Whether you’re applying for a small business loan, giving a sales pitch to a packed conference room, or trying to convince a homeowner to use your interior design service, presentation is everything!
Sometimes, though, things can go wrong. Here are 7 common problems and how to solve them:
1. Running out of time
- You’ve still got five minutes of material to cover, but you look at the clock and there are only 15 seconds left! DON’T PANIC. Briefly regroup, then wrap up by reinforcing your main points.
- When preparing for the meeting, be sure you have an outline of the main points you want to make (your “must-haves”) and the additional information you’ll work in if possible (your “nice-to-haves”).
- Be sure you know the exact time constraints for your presentation. Confirm your time days before, then call before you head out on the day of the meeting – sometimes emergencies arise and they might have to cut your time short. It’s always best to know if you need to reorganize.
2. Your audience is different
- You might show up ready to meet with the head of the company, but end up talking to his assistant instead. It’s okay! Proceed with your presentation and treat everyone with respect. Word will get back to the top brass that you were professional.
- Present a strong call-to-action at the conclusion of your meeting. This will spur your audience (the assistant) to approach the decision-maker (owner/CEO) on your behalf.
- Again, know all your information in advance: when you call to confirm the time, be sure to confirm who you’ll be presenting to.
3. You made a mistake
- Whether it’s a minor figure flip (23 instead of 32) or a major factual error (the distribution company is in Texas, not Alaska), it’s important to own up to your mistakes.
- Acknowledge that you misspoke, apologize, then correct yourself. This helps regain credibility with your audience.
- Practice making mistakes: do a role-playing exercise with a coworker and work on addressing possible errors.
4. Something embarrassing happens
- If it’s an obvious issue (your slip is showing, your pants ripped, there’s toilet paper on your shoe), be the first to call attention to it and adjust yourself accordingly. Everyone can see it, they’ll all be thinking about it, and if you’re not the first to say something you’ll end up looking foolish.
- If the issue isn’t so apparent (your nerves are through the roof and you can feel yourself sweating), try to power through it.
- Arrive early, take a bathroom break, do a 360-degree check of how you look, then “shake out” your nerves: shake your right arm 16 times, then the left arm, then the right leg, then the left leg. Roll your head around. Loosen up!
5. Everyone is going to sleep
- Your lack of energy can lead to a bored audience! Think of ways to engage people: ask questions, or have an interactive portion (show of hands or demonstration).
- Generally, the after-lunch period is the worst for meetings. You know that sleepy feeling you get after a bacon cheeseburger? An audience full of cheeseburgers can’t help but be inattentive.
6. There’s a “Frenemy” in the crowd
- The presentation is going great, but suddenly a guy at the back starts peppering you with questions. When another professional starts inserting doubt in your pitch, it can be hard to recover.
- DON’T GET HOSTILE. There might be a reason for his antagonism: maybe he had a bad experience with a company similar to yours. If possible, let him know you’d be happy to speak in detail after the presentation is concluded.
- Get there first! Knowing your audience means you can raise objections before they do – addressing those concerns off the bat will put their issues to rest.
7. We’re experiencing technical difficulties
- DON’T RELY ON POWERPOINT. If the projector breaks down, or the computer can’t read your disk, you should be ready to present without it.
- Only use technology as a reinforcement of your talking points (you shouldn’t be reading all your information off of slides – that’s pretty boring).
- Know your presentation by heart – do a solo run-through. Then print out a copy of the PowerPoint slides, just in case.
One last thing before we part today: BE YOURSELF! If you are comfortable, relaxed and confident, your great professional qualities will shine through no matter what.