Larger group presentations often call for visual aids, which can both embellish and complicate your presentation. Whether you’re using foam-board flip cards or a laptop with presentation software projected onto a big screen, be sure that you know how to use the presentation medium and have rehearsed with it.
Find out, if you can, just how large the room will be and how many participants you’ll be facing. This will help you determine what kind of visual aids, if any, that you want to use. You may not want 24 X 30-inch flip cards for a group of four—unless they’re going to be seated at the opposite end of a 20-ft. table.
Never count on the prospect to provide any equipment. There’s nothing worse than arriving to connect your laptop to the prospect’s projector only to discover that you need an adapter neither one of you has. Whether you’re going high-tech or low-tech, bring every single item you could possibly need with you. This includes everything from extension cords and grounded-outlet adapters to monitors and projectors. If you need an easel for your flip cards, bring one yourself. I can almost guarantee that if you don’t, the prospect’s won’t work or someone in another department will have borrowed it just before you arrived.
It’s mandatory that you set up your visual aids before the group gathers in the room. I would rather skip the visual aids completely than stumble through a pitch while I’m fumbling with a “General Protection Page Fault” on my laptop. In fact, if it’s not possible to get access to the meeting room and set up before the group gathers, play it safe and don’t bother with the visual aids. It’s better to make a neutral low-tech impression than a bad high-tech one.
If you’re using a laptop, set up your software so that you don’t have to click through several screens to get to your presentation. Create a shortcut to the presentation right on your opening screen. That way, all you have to do is click on it to start the show. Finally, check the view from the back of the room to be sure everyone can read your material.
No matter which format you use for your visual aids, design them as much like your written presentation as you can. Make each slide (or card) simple, clear, and to the point. Any bodies of text will need to be converted to bullet points, of course. This isn’t the place to go into great detail on constructing slide presentations, but get yourself a good tutorial if you plan on preparing your own.
Group presentations are actually great fun to give. You get to practice your craft in a slightly different way from the normal routine. And you have the opportunity to use all of your persuasive skills and stagecraft to their fullest effect. Most group presentations involve prospects with large potential, so there’s usually a lot riding on the effectiveness of your pitch. You’ll make good use of your stage fright management skills.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.