As sales people we have many skills; especially relationship building based on our adaptability and exquisite listening. How is it then, that sometimes, our PowerPoint presentations can override our natural ability to connect with others?
We’ve all been on the receiving end of PowerPoint presentations which bury us in bullet pointy information overload. Have you noticed how this situation can make the presenter shrink until s/he becomes invisible? In fact the presenter can become the annoying voice in the background; the noise getting in the way of reading the slides! When this happens audience connection is instantly lost.
So how do we avoid becoming invisible and losing that audience connection?
Now I’m not saying every sales person does this, but sometime in our eagerness to please and give clients everything they need we fall into a trap. The trap of adding just one more slide…just one more…just…one more. And before we know it we’ve created an overwhelming presentation that cuts the audience off. I have to plead guilty to doing this, in the past!
I particularly remember selling a new training programme to a room full of sales directors and their teams. I’d anticipated all the objections from a cynical audience. I had a slide for every eventuality. I had sleepless nights worrying about whether I’d remember it all.
As I mingled before the presentation I heard a lot that didn’t make me feel any better. Then the light bulb moment; I needed to think very differently about my presentation – and that meant deleting a lot of it!
So, I asked myself three questions:
- Am I putting my audience first? This means knowing what information they need to make a decision. What do they need to HEAR from me? What do they need to SEE?
- Am I using stories to make my messages relevant? Emotional connection goes beyond the facts even with the most hardened buyer. A well-chosen story or anecdote will get to emotional centres mere facts never reach.
- Am I being flexible? In any presentation you need to be vigilant. Be ready to drop a section if you sense your audience wants to move on. Incorporate relevant items from today’s news, from the client’s pressroom. Which takes us back in the circle to putting your clients, and their interests, first.
That day I deleted most of my presentation. Using my trusty Mindmap I talked with the audience – rather than presenting at them. I still remember the feeling of freedom and the realisation that I could walk tall without the wall lit up with slides behind me.
If you can answer all three questions in the affirmative you’ll be a walking, talking demonstration of how to keep connected. PowerPoint will be in its rightful place as your support; a way to flash-up a few visuals that reinforce what you’ve said. You won’t be invisible, and you will be connected. Your words will stand out and you and your message will be remembered.
By Dorothea Stuart, Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.
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