Whether you are in a networking group or only meeting with the general public, at one point or another you are going to have to sell yourself, travel, a destination or a proposal for a group cruise. You may do this in a group setting or one-on-one. Most of what I am going to share here applies to group presentations but can be scaled down to a one-on-one setting.
My first piece of advice would be to find and spend time with a Toastmasters club in your area. Next to death, the number two fear people have is public speaking. Toastmasters will allow you improve not only your speaking skills but your listening skills as well (more on this benefit in a later column). Toastmasters will give you constructive criticism and help you hone your speech. You also get to practice your speech with a group that wants to help you improve.
Next you are going to have to practice your speech again and again. Recently, Seth Godin wrote a blog post about fledgling sushi chefs spending years just making rice. The point he was making is that you need to get the fundamentals down perfectly before you worry about flip charts and PowerPoint presentations. You need to be able to know your material and exude a confidence that tells your audience that you are the expert!
Let me move a few steps forward and assume that you have practiced and practiced your presentation and are ready. You have decided to accompany your speech with a PowerPoint presentation. STOP right here and practice your speech again. You need to be prepared to give your speech without slides, without equipment working and without your computer playing nice with the projector (or other A/V equipment). You should print out a hard copy of your slides or at least make note cards, but if you have practiced your speech enough you will never need them.
Whether you are speaking to a networking group or presenting a proposal, you MUST arrive early. Nothing makes you look worse than using up your time (and your audience’s/client’s time) when you show up late and are in a rush trying to get your presentation to work. As an example, when it is my turn to present to my networking group I arrive an hour early. I check the connection from my laptop to the A/V equipment. I use a handheld slide advance clicker. I make sure the batteries are working and I have spares. I walk around the room to make sure I can advance slides no matter where I am standing.
Remember when you have the floor, or the podium or the lectern, you are the expert. No one is going to know if you make a mistake and say cruise line A has 27 ships when in reality they only have 24. Instead of doing a PowerPoint presentation, why not run a slide show as you are speaking about the benefits of using your services. If you do choose PowerPoint, I suggest you watch this video.
While the video was made for presenting to a venture capitalist, it can apply to any industry. Remember when you are presenting you are doing a little bit of marketing, but in reality you are selling yourself. Learn about your audience, join Toastmasters and get out there and present you! Good luck!