Let's be honest: Delivering a great presentation is not only hard but also critically important to your business. If done correctly, a presentation often means the difference between getting that new customer or wondering what went wrong.

So what makes a great presentation?

Here are seven tips you can follow to create and deliver a more memorable, engaging, and enriching presentation.

1. Be prepared

Most professionals know this step. But, in reality, there are two key elements to preparedness: Knowing your content and knowing your audience. Each reinforces the other, so if you keep both in mind you will have a more effective presentation.

For knowing your audience, ask yourself these questions:

  • What engagement level will they have coming in to your presentation: interested, uninterested; informed, uninformed?
  • Who will be in attendance: the decision-makers or non-decision-makers?

And for knowing your content:

  • Is it geared toward your specific audience based on the questions just posed?
  • And do you know every single inch of your presentation inside and out?

2. Know your purpose

Often, we feel we have to cover as much as possible in one presentation, whether it's a new business presentation or a company meeting to discuss a new policy change. However, be careful not to jam too much content or information into your presentation; doing so can leave your audience spinning with information overload.

By focusing specifically on your purpose, you'll be able to zero in on only the content that matters most, leaving out the extraneous stuff.

Remember, too, that later you'll likely have other touch-points or follow-up opportunities (emails, calls, meetings) where additional information can be shared.

3. Bring it to life

Is your presentation a simple recital of your product's "key selling advantages" or "customer benefits?" Does it seem like you're simply reading from your company's sales brochure? If so, you need to bring your presentation to life by injecting anecdote, humor, or story.

Storytelling is big in marketing these days, and for good reason: People remember stories much better than statistics or lists.

4. Be prepared for audience challenges

Even if you're presenting to a friendly audience, you'll likely be asked at least one tough question. If it's a new-business presentation, some audience members may challenge you or your company's capabilities or expertise. They may even challenge your data and assertions.

All presenters should go into a presentation believing they will be challenged. You should be prepared and strong enough to defend your points with tact and grace. But you should also be flexible enough to accept an audience member's challenge should it be valid.

5. Ask questions

Effective communication really is a two-way street. If you are doing all of the talking but not asking questions and interacting with your audience, you're missing an important opportunity to uncover what your audience is thinking.

As you go through your presentation, consider pausing after key points to allow for questions, or build in questions throughout your presentation—or at the end. This approach can foster important dialog, not to mention greater comprehension of the material you're presenting.

6. Show you are human

Establishing a connection with your audience is paramount during any presentation. One of the best ways to do so is to show your "human side."

Too often, presenters are focused on plowing through their material without injecting any part of their personality into it. They are like robots.

Showing your personality can be as simple as using voice inflection or hand gestures to make important points. Or it could be smiling warmly throughout your presentation, or even laughing at yourself should you make a mistake.

People want to see your human side because, in the end, people relate to people, not just facts and figures.

7. Evaluate and readjust

Taking the time to understand your presenting strengths and areas that need improvement is essential. Try video-recording your presentation to see what you look like to others. Ask a colleague you trust to give you honest feedback. Or, better yet, ask the people you presented to for their thoughts.

You may not wow people every time or win every new business pitch, but you can always improve your chances by strengthening your presentation skills.

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Seven Tips for Delivering Great Presentations

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image of Matt Spaulding

Matt Spaulding is the president of Spaulding Communications and an instructor of business communication who focuses on how effective communication can create leaders and business success.

LinkedIn: Matt Spaulding

Twitter: @mattspaulding