You can probably recall a presentation you sat through at one time or another that was, well, not good. The presenter likely was either unprepared, oblivious to the audience, or both. A poor presentation can be an uncomfortable experience for both presenter and audience, leaving potential clients ready to bolt out the door as soon as they hear the presenter utter, “Thank you for coming.”

Whether you’re a seasoned presenter or new to giving presentations, you can always improve on something about your presentation preparation and delivery. The following tips can help you improve your presentation skills and, in doing so, enhance your business. (Also: The art of using seminars to fill your prospect list)

1. Know the topic of your presentation inside and out. Make sure you understand all aspects of your topic, from how it works to whom it benefits the most. Anticipate questions you may get and prepare your answers. Do you have the most current information on the topic? Even if you think you are well-informed about the particular product or strategy, it never hurts to review. Your confidence will come across in your presentation, making it easier for audience members and potential clients — to feel more confident about your ability to assist them. (Three secrets to seminar success)

2. Pare it down. Clearly define the topic of your presentation, and limit your focus to only that topic. No matter what topic you select, it’s important to ensure that your presentation has received all of its necessary carrier approvals. There’s no way you’ll be able to explain or introduce everything to your audience, and attempting to do so will only leave participants frustrated or bored. Shoot for 45 minutes for presenting and 15 minutes for answering questions, and remember, it’s always better to get done early than go over on time. Respect your audience’s time, as well as your own.

3. Practice your delivery. It’s always important to practice delivering a presentation aloud. You’ll often be able to identify problematic words and phrases that weren’t evident when reading through the slides and notes silently. Time the presentation while you’re working on the delivery. The more times you read through it, the more comfortable you will be with it, allowing you to interact more with your guests during your actual presentation.

4. Prepare your materials. Make a checklist of everything you’ll need to bring to the presentation. Aside from gathering all of the computer equipment, prepare any handouts, forms to fill out, or appointment sheets. Do you have enough business cards? Is all of the information updated? If you’re going to be handing out product literature, make sure you have enough copies and that you are bringing the most current versions. Have a colleague or friend read through your checklist to see if you’ve forgotten anything like pens or other office supplies you may need.

5. Pay attention to your audience. When the time has come to give your presentation, be aware of your interaction with the audience. You should know the presentation well enough that you don’t have to read the notes but can simply refer to them as a reminder. Maintain eye contact, and be deliberate about looking at all sides and corners of the room. And don’t just stand up front during the presentation. Present yourself as someone who’s accessible by walking through the audience and standing alongside them.

6. Personalize your presentation. Be yourself throughout your presentation so your audience can see what type of individual they will be working with. Use a bit of humor to introduce or conclude your presentation. Tell a short story about yourself. Find a way to personalize your topic and stand out! (Focus your efforts on your “natural audience“)

7. Protect your integrity by following through. If you say you’ll get back to an audience member about a question he or she had, make sure you do it, preferably within a day or two. If you tell someone you’ll provide him a side-by-side comparison, for example, take care of it immediately, before you get busy — and potentially lose your credibility.

Concluding a presentation can either leave you feeling exhilarated and confident — or uncertain and self-conscious. Make your presentation worth your time (and money) by diligently preparing both your content and delivery.

Amy Kennel is communications director for Brokers International, Ltd. Check out more of her Marketing Tips articles.

For agent use only. Not for use or solicitation to the general public.