Tips and Skills for a Successful Presentation

Written by Takehiko Umeshita. [Japan Article]

Translation by Nadia Melikhova.

Presentations used to be the exclusive domain of a few PR services in the industry – advertising agencies, consulting firms, speakers, etc.These days, there are plenty of “how-to” books and articles about presentations. There are many opportunities to run small presentations in various places and events outside the office. 

Professionals who are good at presentations are often younger than those with a lot of business experience, or are employees in venture companies, versus large companies, are generally more skilled at communicating about themselves and their business to third parties.

The author of this article has a long experience of giving presentations throughout his 30 years of work in the digital marketing service in Japan.

This article elaborates on the most necessary skills for successful presentations, which require a variety of expertise and knowledge. It takes a certain amount of training and time to acquire the skills, but anyone can quickly learn the main tips.

Hopefully, these three shared tips may help the readers in any opportunity for giving a presentation.

Most of the presented information is from personal knowledge, and some of it is available in books and texts published by other marketing and PR agencies in Japan.

Three Top Tips for Presentations

Tips and Skills for a Successful Presentation

People always introduce themselves at some events or gatherings.

For example, the writer of this blog has exchanged business cards with a wide variety of people from various industries and companies (on average, 300 people a year, and sometimes as many as 500), introducing himself over and over again, such is the nature of venture business and marketing.

Working for a large company in Japan, the person you are talking to would immediately recognize a field by a company name and get a general idea of professional duties just from the title on a business card.

However, small and medium-sized companies, B to B companies, venture companies, and sole proprietors are not always famous by name. In such a case, an explanation about a company and products or services is necessary.

Tip #1: Narrow it Down to “This is What I Want you to Remember”

The answer to the question “What is your company product or service?” in one word is surprisingly difficult.

There is always a temptation to explain everything about a product or service because people want others to understand features and advantages. Therefore, the big selling point of the product and what is unique about it becomes blurred.

Also, in large gatherings, information overload occurs often, where many people describe the same company, its products, and services similarly.

A person who listens to many explanations would have a hard time remembering too much information from many different people at once. Thinking back to a time, most readers would probably agree with that fact.

Therefore, it is better to keep in mind, “As long as they remember this, it does not matter about the rest” and make a strong effect or a message of the only one essential thing the audience needs to remember.

An email with a requirement usually implies sticking to one subject in the content. And for a PR representative of a digital marketing company or a social media marketing service, the same ironclad rule applies to press releases, which should be limited to a single topic.

Tips No. 2: Don’t Talk Too Much

It is especially true for companies or products/services that are not well known in general, but urging to be known or understood is so strong that it leads to an overload of information and long conversations as one trying to explain this and that. In other words, it is monopolizing a person’s time for own convenience. Keep in mind that this can be annoying to other people.

There are always some opportunities to introduce oneself or give a presentation about a company or its products/services in the form of a lightning talk (LT) in business events. However, it is not every day that having the opportunity to make a formal presentation. In comparison, there are frequent possibilities for lightning talks. Most of them last for about two to three minutes.  People can`t understand everything in that frame of time. It is particularly true in the process of exchanging business cards with dozens or hundreds of people.

Even though there is temptation to say a lot, it is better to tell people what is primarily important to remember about a company or its product, and to avoid talking about the high functionality and performance of the product, or the convenience and excellence of the service. It is better to avoid speaking about how products are highly functional or how convenient such wonderful services are, because this is only an explanation from your own personal, biased perspective. The most important thing is to talk about how the purchase or use of the product will create value for the recipient and what kind of user experience it will bring.

It is better to make an appointment at a later date to for explaining more details.

Conversely, no matter how many details one provided during the exchange of business cards, if failing to raise interest and concern, all the other information is wasted.

An example is Apple’s iPod. The product itself is not the product of the most innovative technology ever. There were already some portable mp3 music players on the market, but they were not user-friendly or sophisticated as Apple’s iPod.

It is an innovative portable music player (UX) with a white polycarbonate housing and quick-wheel design. But most important is the user`s experience allowing to freely having 1,000 songs. By emphasizing the feature that users can keep so many songs it has revolutionized listening to music.

“The Second Coming of Steve Jobs: The Disappointment, Failure, and Resurrection of the Man Who Wanted the World” (Mainichi Communications: 2001), by American journalist Alan Deutchman, describes Jobs as a master of taking something that at first glance seems neither interesting nor funny, such as a lump of electronic hardware and using it as a story to create a drama that no way to take eyes off.

Incidentally, Jobs also wrote by hand when he conceived and wrote his stories.

Tips #3 Remember the Third Party’s Perspective

When international consulting firms of the U.S. and Japan form their project team, they bring together more experienced people who have excellent knowledge of the business and industry.

In the U.S., it is common practice to bring in experienced CEOs to replace young and inexperienced venture managers in to achieve further growth, with John Sculley of Apple and Eric Schmidt of Google being famous examples.

There is also an “Advisory Board” made up of top professionals in corporate management and industry. It is similar to a management advisory board in Japan and a way to proactively engage people with clear minds, analytical abilities, and broad human networks inside and outside a company and incorporate their wisdom and networks in mentoring.

Actually, in Japan, that practice is not widespread. However, those who have experienced in several venture companies would probably agree how essential it is to have a third-party perspective or someone to consult.

It is inevitable that when business professionals are exposed to their products (services) daily, they tend to forget how clients who use them the first time would perceive it.

In other words, people and firms are often narrowed down to their products and services.

It makes many business people forget what it was like when using a product or a service for the first time. Content that may seem simple to product producers may not be so easy to comprehend to a third party.

Public Speaking Skill is Critical for Successful Presentations

Tips and Skills for a Successful Presentation

Presentations are a business standard that everyone in the industry must experience.

However, there is still a misunderstanding of the practice in some circles. Some people still think that a presentation means to explain something in front of many people using beautifully made slides.

Without doubt, one of the most important skills to have when giving a presentation is the ability to give a speech. Although the content or information a speaker conveys is important, the ability to speak – to make an audience listen and be fascinated by the speech is by far the most critical skill in a presentation. This means using the entire body during speech, including language, gaze, facial expressions, gestures, and body language.

For example, watching TED or other influential videos it is clear that a presentation is not just a slide show; it is a speech where a presenter is very sincere and open to the audience.

Therefore, ideally, a presenter can deliver a speech without slides or other materials. However, slides and supplementary information lead to a deeper understanding and make a strong visual appeal. Even presenting the same content, the effectiveness of the speech can vary greatly depending on the speaker’s ability.

For example, the policy statements and answers given by Japanese politicians or the press conferences and apologies given by major corporations make different impressions on the public. The former are bureaucrats, while the latter is public relations and legal departments reading from a prepared manuscript. There are many videos available related to such people.

These are the people whose stories elicit sympathy, resonance, and active support; they bring the audience to the level of involvement with what they say. The ability to deliver an inspiring speech is not easy to acquire through simple practice or some techniques.

It depends on an individual to reach the level to be considered the “go-to” person for presentations within the organization. In particular, in the communications sector (PR, advertising, etc.) and top management departments, Japanese people are weak in their public speaking skills compared to their Western counterparts. So, it is essential to create opportunities to demonstrate speaking skills as much as possible and to improve skills in communicating with others.

That is not implying that the content or information is negligible to the presentation, but the mindset – the way of thinking and attitude – is more important than the techniques and know-how.

Therefore, whenever there is an opportunity to participate in various gatherings inside and outside the company, it is better to be proactive in speeches. Doing it is easier to learn in practice about the tricks of presentation and improve skills.

Any lacking skills in public speaking can be developed and improved by studying certain books and publications.