Have you ever looked forward to sitting through a PowerPoint presentation? Neither have I. That’s because most make a root canal sound appealing. But here’s the surprising thing: They don’t have to be boring. In fact, presentations don’t even have to be given in PowerPoint.

Presentations are inevitable, but by using smart techniques that professional presenters use, they don’t have to be tortuous for your audience and can actually work as an effective marketing tool for your firm. When you are given an opportunity to give a presentation, be it a CLE course, firm overview to a professional organization, a legal clinic, client presentation, etc., think of it as a business development opportunity. No matter the audience, giving a presentation allows you the opportunity to make a real, in-person connection that’s not possible with many other business development tactics.

Here are a few tips on keeping your audience engaged while at the same time effectively marketing your firm’s capabilities:

• Don’t use a standard presentation template. It’s important to keep in mind that any presentation given by an attorney or staff member of your firm is an extension of the firm’s brand. Just as care is given to selecting the firm’s letterhead, the same care and consideration should be given to the look and feel of firm presentations. The colors and fonts chosen should reflect those of the firm’s website or marketing collateral materials and logos and imagery should all be the same. To ensure that all presentations moving forward reflect the same look and feel, consider creating a style guide that details what colors, logos, fonts, images, etc., are to be used and avoided.

• Work from the audience back. Your audience is in the room for a particular reason. It’s critical to understand why they’re listening to you so you can give your presentation in a manner that makes them more receptive listeners. Your presentation should appeal to their needs first. Start with their expectations and work back to your services, not the other way around. Draw them in from the beginning by acknowledging their pain points before you address the solutions you provide. Your goal is to sell an experience, not a service.

• Start with your last slide. One of the best ways to create a compelling presentation is to start by creating the last slide first. The last slide is the all-important “call to action.” What do you want your audience to do? Once you’ve determined that, you can then decide what you need to present to effect the call to action. Building your presentation by starting from the end instead of the beginning will not only help you get started, but also ensure that your messaging is targeted to your objective.

• Keep it simple. Eliminate noise and clutter from your presentation by minimizing text, citations, numerous bullet points and boilerplates, etc. If you absolutely need to share the fine print, furnish a handout and make it available for attendees. Instead of a lot of text, consider using a simple image that captures the concept that you can then talk to instead of bulleting out all of the points you plan to make.

• Give your audience a roadmap. The content you need to get into a presentation can be complex, which becomes especially difficult when you don’t have a lot of time to present it. To help guide your audience, provide a framework or roadmap of the presentation. One of the easiest ways to do this is to provide an agenda at the beginning on what the presentation will cover. Another way to do this is to create a branded graphic that is used throughout the presentation to remind your audience where they’ve been and where they’re going. Whatever method you choose, your audience will be thankful you gave them a guide.

• Think outside of PowerPoint. Immediately grab an audience’s attention by pulling up a presentation that isn’t in PowerPoint (gasp). Consider using something like Prezi, which is a presentation software that allows presenters to zoom and navigate to text, visuals and multimedia, rather than click through in a linear way like PowerPoint. Presentations in Prezi are enriched by the ability to zoom in on an image or text and then zoom out to show the big picture. In the right situation, it can be a great way to bring data to life.

• Master your presentation. Sure, we all know that we need to practice a presentation a few times before we give it, but could you give your presentation if you didn’t have the slides? You should know your content so completely that you are comfortable giving your presentation with no visuals at all. Mastering your presentation affords you the luxury of calmness and clarity, essential components of a great presentation.

Once your presentation has been given, don’t let it die. It is rare that attorneys use presentations after they have been completed and they are seldom thought of for business development purposes. But, in fact, they can serve a purpose for years, depending on the topic. Consider videotaping firm presentations and inviting current or prospective clients to view them. Or, upload the slides to a presentation-sharing site, such as SlideShare.net, where they can easily be shared with others, or found by individuals searching for your particular topic. Perhaps the firm may want to consider making the presentation available for other lawyers who may be in need of CLE credits and are willing to download the presentation for a fee. The videos may even be appropriate to embed on the firm’s website page and tagged with appropriate SEO, so they become searchable and another way to boost your website’s rankings on search engines.

The lifespan of a presentation can be endless, making it a valuable marketing and business development tool for your firm. Once you’ve mastered the art of creating a great presentation, make sure that your hard work lives on to be enjoyed by others. •

Jim Confalone is the co-founder and creative director of ProPoint Graphics, a leading corporate presentation service firm that creates professional presentations for business clients of all sizes. For more information, visit www.ProPointGraphics.com