How To Design A Business Presentation

Delivering a business presentation is an event that most people find utterly terrifying. A business presentation, however, is just another business skill, combining specific technical aspects with behavioural practise.

There are three distinct components to making an effective presentation:

- Designing a high-powered presentation

- Using PowerPoint properly to support your presentation

- Delivering the presentation effectively

This article, the first of three, will outline how to design a high-powered business presentation. It will identify a number of strategic considerations, in addition to highlighting some organizing and sequencing suggestions.

The Starting Point

When preparing a business presentation, what elements need to be considered?

The first questions that you need to address are:

- what is the Purpose of this business presentation

- what Action do you want people to take as a result of the presentation

Although these questions seems relatively straight-forward, most often they either are overlooked or it is assumed that “we all know the answers”.

In fact, accurately articulating the answers to these questions at the outset of designing your presentation is vital to constructing a business presentation that will be effective, as well as delivering meaningful results.

It’s Only For Information

Generally, people answer the first question with “It’s Only For Information”. In a business context, however, everyone is far too busy to attend a presentation just for information. A business presentation needs to provide value to the audience.

In the business environment, every presentation needs to be understood as an opportunity to:

- Educate

- Create alignment

- Develop commitment

- Secure resources

From this, we can conclude that the Purpose of the presentation is to persuade the audience to engage in supporting your initiative, with the desired Action being the allocating of human, financial and other resources to achieve its end.

Obviously, this is a fundamentally different and more intricate objective than the view that “It’s Only For Information”.

Internal Competition For Resources

Every organization experiences significant ongoing constraint on its available resources. Legitimate demands for more resources far exceed the organization’s ability to satisfy all those requests.

The organization ideally will allocate its finite resources in a manner which maximizes strategic priorities. Other business units or particular initiatives, therefore, effectively are your competition for these resources.

Given this backdrop, delivering a presentation is a focused opportunity to stand apart from the internal competition and promote your imperatives, while demonstrating how this will contribute to the organization’s success.

Strategic Positioning

The strength of a business presentation depends on the degree to which it is strategically positioned.

- Does it concisely link to the business priorities?

- Does it deliver on improved customer service, reduced costs, etc.?

- Does it collaboratively support other business units or initiatives?

- Does it reduce organizational pain and increase employee engagement?

- Does it address emerging dynamics and opportunities?

Remember, you’re looking for support and resources in a highly competitive environment. Your goal is to build the audience’s understanding about your activities, so that they enthusiastically will endorse your resource requirements.

The Audience

The audience is comprised of a variety of people with different roles and varying power. You need to be very thoughtful about:

- Who are the decision makers?

- Who are the influencers?

- Who are your potential allies?

- Who are those that might perceive you as competition or a threat?

The presentation needs to be crafted to appeal and connect sequentially with each of these groups. Their current level of understanding, as well as their educational and business needs, most often will be quite distinct. This unevenness requires your careful consideration.

Be Selective And Precise

Think of presentations you’ve attended. Has your attention ever strayed and, if so, at what point in the presentation? The sad truth is that we’ve all endured presentations which were too long and crammed with an overload of information.

Your goal is to connect with the audience, keep their attention, nurture their enthusiasm, and secure their commitment. Avoid sabotaging yourself – keep the presentation short, concise and focused.

You are the expert regarding your business. You are intimate with a vast array of information, substantially more than the audience wants to know or can absorb. Your presentation should deliver education, not just reams of information.

You will need to be selective and precise, by filtering and organizing only those important highlights which will be most meaningful to the audience.

What They Need To Know

It has been shown that your presentation time is limited and precious, therefore, be judicious. Determine what your audience already knows. You might choose to remind them of this, but you don’t need to dedicate valuable time to details.

What are the gaps in their understanding and which is the most effective way of educating them to close those gaps? Articulate the most critical elements first.

Position your presentation to demonstrate a compelling argument that delivers on a blend of positive outcomes from strategic priorities to financial success to alignment with other operations. Highlight the benefits of supporting your initiative and the consequences of declining such support.


Your presentation should begin with a short description of what you are about to present. This eliminates the situation where your audience is side-tracked during the presentation, trying to figure out your intent. Then deliver your presentation. Conclude the presentation with a short summary of what you just presented.

Good News First

You want to get the audience on-side as quickly as possible. Start with good news. For example: “Our recent project was delivered on time and under cost. There were, however, a number of major obstacles that we needed to overcome. I would like to share those insights with you, as well as the lessons learned.”

This is a more effective approach than beginning with a litany of problems that were encountered and only sharing the good news at the end of the presentation. As soon as the audience hears the good news, they will be relieved and encouraged, and likely will be more attentive throughout the entire presentation.


You will need to time out your presentation. Always aim for something less than the total time that has been allotted. The most accurate way to time out the presentation is by practising it and making the necessary adjustments.


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How To Use Powerpoint To Support A Business Presentation

Delivering a business presentation is an event that most people find utterly terrifying. A business presentation, however, is just another business skill, combining specific technical aspects with behavioural practise.

There are three distinct components to making an effective presentation:

- Designing a high-powered presentation

- Using PowerPoint properly to support your presentation

- Delivering the presentation effectively

This article, the second of three, will outline how to use PowerPoint properly to support a business presentation. It will identify two distinct kinds of situations in which PowerPoint might be utilized and when it’s most appropriate to use each.

Presentation Platform

PowerPoint is an excellent platform to use in developing a business presentation. It is visually appealing and is relatively easy to create. In many ways, PowerPoint has become the accepted business presentation platform. But over time, something has gone wrong with the manner in which PowerPoint is used.

Unfortunately, PowerPoint’s proper usage has become confused, because two very different purposes have gotten fused together. What follows will challenge the cultural norms of many organizations and may seem misplaced at first review. The assertion, here, is that the presentation needs to be grounded and focused on You, the presenter, and not on PowerPoint. PowerPoint is but an aid to support your presentation.

Reports In PowerPoint

A report that has been developed in Word readily can be transposed into PowerPoint. The advantage of using PowerPoint is that graphs, charts and other visuals are easily incorporated into the presentation. PowerPoint can provide a crisp and yet detailed representation of the original report in a different format.

In this situation, the PowerPoint Report can serve as an excellent foundation for a voice-over webinar or it can be distributed as a stand-alone document. It also can serve as a comprehensive take-away from a business presentation.

A PowerPoint Report also may be used effectively as a reference document when presenting a business case to a small group. In such circumstances, a hard copy, not slides, should form the back-bone of the business presentation.

The History Of The Universe

Let’s say that someone has been tasked with making a presentation on “The History Of The Universe”. Compiled as a PowerPoint Report, it likely would be quite extensive, with charts, graphs and other representations augmenting and clarifying the text.

Now imagine taking this PowerPoint Report and displaying it in its original form on a screen. This would be an excruciating experience, because the volume and complexity of the information being presented would overwhelm our capacity to process it. This PowerPoint Report is best studied deliberately and methodically.

Reports Don’t Work As Slides

You cannot present “The History of the Universe” on a PowerPoint Slide. Well, maybe you could, but the font would have to be shrunk so small that it would be totally unreadable. And yet, something similar occurs with great frequency in many business presentations.

I recently attended a business presentation where the presenter began by saying “You won’t be able to read this slide”. He then turned to the screen and proceeded to read the slide to the audience for the next five minutes. Does this sound familiar?

Respect Literacy

It is reasonable to assume that your audience has good literacy skills. Being respectful of this, it actually is an insult to read the PowerPoint Slides to them, providing that the font size is large enough to be read by the entire audience. Let the audience do its own reading.

PowerPoint Slides

When making a business presentation to an audience, used correctly, PowerPoint Slides are an excellent accessory for highlighting key points. PowerPoint Slides should be used sparingly and should be spaced throughout the presentation. The slides need to be created in a font size large enough to be read by the entire audience in the room.

Your goal is to ensure that the audience’s attention remains riveted on you, the presenter, and is not distracted by a display of continuously changing slides. This is fundamentally different from projecting a PowerPoint Report on a screen.

Each PowerPoint Slide should have no more than three bullets. A bullet is not a paragraph or even a sentence. It is a few words or symbols, maybe a phrase, which captures a critical idea from your presentation that merits special attention. The bullets might be extracted from the PowerPoint Report, in whole or in some modified form.

The Salient Details

A PowerPoint Report becomes the definitive document, as it is comprehensive and detailed. The corresponding business presentation is derived from the PowerPoint Report. Cognizant of time limitations, only salient details can be presented, not the entire PowerPoint Report.

Attempting to do anything more, unfortunately, is guaranteed to lose the attention of your audience. Your challenge is to frame and deliver the business presentation so that your audience will want to subsequently study the PowerPoint Report in more detail.

Slides And Reports

PowerPoint is a powerful and utilitarian tool for creating slides and reports. Reports developed in PowerPoint can be comprehensive, while at the same time providing visuals which substantiate and illuminate the text.

PowerPoint Slides, on the other hand, should be used to highlight and reinforce key elements of a business presentation, adding to the impact of the presenter.

Recognizing these critical differences will help you to develop high-impact business presentations that engage your audience and gain their commitment.


By combining these ideas about how to use PowerPoint properly with suggestions from the companion articles on how to design a high-powered presentation and how to deliver a presentation effectively, you will become much more confident and competent in delivering high-powered and effective business presentations.

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