Originally printed in The Appleton Post Crescent, January 19, 2014.

Many small business owners give public presentations as a way to educate consumers while promoting their own services. This is common practice through local chambers of commerce and industry-specific business associations. It’s a great way for these businesses to raise awareness of their companies and to build credibility as a subject matter expert in their field.

I enjoy listening to these keynote speakers and attending breakout sessions. I admit it; I’m a geek for miscellaneous knowledge. Business owners have occasionally asked me to critique both their delivery as well as the visual presentation (ex. PowerPoint) to help them achieve better results – garnering another speaking engagement or being hired by an audience member for paid work.

Below is a quick list of some of the key mistakes to avoid if you’re a presenter. Learn what not to do by reading this list.

1)    Skip practice.
A good presenter knows his or her presentation inside and out, and the slides are merely an aid to the words and theatrics he or she is creating. Fluidity is critical in positioning yourself as an expert in what you are presenting. This should come easily to business owners, as you should naturally be a subject matter expert anyway.

2)    Face the screen when you’re talking.
There are two places where your listeners spend the majority of their time looking – the screen and your eyes. The more listeners can look at you, the better the chance they’ll connect with you, or at least the topic. If they are looking at your back, it’s easier for them to get distracted or feel disconnected.

3)    Read the slides aloud.
If you have a tendency to read your slides to your listeners, they may feel you’re learning the topic right along with them. Don’t let your audience doubt your expertise by reciting your slides word for word.

4)    Fill the presentation slides with a lot of words.
If you’re doing your job, then all attention should be on you. A content-heavy slide trumps you, and your audience members will avert to reading the slide, and you’ll have to fight to regain their full attention. If they’re meant to take notes, take a break from talking, otherwise you should be keeping their attention on the words you’re saying by minimizing what’s on each slide.

5)    Don’t use any graphics.
Roughly 65 percent of people are visual learners. Including pictures, charts, graphs and videos are prime ways to engage your listeners. Not only are they visually appealing, they can often make a point quicker and more efficiently. Better yet, substitute images and illustrations for long descriptions to make your point since we all know a picture is worth a thousand words.

Remember that ultimately your presentation is your gateway to business relationships. Give it the same care you give to the rest of your business, and you will see the doors of opportunity open.

To share your own tips, email me at andee@coalescemarketing.com. Be sure to read How to Make the Most of Your Public Speaking Presentation for even more tips.

Andee Vosters is an account manager at Coalesce Marketing. She can be reached at 920-380-4444 or andee@coalescemarketing.com