Making effective business presentations in any business setting can sometimes feel like a daunting task.  In fact, right now, you can probably think of about a million things that could go wrong—from your computer not connecting to the digital screen, to spilling coffee all over yourself just prior to going up, to becoming totally tongue tied in front of your colleagues or customers. The awful list is endless. But, there are also lots of things you can do right to ensure your business presentations go smoothly and are engaging for your audience.

To help you be the very best business presenter you can be, here is a list of 5 important things to do before you get up in front of any business crowd. Plus, Southwest offers a huge selection of products to help you make your business presentations look their best as well. Check out our presentation and binding products for lots of great ideas.

5 steps to business presentation success

Before we get started, it’s important to remember that often the things you think are truly terrible go totally unnoticed by your audience, or, if they do note something amiss, it’s usually never as bad as you think. That said, there’s no reason to be unprepared for any presentation. Here are 5 things to prepare prior to your business presentation:

  1. Ensure you completely understand the purpose of the presentation

This might seem ridiculous, but often the presenter utterly misses the mark because of miscommunication or lack of clarity around the reason for the presentation in the first place. Ensure you have a thorough briefing or understanding of what you are expected to cover before you begin preparing.

If you feel uncertain, unclear or have any questions—ask them upfront and right away. If it helps, make an agenda for the presentation that itemizes all of the elements you will be including or discussing in your presentation, and send that to the organizer, client or colleague who can confirm that you are indeed on the right track.

  1. Do your due diligence and know your subject matter

There is nothing worse than a presentation that skims the surface of the subject without providing any actual “meat” or facts that demonstrate clear knowledge and understanding. If you are making a product or service presentation, know as much as you can about it, its benefits and features, its pricing, its availability, its technical specifications, how it has been received by other customers, its competition and differences, and the market verticals it serves. That diligence and level of detailed knowledge will go a long way in setting you up as an expert and building trust with your audience.

Equally as important, if you don’t know something, don’t pretend that you do. People will have much more respect for you telling them you don’t know, but you’ll find out and get back to them. Plus, that gives you another opportunity to connect with your audience member and build a stronger relationship.

  1. Include stats

A lot of information can be summed up quickly using statistics. Don’t shy away from making a point or demonstrating information using numbers. Audiences can quickly grasp the positives and negatives, giving you more time to offer insightful and intelligent information.

  1. Use visuals

Do not fill your slides with text. It’s boring, hard to read, and eliminates the need for you to be presenting. Instead, use visuals that include photos, illustrations, charts, graphs, and other images to illustrate what you’re talking about. If you need speaking points, put them in your presentation notes section where only you will see them, and just include key words, phrases or titles to help move the presentation along and set up the visual for your commentary.

  1. Don’t hand out copies of the presentation until after you have presented

Unless it is imperative that your audience follow along in a paper version of the presentation, never hand out copies until after your presentation is complete. Paper copies in the hands of your audience means they can skip ahead, read what they want at any time, and not give you the attention you require to make your presentation successful.

When you do hand out copies, consider providing the presentation digitally as well on a custom usb stick, where you can also add other information and resources so their take-away has great value.

There are, of course, many other things you can do to prepare for your business presentation, but following at least these 5 suggestions will get you well on your way to being an engaging and informative presenter. But be warned—it could also get you invited to present again.