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All That Jazz

Be the star of your next presentation with these tips for wowing your audience.

Entrepreneurs are always making presentations--pitching to customers, unveiling new products for staff, making keynote speeches before trade organizations, even giving spiels to bankers to secure

financing. But many entrepreneurs could do with a little extra oomph in their presentations--some spice to keep the audience rapt and customers intrigued.

To jazz up your presentations for full-on audience engagement, consider the advice of Marjorie Brody, a certified speaking professional and the author of more than 18 books, including Speaking Is an Audience-Centered Sport. Brody, the founder of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania-based Brody Communications Ltd., a company offering training programs, executive coaching and keynote presentations, gives the following tips:

1. Know your audience. "Understand why you are giving the presentation and to whom," says Brody. Speak to people who will be attending in advance; get to know their concerns and issues. Then all your content will have specific meaning to the audience.

2. Make it interactive. To keep everyone alert and interested, look for ways to involve your audience members. "Ask questions; have people shout out answers; poll the audience," recommends Brody.

3. Tell stories, and use metaphors, analogies and quotes. Look to your own experiences and others' stories to help illustrate a point. Search magazines and newspapers for inspiration. "Bottom line," says Brody, "make the presentation more than a data dump."

4. Make it relevant. Reach out and relate to your audience. Explains Brody, "People are way too busy to sit and listen to something that has no impact on them."

5. Be dynamic. Demonstrate passion for your topic through your voice, gestures, movement and facial expressions, including eye contact.

6. If you use PowerPoint, go easy on the slides. PowerPoint should be used to illustrate a point-slides should never be the entire presentation. More important, a speaker should not read the slides verbatim. "Create the presentation before the PowerPoint slides," advises Brody, adding that you should look at the presentation and ask yourself, "What points can best be illustrated by PowerPoint?"

"Wherever pictures and graphics can illustrate a point, include them," says Brody. "But keep in mind that less is more." Skip flashy graphics if they don't enhance your message.

7. Wear appropriate clothing. You don't want anything to detract from your presentation. Case in point: Brody knows one female presenter who wore red bikini underwear beneath a white skirt. "If you make a bad clothing choice, the audience won't remember what you were speaking about," explains Brody. Brody believes that "the old maxim, 'You never get a second chance to make a first impression,' is very true when it comes to presenters." Always do a full mirror check before leaving your office or home, and dress in business-professional attire.

8. Manage stage fright through repetition. "Face the fear by just doing it," encourages Brody. Start by volunteering to introduce other speakers and serve on panels. The goal is not to get over your fear, but to channel the energy.

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This article was originally published in the March 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: All That Jazz.

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