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I enjoy speaking at conferences and events. It's exciting to talk about things you're passionate about, and to receive feedback from other people within your business or industry.

And just as important, speaking usually generates more business or, at least, some solid leads, which is what every small business and entrepreneur wants.

Put your best foot forward when speaking to create a great first impression. You want to be perceived as smart, insightful and informed so people start to think about how they might be able to use your services or products.

Here's my tip of the day: Don't shoot yourself in the foot with a bad PowerPoint presentation.

Nothing kills interest levels faster than a presentation that can be used as a cure for insomnia. You probably know what I'm talking about: the ones that feature slide after slide of text that the presenter dutifully reads based on the weird notion that no one in the audience can read or see the screen.

Seth Godin has some great advice on how to use PowerPoint properly, which means using it the right way as opposed to "the way Microsoft wants" people to use it.

The focus of his argument is that PowerPoint needs to be a communications tool that engages people rather than mesmerizes them. It complements and enhances your presentation as opposed to being the focal point of it.

Here are some tips on how to quickly improve your PowerPoint skills:

1. Keep the amount of text to a minimum. Rather than put all your content on the screen, only include the top-level highlights. This can be a single word to emphasize the points being made. Talk over your slides, not to them.

2. Use compelling graphs, charts or photographs to engage your audience. A great cartoon, for example, can grab someone's attention and encourage them to listen to what you're saying about it.

3. Keep the number of slides to a minimum: 25 or so at the most. Again, PowerPoint slides are the supporting actors, not the stars, so don't give them too much of the stage.

4. Don't hand out your PowerPoint slides before your presentation because people will just read along rather than listen to you.

5. Buy a wireless remote control to go from one slide to another. This will let you walk around rather than being stuck behind the keyboard.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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