How To Deliver an Effective Presentation at Your Networking Meeting
In this blog, we are going to dissect how to deliver an effective presentation at your network meeting.
In formal networking groups, there is always the opportunity to present your business. The time slot for this ranges anywhere from between 10 and 20 minutes. This is such valuable time and an amazing opportunity to educate your fellow networkers about you, your business and who you are looking to connect with.
And yet, I often hear of people shying away from grasping this opportunity and running with it.
They are unsure of what to say, how to present and generally fearful of public speaking.
Bit by bit, we’ll break down and discuss all of these aspects, but for this blog, let’s dive into some practical tips when preparing for presentations for your networking meeting.
The more you prepare and get the answers to the questions and points I list below, the more calm and comfortable you will be on presentation day.
We’ll also look into content, but that’s not the main focus here. We’ll explore content and what to present at your networking meeting in another upcoming blog.
Here are my 10 tips to help get you started and on the right track around how to deliver an effective presentation at your networking meeting:
First things first. How much time do you have for the presentation? 10 minutes, 20 minutes? Does this include the Q&A or is purely presentation time? Check this out in advance, so you don’t get caught out.
It’s a good idea to be aware of your room set up, so you can visualise yourself in the room giving the presentation. This will help take some of the fear out of the process.
Remember that you need to be facing the room and not looking at the screen. You are taking this time to let people get to know you and your company. You’ll find that the networking attendees will be very supportive and want to see you succeed. They are interested to know more and will be engaged.
But if you turn to the screen to read the slides, they will be looking at you, end up being distracted and will completely miss your great content.
Try to position the laptop so that you have a visual of what slide is coming up next and that will act as an aide memoire for you and help you avoid putting your back to your audience.
Tip: Technology happens to all of us, i.e. you never know when it might fail you, so it’s a good idea to have a backup plan. I suggest printing out a copy of the presentation, two slides per A4 page, so you have a reference point to refer to if the technology fails, laptop explodes or the broadband dies. Having a printed copy can also help if you aren’t able to position the laptop in a way to let you see the screen; to act as that all important prompt for what is coming next.
Be sure to check whether you need to bring your own laptop, or whether there is one provided in the room, as part of the networking meeting. If you are working from a MAC and the laptop used for the networking meeting is a regular laptop, then I’d suggest arriving in advance to check everything out. Make sure you have the right cables and adaptors also. For example, I use a Surface laptop, so I always need an adaptor with me.
Check whether there is a presentation clicker available to move your slides on without you having to go to the laptop. If you intend presenting regularly at different networking meetings, I’d go so far as to say it’s a really worthwhile investment to have your own presentation clicker.
Make sure you are familiar with your clicker in advance of the meeting, i.e. which buttons to press for moving your presentation forward and backward. It sounds like a small thing, and it is…but it flusters people when they can’t get the slide to move on, they lose their train of thought and then start going into panic mode. The easy fix is to try it out in advance, practice and be comfortable with the technology.
Tip: Keep some spare batteries in your car and make sure to check out the clicker before you go to the networking meeting. If you are used to using one and then the batteries fail during a presentation, it’s an unnecessary distraction.
So often I see people getting unnerved at the laptop keyboard, as they aren’t sure how to go backward and forward with the slides or to put the slidedeck into presentation mode. Again, practice this out in advance, especially if it’s not your laptop. Ten seconds of practice, can help keep you calm so you don’t lose your mojo!
Tip: If you are using your own laptop, ensure it’s fully charged and make sure to bring your power cable. You don’t want your battery dying in the middle of your presentation – and yes, I’ve seen this happen!
Check out how you are going to get the presentation to the PC in the networking meeting. Will you need to bring it on USB stick if you aren’t using your own laptop? Do you need to email it in advance to someone? Make sure to know who that someone is and don’t assume it’s the chair. Very often formal networking groups have a committee member who looks after the presentation slots and education cycle, so ensure it’s going to the correct person.
Sometimes the presentation might be ‘stitched’ into a master slidedeck and the Chair may need time to do this, so be sure to be aware of the time parameters involved. As with everything, technology is fickle, so I would also recommend having a back up plan.
For example, if you have it on USB stick, also email the presentation slidedeck for the networking meeting to yourself and perhaps another person.
If you have to email it, then bring a back up on a USB stick with you.
It’s no harm to have a print out of the slides also – just in case, as I’ve mentioned before! There is a selection filter on print, that enables you to choose printing 2 or 4 slides per page, so choose this. It’ll help you not waste paper. If your presentation is very graphic ‘heavy’, then you can send it to the Chair via a file transfer system, such as Dropbox or WeTransfer.
Some networks require you to do a speaker bio in advance so that the Chair can introduce you as the speaker, so just check in advance if this is needed or not.
The more engagement you have with the Chair in advance, or indeed the education coordinator for the networking meeting, the more at ease you’ll be on the day.
And now onto the presentation itself.
Content is King
Keep your message clear and concise. I would recommend story-boarding your presentation in advance. Nothing fancy. Just get a piece of paper and mark it out in squares. Start putting in your ideas. This will help you order what you want to say and get a flow. Be clear about your end-game. What outcome do you want from your presentation?
A few questions to ask yourself in advance:
- Is this my first time presenting to the networking meeting? If it’s your first time, I always like to give a little perspective on who I am, my family, background, interests etc. This helps my fellow networkers get to know me.
- Is this my first time presenting my company? Just as with a client meeting, what are the salient aspects that the networking attendees should know about your business. Focus on giving them three core take aways to remember you by.
- So what? Make sure that what you are saying and presenting has value. If I or another attendee could respond to your statement with ‘so what’, then I’d eliminate this material as it adds no inherent value and to be honest, it’s probably not that interesting.
- If it’s not your first time to present, don’t forget that there are probably visitors and new members in the room who haven’t heard you presenting before, so make sure you have a synopsis slide for the ‘About Us’ slide and the ‘About Me’ slide.
A cardinal sin is trying to tell the attendees everything about you and your company in the short amount of time allotted. It’ll become confusing, overwhelming, both for you and the audience and it’ll lose impact.
I mentioned that the presentations go on rotation, so it’s a good idea to break out what you are going to tell people each time you present. This way the education is incremental and of value. If you know that you are going to be presenting in a further 3 months, as an example, then have an idea of what you are going to say at that presentation also, so you avoid overlap.
And now we move onto the presentation content for your networking meeting or networking event. Here are a few suggestions and questions to answer and convey in order to ensure that you deliver an effective presentation; afterall, that’s what it’s all about:
- Tell me what you do.
- Describe your ideal clients to me.
- Why do your clients choose you?
- What problems do you solve for them?
- Show me what you do – give examples – case studies – tell stories.
- Have a call to action (CTA) – Enable the networking attendees to make quality referrals to you. Who do you want to speak to?
- Wrapping up – ask for questions and feedback.
- Contact details – I don’t include this as a ‘content slide’ when I talk numbers of slides for content, but when you are on Q&A, leave your contact details up on the screen for people to get to know. For example, your email, full name, website, your company name and social media details.
Short is Sweet
So many people gasp at the idea of presenting for 20 minutes, but they don’t realise that the time flies. Quite literally, it’s gone in the blink of an eye, once you start presenting.
If you are passionate about what you do and confident about your product and service, you’ll be able to chat about it, so try to think of the presentation in more conversational terms.
Budget 2 minutes of time per slide. So if you have ten minutes of presentation time, that’s 5 slides of content. If you have 20 minutes, that’s a maximum of 10 slides and so on.
Keep it to 1 message per slide. Use minimal text. The words on the slide should not be a paragraph of content, but rather words to help prompt you around what you want to say. If you can use humour, that’s always welcome, but if it’s not your strong point, just stick to the facts and keep focussed.
Try to keep consistent fonts and font size throughout the slidedeck where you can and use images and pictures to convey a point, rather than lots of text, if at all possible.
If you have a lot of text, you’re more likely to get caught out and end up flustered. When you begin to present, you can’t read it fast enough, to process the information to then relay it to the audience.
It’s better and easier to use words or images to prompt what you want to say.
Stand & Deliver
Always stand and deliver your presentation. This will give you confidence and portray the gravitas that is deserved.
Address the topic of questions before the meeting. For example, do you welcome questions during the presentation or would you prefer if the attendees took notes and asked their questions afterwards?
Be aware of this and call it.
You want to limit curve balls and distractions that may put you off your game. Some people need to concentrate and keep their train of thought, so prefer to get the presentation done. Others are happy working with the room.
Neither approach is right or wrong, so it’s a very personal choice, in my opinion; you should pick the approach that makes you feel at ease.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The old adage says that practice makes perfect. Even if you are a seasoned presenter, it’s a good idea to do a trial run and time yourself, especially if it’s a new presentation that you’ve developed or you’ve changed it around. Be sure to show passion for what you are presenting. No-one else in the room can speak to your content or product or service, so own it.
Call to Action (CTA)
I mentioned in point 6 that you should have a CTA or a call to action around referrals and who you are looking to speak to.
When you are finishing up, also request that people like you on your social media channels. By having these visible icons on your closing slide, people will be aware if you are on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, so be explicit about asking for a like, follow, comment to help support your digital and online presence.
I hope that these tips have been helpful and give you practical guidance on how to deliver an effective presentation at a networking meeting.
If you’ve others that you would add on or you do something different, please do let me know as I’ve love to hear from you.
Let’s keep the #networking conversation going!
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