Let the customer knoiw you have taken the time to present him current information.

It has become more common for business travelers to make computer types of presentations when traveling overseas. It has become the presentation of choice and makes the difference between a mediocre presentation and an effective presentation. With assistance of a simple notebook computer and new CD write units, we can customize presentations at our desk and burn several CDs we can leave with the customer. This is being hailed as the age of the "electronic brochure."

In keeping with the new "electronic brochure," here are a few tips for preparing your presentation.

  • * What's in it for them? Think of the question "So what?" If you can answer that question for each piece of information in your presentation, clearly and in a way that it is meaningful to the customer, you will make an impact. Ensure you point out benefits he can expect and you know you are meeting his needs.

  • * Get your money's worth on your presentation software. Power Point, Persuasion or Harvard Graphics are tremendous tools and are considered top software. But, they are only tops if you know how to use them properly. Take time to learn and spend money and time to enable you to put the presentation together so it looks professional.

  • * Choose your colors carefully. If you put blue text on a red background (or vice versa), your audience will probably see, to quote the Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze. Make sure the color you use on your text jumps off the background color. For instance, red or blue text on a white background works nicely.

  • * Don't overload the slide. Break information you are sharing with your audience into digestible chunks. Putting too much information on a slide is a dead giveaway you don't know what you are doing, contrary to some people who think it will impress the audience.

  • * Use a big enough font. The easiest way to kill effectiveness of your presentation is to use a small font preventing the audience from reading your slide properly. Sometimes smaller fonts are used when trying to include too much information as mentioned above.

  • * Build a series of points sequentially. If you have five points on a bullet chart and you put them all on one slide, the audience will read all five when you are busy talking about the first one. This is not being effective in keeping your audience on the topic being discussed. Use the slides to build your series of points. You will need more slides but you will keep the audience's attention as you flash up each new slide and discuss only what is being displayed.

  • * Slow down. The rule of thumb from public speaking experts is, "If you think you are speaking at the right speed, you are probably speaking way too fast." Only if it seems slow to you is it at the right speed for the audience. Especially if you are building points in a presentation and the last point you made is critical to the point you are about to make, you really need to know the audience is with you.

  • * Be brief. The experts also say 18 minutes is ideal length for a speech. It is long enough to give the audience the substance, but short enough not to bore them. This was the practice followed by former three-term New York Gov., Mario Cuomo who had lots of practice making speeches.

  • * Project the right image. Try and practice so you can overcome fear and nervousness, using the right body language, facial expressions and hand gestures. Unless you are professional, I would recommend that you avoid trying to inject humor.

  • * Know your subject. Along with practicing, you should ensure you know your topic thoroughly. Nothing comes through to your audience faster than that you do not know your topic and you are trying to talk about something you do not fully understand. Rather than making a fool of yourself, get someone to help you in any subject where you lack knowledge or don't even try to fake it.

  • * Know your audience. The worst thing any speaker can do is not know their audience. Secondly, never talk down or patronize your audience. Always have the utmost respect for your audience and give them every benefit of doubt that they are well educated on your topic and in some cases they may know your topic better than you do. That being the case, if you show them you know your subject and can speak about it with intelligence and confidence, you will earn their respect. It is at that point, you will certainly know you completed a successful presentation.

  • * Keep updating your presentation. If your presentation is something you often present in customer's offices, keeping updating the information frequently. Your engineering group may have new innovations, you may have new information from recently completed jobs or perhaps your equipment models have changed through redesign. Let the customer know you have taken the time to present him current information. The worst thing you can do in your presentation is to say, "Ignore this slide, we have discontinued this item from our product line."

  • * Start with the big picture. Members of your audience or your customer are all busy people and we can assume they are pressed for time. Provide them a summary of what is to come. This will keep their interest and allow them to anticipate where you are going with your presentation.

  • * Have a second presentation available if further information is requested. Rather than have a presentation that is too long and risk losing attention of your audience, it is often wise to anticipate some questions that may arise with an audience or in discussions in your customer's office. If you have a separate short presentation that can continue or expand in these areas, you will readily demonstrate your excellent preparation and capitalize on a situation rather then having to say, "I'm sorry but I don't have that information with me today."

  • * Keep trying. Giving a speech or making a good presentation does not come naturally to most people. Even great speakers were once amateurs and had to prepare their first speech. If you follow the above suggestions you will have a fighting chance to have a successful presentation. Good luck!

    Remember, "It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results."

See you next month!!!!