While many of us would probably rather go to the dentist than face a room full of people and give a presentation, the ability to an engage an audience and motivate action is an essential part of any professional’s tool belt. In fact, 70% of working professionals cite presentation skills as critical to career success. Mastering the art of the presentation or pitch, takes time and practice.

Here are five general commandments to live by when trying to win over an audience and deliver a killer presentation.

1. Command Attention (from the very beginning)

First impressions are often everything, it’s up to you to make them count. The second you walk into the room, you set the tone for the entire presentation. Non-verbal cues, from tone of voice to body language, influence the impact of your words. By projecting confidence with the tenor of your voice and your gestures, you encourage confidence – trust – in your message.

2. Establish a Connection

“The goal of effective communication should be for listeners to say ‘Me too!’ versus ‘So what?’”

– Jim Rohn

Truly powerful presentations evoke emotions – engage the audience by demonstrating that even apparently different people, share common experiences. Interacting with your audience and telling your own story, lends authenticity to your message and provides a reason for the audience to listen.

3. Know Your Stuff

The ultimate downfall of many presentations, more often than not, is a lack of clarity. A confused message always translates to a confused audience. Effective presenters are prepared, trust their knowledge on the topic, and can focus on being responsive to the audience rather than just the communication or delivery information. It’s also important to actual believe what you’re saying. If you’ve dismissed the message, so too will your audience.

4. Provide Proof

Support what you say with statistics and provide evidence of your credibility. Data when used in the proper context, strengthens your message by validating your claims and establishing your expertise in the subject matter.

5.Create ‘Flow’

A good presenter drives the conversation, leading the audience towards an intuitive, logical conclusion – the presentation’s purpose. Design all presentations with an end in mind. By defining a concrete outcome, you can organize information to build a road-map to the desired result.

The Takeaway

“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.”

– Ken Haemer

In the end, everything essentially boils down to the value you can offer your audience, and that starts with knowing them, what they want, and yes, sometimes what they need. When you take the time to understand your audience, impactful presentations and all that they entail will naturally follow.

View the published article in Prime Women here.