There is, no doubt, any amount of information available that will help you improve your presentation skills. This information may offer pointers as to what makes a good presenter, but if you want to see the whole spectrum of presentation skills on display, both good and bad, look no further than Dragons' Den. Here you will see the slick and the slipshod, the flash and the floundering, and the proficient and the panic-stricken.

One of the first rules of a good presentation is that the presenter must fit in with what he or she is presenting. Presentations differ according to the subject matter and audience, but if you are aiming for a professional looking presentation then your appearance will play a big part in the overall effect. You may think that in these less formal days where anything goes fashion-wise, looking smart does not really matter but you'd be wrong.

In a recently repeated early edition of Dragons' Den, a young lad had pitched his idea and the dragons did show some interest, but Peter Jones declared himself out partly because of the appearance of the hopeful entrepreneur. Peter commented that yet again someone had come into the Den to ask for a lot of money, but dressed as though they were going for a pint. It can make that much difference.

It is pointless going to the trouble of creating a smart presentation if the person presenting it is shabby; the two just don't go together. Remember, after your audience has taken in what is on the screen, their eyes will turn to you as you speak. Be smart and dress smart.

Communication between those involved in delivering the presentation is an area that should be well rehearsed. I attended a seminar recently run by the makers of a well-known brand of computer software that was held in the conference room of one of the high-end hotels in the city.

In front of the biggest screen on which I have ever seen a PowerPoint presentation, the first speaker took to the stage. Although he spoke in a firm, clear voice and he lowered the tension levels by injecting a few quips into his delivery, the constant wringing of his hands suggested that he was not entirely comfortable at his task. Although this sort of thing is generally done unconsciously it did send a clear signal to the audience that he was ill-at-ease, which will only increased their scrutiny.

Things were not helped by the lack of communication between him and his colleague at the laptop when it came to changing slides. Instead of a set plan they seemed to be relying on their own form of tic-tac that involved head nodding, hand waving and that rolling finger gesture TV producers make when they want things to move on. I would have expected them to have arranged a set signal by now, as this was the third leg of the roadshow. In a situation where nerves are already creeping in this can lead to the speaker becoming flustered. The trick is, therefore, to make sure things run smoothly from the start.

You should be absolutely clear on exactly when the slides are changed and have at least a couple of dummy runs. Some sort of hand held audible device is ideal for signalling the next slide but best of all is an automatic changer so that the presenter is entirely responsible for the changing of the slides.

Look for any part of your body language that signals your discomfort to the audience. You may feel perfectly at ease doing rehearsals of the presentation to an audience of none, so have a friend watch the real thing and make notes of any characteristics that give your unease away. You can then work on ironing out these negative signals.

Finally, be sure that the presentation is well scripted and in keeping with those other factors, mentioned above, for yet again the positive impact of a smooth slide show and a smart presenter can be undone if the words accompanying the presentation are bland and uninteresting. Keep the commentary short and look at ways to hold the attention of your audience. You may only be commenting on the graph that shows last year's sales figures, but you can make it more interesting by putting on an enthusiastic spin or injecting humour. It goes without saying that presentations should be waffle-free zones.

In a nutshell then, you should;

Pay attention to your appearance

Overcome those nervous signals

Set up a clear line of communication with others involved in the presentation

Keep the commentary brief and interesting

These are four basic ground rules that will help to make your part in the presentation every bit as professional as the slide show.