Although many professional service providers may find themselves reluctant to give presentations, they remain one of the most effective business-development tools available.

Presentations can help you increase your visibility by differentiating yourself from others and enhance your credibility by articulating your professionalism and expertise each time you're given the opportunity to be in front of prospects and clients.

If you look at creating an effective presentation as a process rather than as an event, you'll quickly realize that it isn't a Sisyphean task. A process has the advantages of being both learnable and repeatable, so once you master it you can streamline development time and increase the returns.

I call the process for designing, developing, and delivering effective business presentations "The Seven Acts of Creating." The key to maximizing their full potential lies in making them goal-driven and results-oriented.

1. Create the basis to develop an effective relationship with the target audience

To fully comprehend what will motivate them to action, you must first discover any beliefs, attitudes, or values that stand in the way of their accepting your call to action.

Adapting your material to their frame of reference—the interpretive construct that colors any information they process—means you'll be more successful in developing messages that resonate with their own experience.

Demographics tell part of the story, but through more active research, such as interviews and surveys, you'll reach a deeper level of understanding.

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Joseph Sommerville, PhD ( is president of Peak Communication Performance ( and author of Rainmaking Presentations: How To Grow Your Business by Leveraging Your Expertise, the first chapter of which is available at