Much of the development business is accomplished through important presentations that sell your projects. The development director presents plans to City Council for a new power center. The mall manager tells tenants about stores that will be closed during a remodeling phase. The marketing director previews the TV ad campaign to the board of directors.

Whether these people win the approval of their audience is based largely on how well they present their topics. And if they are nervous or not quite prepared, their performance could change the course of future business.

Following are five things you can do to prepare for a presentation, no matter how large the group. The confidence you demonstrate will influence the audience just as much as your words. With a solid outline, a good rehearsal, appropriate visuals and rapport with the audience, you can positively influence your next deal.

* Test the room. Find out in advance the size of the room where you will be speaking. Determine whether you will speak to the group in theater style, seated around a table or from a podium.

Do you need a microphone? If so, will you use the microphone on the podium, a lapel mike or a cordless, hand-held type? Arrive early and test the microphone or have an assistant check it. How many times have you seen a tall person bending down over the mike? This is not only distracting to the audience but uncomfortable for the speaker.

If you will be using a remote mike with a battery pack, wear clothing that you can clip the pack onto or slip into a pocket.

* Check the audio/visual equipment. There are many options today to enhance your presentation, from the simplest overhead transparencies to sophisticated Power Point shows. But you must know how to use them to their best advantage.

The overhead projector should be adjusted so the image is high enough for the audience to see. It helps to have a handout that mirrors these transparencies, so the audience can follow along.

If using slides, you should preview the setup to check that all slides are right-side-up and in focus. Also, have backup slides just in case.

When using a TV monitor to show a videotape, make sure the group can view the screen from all angles in the room and that the screen is large enough for the group.

With Power Point presentations, have a backup in case the computer fails to operate correctly.

* Open with a bang. Many speakers lose their audience before they even start. They fool around with their notes, take a drink of water, thank the person who introduced them or pause to get their thoughts in order.

You have about 10 seconds to get the audience's attention before they start thinking about other things. So open with something that grabs their attention, like a personal story relating to your topic, an outstanding visual that makes your point dramatically, or a comment from someone the group will recognize.

* Make your point as quickly as possible. Your outline should be straightforward, to the point and as easy to understand as ABC.

A: This is why I'm here today.

B: Here are the points that support my theory.

C: This is what I want you to do now.

Speak in conversational language, without industry jargon or acronyms. Then sit down.

Sometimes, speakers are given an hour to talk but can easily make their point in 20 minutes. Don't feel obligated to talk for the entire time. Use the rest of the time for questions or for interactive exercises.

* Be prepared to deal with questions. Get feedback in advance about the nature of your audience and any controversial opinions they have on your topic. Prepare answers to difficult questions.

Never answer a question you don't know the answer to. Instead, promise to get back to the questioner later once you have researched it.

Before you respond to a question, repeat or paraphrase it for the benefit of those who didn't hear it.

Give short answers and move on to the next question. Ask the moderator to cut off questions after a certain period of time.

Since you spend a lot of time planning your projects, you owe it to yourself to spend time on the speech that will sell it. If you follow these tips, you will feel more confident the next time you hear, "And now let me introduce "