The reality of sales presentations is that you’re not just up there selling your product, you also have to sell yourself. If it’s like being on stage, don’t think of it as improv; it’s closer to interactive theater. To help keep your audience engaged and make your presentation shine, we’ve compiled some “rules” to follow.
More often than not these days, decisions are made by a majority, so it’s likely you’ll be presenting to a roomful of people. Prior to standing before an audience in your “one-person show,” make sure you have a list of attendees and what their titles are. While pitching, keep in mind the different stakeholders in the room and speak to the benefits and features they care about.
Don’t Belabor Your PowerPoint
The first mistake of ineffectual presenters is “data hoarding”—cramming too much information into their PowerPoint slides. People download information from their eyes to their minds very rapidly, so don’t squander your ration of nanoseconds by making your audience’s eye gloss over from a word-stuffed slide. The people you don’t lose to brain glaze are the people who are actually reading all those extra words you’ve got up on the screen, and—guess what?—they’re too busy reading to listen to you. Your spoken presentation is the real reason you’re there; use your slides as visual aids that clients can make sense of quickly and connect with.
Keep in mind these basic guidelines while preparing your PowerPoint:
- Make only one point per slide
- Choose a simple color scheme and keep it consistent
- Stick to the same font throughout
- Use photos and infographics; no cheap-looking clip art
- Do not include lengthy bulleted lists, just relevant photos and/or quickly understandable charts or diagrams for use in bringing your ideas to a strong conclusion
It’s Not a Teleprompt
Don’t make yourself look unprofessional and annoy your audience by reading your PowerPoint slides. First off, you’ll look unprepared, like you’re relying on a script. Secondly, while you’re reading, people in the room might very well be thinking, “If you’re going to read me exactly what’s there, why didn’t you just save me the time and email me the PowerPoint?” Again, slides are visual aids, like props.
Shelve the Features Talk
Focus your presentation on the benefits, not the features, of what you’re attempting to sell. We’ve said it before—we might have to say it again after this—but don’t try to dazzle with a bunch of bells and whistles. Highlight your products and services in ways that demonstrate how they’ll translate to measurable, positive business outcomes. You can walk in there with a bike helmet on and a team jersey, but if there ain’t no bike … well, you’ve got a long hard climb. Screen-print this on a T-shirt in your mind: Value over features.
Be in the Spotlight
Never hand out a printed version of your presentation in advance. You will only present your otherwise captive audience with an opportunity to not listen to you—since they’ll be too busy reading what you’ve handed out. Offer to send the presentation post meeting so that people can refer to it later, while they’re deciding if your offerings are something they want to buy.
Of course have an outline to work from for you presentation. But don’t cling to it. A presentation should be a fluid back-and-forth between you and your audience. Encourage participation, using any unanticipated moments as opportunities for further identifying interests and gaining a deeper understanding of your prospect’s needs and what’s important to them. Just watch the time. People like to talk. You might need to guide things back to where you want them, rather than having the hour be blown apart by someone’s long-windedness.
Stay on Point
Don’t shove your whole life story into your presentation. If you’ve been given only half an hour to make your point, then strip your already prepared hour-long presentation to the bare essentials. Stick with the basics, leaving room for questions. After you’ve peaked your prospect’s interest, you’ll have an opportunity to lay out some next steps and request a follow-up meeting, which is a rule of thumb you should follow regardless! Never just leave it up to the client to contact you for more information—that lessens your chances of advancing to the next stage. Instead, provide a call-to-action and outline next steps.
Don’t Experience Technical Difficulties
Sadly, as we all know, sometimes things go haywire in the world of electronic devices, but try your best to anticipate and skirt technical difficulties. Make sure you’re well-versed in PowerPoint or Keynote presentations (you’d be surprised how many people aren’t). Create a checklist and maybe do a quick test run beforehand, making sure you have the right adapters so that you can easily and graciously connect to a big-screen TV or projector.
Stiff, disorganized or otherwise unprofessional presentations can close doors very fast. Chances are, if you’re flailing, you’re failing. Remember, be prepared. Do your homework. Be flexible. And relax. Keep in mind the basics above. They’ll help you make a splash.