As a presentation obsessive, these should be halcyon days…
From technology to technique, there is a steady flow of new presentation ideas and inspiration to devour coming from the world’s presentation authorities.
Yet rather than being a melting pot of powerful presentation insight, the reality is that much of the time, the soothsayers are so wrapped up in their own little world that they forget the reality of what it’s really like to be a real sales presenter who stands up and delivers presentations day in, day out.
Our research tells us that typical sales presenters are interesting individuals with a variety of presentation habits…
Some will dig out and dust down the ‘corporate PowerPoint deck’ crafted eons ago by ‘somebody’ in marketing. They will then hastily try to relearn it, before having a small panic attack that they don’t have the latest version.
For others it’ll mean manically sending a company wide PowerPoint slide begging email that will be used to construct a presentation of no discernible structure and disparate design.
Finally, there are those elusive, rogue presenters that have created their own secret, ‘ultimate sales presentation’ that defies every brand guideline known to man.
The thing most sales professionals have in common though, is that presentations are important. 78% of sales professionals surveyed by Eyeful Presentations stated that their trusty presentation was THE most important part of their sales collateral.
Yet despite this, sales presentations are typically flawed; too long, too ‘PowerPoint-y’ and too self-centred.
So what to do about it?
The key is recognising that the audience rules - they should be the ones dictating how, who, and what the whole experience should be.
Simply getting your head around this simple concept renders 90% of existing sales presentations redundant.
Sales meetings also happen in a variety of environments, meaning a one size fits all presentation just isn’t flexible enough.
With this in mind, here are three key presentation scenarios and the optimum sales engagement for each…
The Formal pitch
This is the traditional fare of the sales professional, often in response to a bid or tender.
This is where the presenter speaks and the audience (supposedly) listen in a lecture style scenario, there’s little to no interaction with the audience.
It’s the traditional home of programmes such as PowerPoint and Keynote, and if they are used properly, they can be used to create incredibly powerful presentations that guide the audience to a mutually satisfying conclusion for one and all.
Getting ‘Formal’ presentations right is hard. They are subject to more disengaged audiences than any other presentation environment, so tireless planning and preparation is essential.
If, as you begin your presentation you notice a multitude of coma-like expressions, and you get that sinking feeling that your 30 slide PowerPoint deck is going to tip them over the edge…
Then I’m afraid you got this one wrong, what’s needed here is a different kind of presentation experience…
There is life beyond the Formal presentation…
Of course, it’s blindingly obvious… Very few want to have information delivered to them as a soliloquy. Most want to engage, discuss and explore topics with the presenter.
The Interactive Presentation
Which is where the interactive presentation comes into its own.
Interaction has become a part of everybody’s lives, today’s media thrives on it’s ability to engage and interact with it’s audiences, from social media through to the app connected voting on reality TV shows.
With interaction being so prevalent, it seems strange that presenters have, largely, managed to dodge the trend. Conventional wisdom pores scorn on the idea of an audience asking questions throughout a presentation (“what if they got ideas above their station and started driving the direction of the presentation towards something that appealed to them?”) God forbid…
I think the reality though is that sales leaders are simply not aware of what’s technically possible – the ability for a presenter to navigate through a presentation with hyperlinks (similar to a website) has largely passed most of them by.
Imagine a less formal sales meeting over a coffee, where the sales person has a conversation with the prospect which naturally meanders from topic to topic.
With today’s smart technology the presenter is quite able to support these topics, with an interactive tablet presentation that effortlessly allows the sales person to navigate to wherever the conversation goes. This is powerful stuff.
The good news is that it’s not as scary as it sounds! A good interactive presentation places no more demands on the presenter than a good sales conversation – you simply need to know your subject (there’s no autocue here) and you need to be ready to hand over the keys and let your audience drive. That sounds like professional selling to me…
The Informal Presentation
Paradoxically this is both the most natural form of communication but also the most difficult presentation approach to get right. The Informal presentation still requires sufficient structure to guide the presenter and their audience from A to B but it needs to be done in such a way that does not impact the ‘cozy/non-threatening’ environment both parties find themselves in.
The example I always use is the ubiquitous airport bar conversation – you’re unwinding with a beer waiting for your flight to board and you strike up a conversation with the person next to you. As business people do, you ask each other what line of work you’re in and how come you’re travelling… One thing leads to another and soon enough you’re sharing your business message with your new friend, just like you had done 3 hours previously to a room of prospects.
The power of the Informal presentation is that rather than pulling out your laptop, firing up PowerPoint and killing the nice informal environment you’ve created, you’re are able to tell/sell your story using no more than a napkin and a biro by way of visuals.
Importantly, using an Informal approach only works if the presenter truly knows their subject. Informal presenting is more than aimless doodling and a meandering story – it’s about recognising that the engagement with the audience demands a more relaxed approach… but still delivering a focused and powerful message.
Over to you…
The question remains – why eschew the well-established Formal approach for the apparently riskier Interactive or Informal route? The answer is simple – audience engagement.
Ultimately the reason we present is to engage with the audience to the point where they will listen to, understand and ideally act on our message. By putting them in the drivers seat and allowing them into the presentation conversation, you dramatically change the dynamics of the presenter-audience relationship. You’re giving them license to test, question and evaluate your message as part of the process.
By doing this, you’re much more likely to keep the audience engaged, on side, and on course for the result you desire.
By Simon Morton, Managing Director of Eyeful Presentations Ltd & Author of 'The Presentation Lab'. Eyeful Presentations help businesses get the best possible results from their presentation opportunities. Read more from Simon. Simon launched Eyeful Presentations in 2004, with a simple goal of creating better, more effective business presentations that would engage audiences and actually get presenters results and success. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.