Delivering powerful presentations is an essential task for any advisor. This is your chance to show prospects you are an honest, competent financial partner. But it’s not always that simple. Nerves, poor preparation and attendee indifference can all get in the way, so before you face the audience, try implementing these helpful hints as you plan, deliver and finish your presentation.

Preparing for the presentation

Take some time to rehearse before giving your presentation, says Brad Williams, president of Brad Williams Financial Services, Huntsville, Ala. Your attendees want to see if you are knowledgeable, but if you stutter and stumble through your presentation, the audience will not be impressed or confident in your ability to handle their finances.

“You can’t speak with conviction unless you know your material,” Williams says. “When a speaker knows his material and can speak with conviction and enthusiasm, then people will build confidence and trust. That’s when they’ll come to see you.”

To see how well you know your presentation, try testing your knowledge after you have rehearsed, suggests Mark Pruitt, founder and CEO of Strategic Estate Planning Services, Dallas. Take away your slides to see if you can speak without a script. If you are not at the point where you can completely talk unprompted, make a flip chart in case the projector or computer malfunctions during the presentation.

When preparing content, keep your presentation focused on a specific topic, advises Steven Johnson, chief investment officer of Ashton Royce & Company, Williamsburg, Va. Perhaps it’s January when taxes are a concern, or maybe there is upcoming legislation that could affect your prospects. Just find one relevant topic to keep your audience focused and interested.

“It’s like when you’re going to school,” Johnson says. “Anything over an hour is difficult to take, but a lot of presentations want to go an hour and a half or two hours, and then they need an intermission. I think it’s best to keep it specific, shorter and sweeter. I want to be done in 45 minutes at the most.”

With that in mind, try to limit the number of slides you prepare, Johnson adds. Ten to 20 slides, including an introduction and conclusion page, should be enough to highlight a few key items.

“You need to make good points, but there’s no reason to dwell about it,” Johnson says. “They really just want to find out if you know what you’re talking about.”

Delivering the presentation

During the presentation, create an atmosphere that makes the audience feel comfortable by forming a sense of trust. Williams greets everyone upon arrival, he says, and provides a nametag for all attendees, so he can address them by name throughout the presentation. He makes sure to write the names himself, which ensures the print is large enough to read from a distance. As Williams is speaking, he makes eye contact with everyone in the room at some point during the presentation, as well, he says, and this especially brings the nametags into play.

“I never set up a room where I’m confined to just the front where I give the presentation,” Williams says. “I want to be sure I can move around. If someone asks something, I want to go over and engage them, and that’s where the nametags come in. I want to look them in the eye and address them by their first name.”

Industry publications; quotes from well-respected financial gurus, such as Warren Buffet; and relevant news stories are all effective means for establishing trust, as they validate your statements. But spewing quotes isn’t enough. You should also provide hard references or at least a source list for any statistic or fact you quote, Williams says.

“If I’m going to reference a book, even if I have the slide, I hold the book up,” Williams says. “I tell them there’s a table with all of my reference sources, and they’re welcome to look those over. I even provide a list of reference sources I use, so they can go get them on their own if they want.”

By sharing stories, you also create trust, Pruitt says, especially if they reflect your own experiences. Doing so shows you’re more than just an advisor who is looking to make a sale; you’re a person who empathizes with their situations.

“I tell them my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and that we are caring for a sister-in-law who is 58 with early onset Alzheimer’s, and she lives with us,” Pruitt says. “People can sense if you’re being real in anything you say, so the bottom line is be real, be honest, believe in what you say, show passion and compassion.”

But avoid using real stories about clients, Johnson cautions. You could break confidentiality clauses.

Of course, you don’t want the audience to miss a word of your presentation, but that can be difficult in a large room. When Johnson gives a presentation, he uses karaoke equipment and places the speakers in the back of the room. People in the front of the room typically do not have a hard time hearing, Johnson says, but it is an issue for those in the back.

“If you’re trying to speak loudly, you’re overpowering the people in the front, but you also want everyone to be able to hear,” Johnson says. “With the speakers in the back, it’s like surround sound.”

Wrapping up the presentation

After the presentation, don’t immediately pack your equipment and head home, Pruitt says. This is your chance to connect with prospects, so take some time to shake a few hands and thank them for attending. Let prospects see you as a person, not just an advisor connected to some financial institution.

Williams likes to follow up the presentation with a phone call the next day and places the attendees on his newsletter list, he says. During these exchanges, Williams uses positive phrases, which have increased his appointments. For example, instead of saying, “If you come see me,” Williams says, “When you come see me,” which puts prospects in a more receptive mindset.

And even if a prospect doesn’t immediately schedule an appointment, you are not out of the running, Williams notes. Sometimes, these decisions take time.

“Often, they may have really liked my presentation,” Williams says. “But, for whatever reason, they’re just not ready or something hasn’t matured for them yet, but if you keep in touch with them and invite them to other events, when it’s time for them to make a decision, they’ll come back to see you.”

No matter what presentation techniques you implement, the audience must find you approachable and trustworthy, Johnson says. They are placing their financial assets in your hands, and that’s not a role you should take lightly.

“They do come in a bear their most personal items to you,” Johnson says. “They don’t share their bank account statement with their neighbors. They’ll mow each other’s lawns and help with projects and all kinds of things, but they’ll never see their bank statements or investment statements–you will.”