer yourself. This makes it easy to relate to their business and is something that a client values highly.

9. Balance out what you say with how you say it

On average, we spend 90% on preparations on what we want to say, while only 10% is left to how we want to say it. The interesting thing about this? The way we say something is more important than what we say. The words (e.g. what we say) make up only 5% of what we are able to remember from the presentation. Whereas the visuals and the tonality (e.g. how we say it), make up astonishing 55% and 38% of what we remember. So make sure to think about making the presentation interesting rather than 110% correct going forward.

10. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Here, I’m not referring to your work in the gym. Presentations get 30% better each time you practice it. Do the math: After having run through your presentation three times, you’ll become twice as good - meaning fewer errors on the spot and increased likeliness of convincing your receiver.

And so what?

Finally, I want to add that presentations are very much and exercise of providing value, so you should always keep in mind how you can make it meaningful to the reviver. What will you leave them with?

Further readings

If you want to read more relatable content, I also did a post on how to improve your interpersonal skills with non-verbal communication.


Looking further into interpersonal communication, this blog post investigates the mislead stories we tend to create about our coworkers while giving you tools to handle difficult conversations.