Making an Effective Business Plan Presentation

Many business plans are not only written, they are also presented. For example, if an investment decision has to be made by a bank loan committee or consortium of venture capitalists, it is more efficient to ask the business owner to make a presentation to the group, rather than have each member read the plan. Presentations also allow an opportunity for interactive questions and answers and for the investors to "size up" the person to whom they are loaning money. This last point is not an inconsequential consideration for both the investor and business owner.

We cannot, in this lesson, make you a great presenter. That takes knowledge of the subject, confidence, and experience. However this lesson does start you on the path to being a better presenter.

If a presentation is required as part of your course assignment, your instructor will give you some guidance about length of presentation, proper format, target audience, and so on. As emphasized below, this is critical information for making an effective presentation.

The lesson outline is:
Fundamentals of Presenting
Suggestions to Make a GREAT Presentation
--Content suggestions
--Presentation suggestions
Additional Resources for Preparing and Delivering an Effective Presentation

Fundamentals of Presenting

Making an effective presentation isn't that difficult. The process begins with a few fundamentals.

Know your target audience: As you did for the business plan itself, prepare your presentation with the information needs, expectations, attitudes, and knowledge levels of your intended audience in mind. Think about questions such as:

For example, assume the target audience for your business plan presentation is a bank loan committee. In this context, the presentation should give the committee an overview of your plans and expectations, knowing that the detail is in the business plan. The focus should not be on just marketing or just financials, and certainly not on what the Web site will look like. Instead the presentation should present an overview of the business, sell the business idea, and conclude with financials and your specific request for funds.

Timing counts: Your course instructor will determine how long the presentation should be, including sufficient time for questions and answers. In a "real" presentation this counts too. Clarify in advance how much time you will have and be sure to leave time for questions and still conclude on time.

How many presenters?: You may have completed this business plan as a group. So does everyone present? Or just one person? In your in-class presentation as well as a formal business presentation a lot of considerations impact on this decision. If it is a short presentation, one person making the presentation is probably the best choice. Any presentation over 15 minutes long should probably have more than one presenter, perhaps 10-15 minutes per presenter. Why? Because it is unlikely that all expertise is invested in just one person, a presentation is more interesting to the listeners when there is a change in presenters, and multiple presenters shows there is a depth of knowledge about the business that is distributed in the group.

A useful presentation hint is that when it is time for questions, all members of the group stand up and be prepared to answer questions in their area. This reinforces that this was a group effort and avoids putting the final speaker on the spot if a question is asked that he/she cannot answer.

Print your presentation: Always have paper copies of your presentation available for your audience, printed either three or six slides per page. Whether to distribute these copies before or after the presentation is a presenter's decision, but most listeners prefer to have the copies in advance so they can follow along more easily and take notes. However, the members of the audience sometimes focus on the handouts and don't pay close attention to what the speaker is saying. Also, if there are big surprises in the presentation, they can be spoiled by listeners who read ahead. However, because most listeners prefer copies in advance that is usually the best decision.

Suggestions to Make a GREAT Presentation

Many students enrolled in an e-business course will already have had a course in business communications and/or other opportunities to become an experienced presenter. However, just in case, here are some suggestions or reminders how to make a great presentation:

Content suggestions: The following suggestions are offered to improve the content of the presentation, or what you say.

Presentation suggestions: The following suggestions are made to improve the presentation of the presentation, or how you say it.

Finally, the most important three things to know about making a GREAT presentation are: practice, practice, and practice!

(The presentation suggestions in this lesson are (c) Dennis Viehland, 2003.)

Assignment 20: Following guidance from your instructor about length, scope, target audience, etc, prepare a professional presentation of your business plan following the instructions provided above. Follow the guidance provided by your instructor to submit or present this PowerPoint presentation.

Additional Resources for Preparing and Delivering an Effective Presentation

The Presentations Magazine Web site contains original and reprinted articles in the areas of presentation creation, delivery, and technology. Most articles tend to cover specific issues and be for more advanced and professional presenters (i.e., not much general information here).

Jeff Radal’s Effective Presentations page delivers on-line tutorials on (a) oral presentations, (b) visual aids for presentations, and (c) effective poster presentations, but with slow and awkward navigation.

The Virtual Presentation Assistant is a similar tutorial from the University of Kansas Department of Communication Studies.

Presenters University offers short articles ("courses") about making presentations, a bulletin board for asking questions ("ask the professor"), and PowerPoint templates ("multimedia downloads").

Other collections of PowerPoint templates that can add unique and highly relevant backgrounds to a presentation include powerpointbackgrounds.com, PixelMill, and The Presentation Business.

Small, concise books such as Presentation Skills For Managers focus on presentation techniques and are best for beginner presenters. Longer, in-depth books such as Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz cover a wider range of presentation skills in including presentations, public speaking, and audience participation and control. Rather than recommend any of the dozens of how-to-make-a-presentation books out there, we recommend you visit your university library or local bookstore to find a book that suits your needs.

Other small articles that offer advice to novice presenters include:
Designing Presentation Visuals
Making Effective Oral Presentations
10 Tips for Designing Effective Visual Presentations

Navigation Guide for the e-Business Plan Tutorial
Introduction to the E-Business Plan Tutorial
--Top Ten Resources for Writing an e-Business Plan
Fundamentals of e-Business Planning
Writing a "Read Right" Plan
Executive Summary
Business Description
--Mission Statement
--Business Goals
--Project Objectives
Market Analysis
Competitor Analysis
Operations
Financial Statements
Making an Effective Business Plan Presentation
Appendix: e-Business Plan Tutorial Assignments