Writing your business plan may seem like a breeze, but sooner or later, you’ll have to present it—to an investor, to a partner, or to a lender. Your presentation could make or break your future prospects for success, so it’s important that this goes as smoothly as possible. So what steps can you take to make sure your presentation leads to the best possible impression?
Your audience is going to start judging you the moment they see you, whether they realize it or not. You can set the wrong tone for the meeting by showing up in shorts and a T-shirt; if investors don’t take you seriously, they’re not going to think highly of your business plan, no matter how good it is otherwise. Instead, dress for the occasion, and make sure you practice good grooming habits.
You’ll also want to make sure your physical documents are presented in the best possible light. Getting your plan spiral bound printed and providing a copy to each meeting attendee can make your presentation instantly more valued.
Know Your Audience
Next, get to know your audience. Are these young, excited people who will likely get excited at the notion of making a lot of money? Or are these older, more conservative people who are more interested in minimizing risk? You’ll need to speak to each of these audiences differently.
- Demographics. You may talk to someone differently based on their age, or where they’re from.
- Goals. What is this person trying to achieve? Are they interested in profitability first and foremost, or should you try to sell them on the mission of your company?
- Knowledge. How familiar is this person with your industry? Do they have a foundation of knowledge that you can draw on? Or will you need to educate them from scratch about the basics of this industry?
- Personality. If you can, find out more about each person’s personality. Is this someone who likes things presented as simply and quickly as possible, or do they prefer a “deeper dive” on a topic to understand it?
Almost any presentation will get better if the person giving it spends time rehearsing. This is your chance to perfect your poise, your timing, your exploration of the topic, your wording, and even your body language. Practice in a mirror to see what you look like, or better yet, practice in front of a camera and record yourself. The more you learn about the nuances of your speech, the more refined it’s going to be when you give it for real.
But Don’t Over-rehearse
That said, it’s also possible to over-rehearse. If you spend too much time practicing, your final presentation could appear to be wooden or stilted—in other words, less personal, less natural, and less interesting. Additionally, if you’re dependent upon saying a specific string of words and you fumble them, you could lose your place and panic.
Instead of trying to memorize the entire speech or perfect your approach, simply try to master the outline, and get used to improvising the speech in different ways.
Be Prepared for Criticism and Objections
Almost inevitably, your audience members are going to have questions, concerns, and objections about your project. The worst thing you can do is appear unprepared; if it looks like you’re hearing this objection for the first time, your audience may lose total confidence in you. Get ahead of this by brainstorming and interviewing people to learn as much as possible about your industry and the potential problems with this business. Be prepared to answer these questions confidently, and provide satisfactory answers.
Take Your Time
Remain cognizant of how much time you’re using, but if you can, try to speak slower and more deliberately. Take more pauses. Allow yourself more space. Slower speakers are much easier to understand, but more importantly, they seem more confident. Give it a try for yourself; record yourself giving a speech as quickly as possible, and as slow as you can manage. Chances are, the slower version will appear more powerful and more persuasive.
Keep Things Simple
You might be inclined to tell your audience all about your brilliant ideas for micromanaging the workforce or solving specific problems you’ve anticipated, but if they’re hearing this for the first time, it’s best to keep things simple. Give your audience a smaller amount of information, keeping things high-level, and let them ask questions if they want to know more.
Giving your first business plan presentation will likely be nerve-wracking, no matter what steps you take. Try to learn from the experience and leave with more knowledge and confidence no matter how it goes. You’ll be even more confident and capable next time.