It is 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and you have one last meeting that separates you from your weekend. You are going into a proposal presentation given by a recent college graduate who is seeking clients for his up-and-coming business.
After a few minutes, you do your best to listen intently, but it is hard to stay focused (and awake) when the mumbling, unprepared presenter struggles to take his eyes off of the slides.
We try to block out experiences like this from our memories, but we have all witnessed an abysmal presentation that makes us hurt for the person presenting. To look like a pro in your proposal presentation—and to avoid boring your audience—follow these four simple steps:
- Prepare adequately
If you do not prepare properly or adequately for your presentation, you risk a horrible experience. As you prepare, be sure to research your audience (the client) and learn its self-interests. Figure out what their goals are, so you can show how your idea will achieve those goals.
Shawn Doyle from Entrepreneur.com said, “Know whom you’re speaking to, and what they are expecting or needing from the presentation.”
At this point in your preparation, be sure to know your material. You want to know it well enough to be able to focus on your audience and not your presentation. To really nail down your ideas, practice your presentation several times as if you were actually presenting to the client. This not only helps you feel more comfortable when the presentation comes, but it also helps you find the right words and work out the kinks.
- Do a power stance
A few minutes before going into your presentation, take some time to prepare yourself mentally. Be confident. Remember those horrible presentations you have witnessed? Often, they occur from a lack of confidence, but there are ways to combat this problem in your preparation. The one I have found to be the most helpful is a power stance. A power stance is a pose that, essentially, makes you feel invincible. Think of a Superman pose: hands on your hips, chest out and chin up. Doing this is, in fact, scientifically proven to give you more confidence.
Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy performed experiments in regards to power poses and found that doing a pose like this increased testosterone (which fosters feelings of power) by 20 percent. Feeling powerful makes you confident in yourself and increases your performance levels. These power stances have even helped me be more confident going into tests, job interviews and presentations. You can find more information in her TED talk.
- Smile and avoid filler words
Once you start your proposal presentation, be sure to keep up that confidence you previously established. Smile and avoid using filler words such as “um,” “uh,” “you know,” “so,” “like,” “well,” etc.
Forbes contributor Selena Rezvani said, “These innocent-seeming filler words aren’t an issue when they’re said once or twice in a meeting, it’s their repetitive use that really kills a person’s credibility.”
- Be short and to the point
Brooks Stevenson, Director of Communications at Primary Children’s Hospital, said the following:
“Brevity is often called the art of confidence. In today’s communication landscape, you have between eight to 12 seconds before you lose someone’s attention; and a good pitch should be boiled down to one sentence if possible. Try telling a quick story with the five W’s instead of pushing or persuading – and use visuals to help sell your pitch. Brevity also allows you to listen more, which means you allow others to process and respond to your pitch.”
Think back to that Friday afternoon proposal presentation mentioned previously; your client is busy and has other interests in mind. Don’t let a long presentation be the downfall of your proposal. Doing this can also help you as a presenter. If you get to the point quickly, you avoid the risk of getting distracted by the client’s questions in the middle of your presentation.
If you follow these four simple steps, you will set yourself up to win over your client in your presentation. Do not forget the misery that can come if you do not follow these steps. You have witnessed those heart-wrenching presentations that do more harm than good. Decide now that you will never give a proposal presentation like that for the rest of your career.
Written by Jake Pehrson