Don't neglect your Presentation Skills
By Peter Urs Bender

As an entrepreneur, you constantly make presentations to get your points across. Your success depends on your ability to communicate effectively with customers as well as employees. To be competitive, you must become a first-class presenter.

But what you say is not as important as how you say it. Words account for only a small part of the total message you convey to others. The rest comes from style, use of voice, body language and other non-verbal forms of communication.

Here are some tips on how to help others understand you: There are five essential elements in a presentation: speech, body language, equipment, environment and preparation. You have to control all of them.

The speech is your ideas and the words you use to express them. A speech has to inform, entertain, touch the emotions and move to action.

However, the presentation conveys your message in multimedia form, using the other techniques to involve your audience.

Body language entails all your physical communication tools: voice, breathing, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, movement and the way you dress.

There are many presentation aids available today. You have to understand how to use handouts, charts, overheads, flip-charts, videos, slides and microphones.

Where and when you present also has an impact on your performance. The location and size of the room, temperature, lighting and schedule of breaks can all contribute to the success or failure of your presentation.

The most critical element of any presentation is the preparation and rehearsal of every detail in advance.

There is no right way to organize your presentation. The main thing is to develop a structure. It is always best to keep your structure as simple as possible, with no more than three main points. In a longer presentation, seven points might be acceptable. Your audience will not remember any more ideas than that anyway.

Start with the simplest and most general concepts, then progress to more specific and complicated ones. Begin with familiar ideas you know they already understand and accept, then build on them. Your audience must accept and trust you before they will really listen to you.

Adjust your language to suit each group to which you present. If you are talking to shareholders, bankers or accountants about leveraged buyouts, you use a different vocabulary than if you are talking to marketing people or account executives about strategic selling.

Use vivid, expressive words that paint pictures the audience can see. Abstract concepts like recession, restructuring, corporate culture and revenue enhancement are not as clear as happy customers, plant closings and after tax profit. Don't talk about rationalizing your departmental budget when you really mean you are cutting costs.

There are more than 750,000 words in the English language. A high school student has command of about 2000 words, a university student 5000. However, in everyday language, the average business person uses only about 1000 words. The most powerful words in our language tend to be short -- love, war, sex, money, power.

If a sentence is so long that you have to stop to catch a break, it will be too long to be understood. Break long sentences and phrases into shorter ones. Throwing around sophisticated terms and elaborate phraseology is not an advantage. If listeners don't understand you, you're dead.

Peter Urs Bender is one of Canada’s most dynamic and entertaining business speakers. He lives and works out of Toronto. He is the author of four best-selling business books: Leadership from Within, Secrets of Power Presentations, Secrets of Power Marketing, Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, and Gutfeeling.
To read excerpts from his books visit