Make ‘em Laugh! 7 Guideposts for Using Humor in Your Business Presentation.


Laughing audience

Many experts recommend opening your presentation with a funny story, joke, quote, or prop. And why not? Humor can engage your audience, add welcome lightness to a heavy subject, and increase audience recall. Yup, humor can be a great opener….when it works.  And when it doesn’t? Few things will suck the confidence out of you faster than starting off with a joke or story that bombs, annoys or confuses your business audience. Using humor in your presentation is not without risk so be smart about exposing your funny side by following these 7 guideposts. 7 Guideposts for Using Humor in Your Business Presentation Make it relevant. I sat in on a presentation where the presenter told a story about his new dog’s obsession with his daughter’s goldfish.  It was funny, cute and heartwarming.  Unfortunately the audience’s smiles turned to stony glares after he clapped his hands together and said, “OK, Read More

6 Keys to Closing the Sale with a Great Call-to-Action


closing the sale

Not every pitch or presentation ends in a signed contract.  However you must ask for some next step, otherwise you have just invested a lot of time and energy delivering an informative talk. With so many deals ending in “no decision” today, you can’t afford to waffle when it comes to this critical step in moving your sale forward! Unfortunately, many salespeople leave money on the table by delivering a vague call-to-action, or too often, no next steps at all.  Successful salespeople know precisely want they want their prospect to do at the end of their pitch.  It doesn’t pay to be shy in this regard, or to assume the next step is obvious.  By applying the following keys to your call-to-action, you will greatly increase your chances of success. The 6 Keys to a Great Call-to-Action: Keep it simple. Many times salespeople offer next steps that are too complicated Read More

87,000 choices at Starbucks…and 1 Demo? 3 Simple Ways to Tailor your Demo


Starbucks

You can now walk into a Starbucks and order any one of 87,000 drink combinations and the barista won’t bat an eye (although I have seen a few eye rolls…) If customers expect that level of customization from a five dollar investment, imagine what they expect when they’re looking to invest thousands of dollars in a solution? Yet surprisingly in this era of customized experiences, most product demos still vary little from customer to customer.  This may have been acceptable in decades past.  But as the sheer number of demos that customers are exposed to grows, the bar continues to rise.  A canned demo is evident to all who see it — and about as memorable as what you had for lunch two weeks ago Tuesday. Even though your solution may address a common set of challenges, when you tailor your demo you make your prospect feel like your solution was Read More

How to Give a Great Online Presentation that Keeps Your Audience Engaged


Engaging on-line presentations

I once made a sandwich, responded to an email, and let the dog out – all while “watching” an online presentation.  I’m not proud.  And I’m not alone. InterCall, the world’s largest conference call company found that audiences are engaged in a number of activities while on conference calls.  For example: Doing other work (65%) Eating or making food (55%) On-line shopping (21%) It’s not a huge leap to conclude that similar behaviors extend to an online presentation where the cloak of invisibility and easy access to multiple devices invites the opportunity to escape. When you are presenting online, maintaining your audience’s attention presents a unique set of challenges.  Understanding how to keep your audience engaged, and working with the challenges of the medium, requires some strategic but necessary adjustments in the design and delivery of your on-line presentation.   Here are 5 key adjustments you should make: 5 Tips Read More

Beware the Sales Zombie: Lessons from The Walking Dead


zombies

For most audiences, it’s hard to distinguish one zombie from the next. While the on-screen zombies may exhibit varying degrees of decay or gore, the dead eyes and extended arms as they lumber towards their prey is replicated over and over.  Rarely does an individual zombie stand out or receive credit for his performance.  In the eyes of the audience and the director, they are merely scenery.  In fact, like most show extras, they are often referred to as “background.” A salesperson is in danger of being part of the background as well when they follow the crowd or continue to do things the way they’ve always been done in their presentations or conversations.  Turning into a sales zombie is a real danger as blending in with everyone else makes it difficult for prospects to differentiate you from the competition, much less buy your product or service.  So how can Read More

5 Sales Role-Play Tips for Success from the Theater


Sales Role-play

Sales Reps hate to role-play. But you knew that, right?  Done well, role-play can be an exceptionally powerful tool in helping sales reps master communication skills and navigate many  changes in products, customers, and competition they continually face.  Unfortunately, approaching it with a gallows-like resolve as most sales reps do, limits the opportunity to get the real transformative benefits that role-play can produce.  What Sales Role-play Tips can help? Look no farther than your local theater.  Stages across the world consistently churn out winning performances using role-play as their primary tool.  Applying a few fundamentals from the theater to your sales role-play will greatly increase your sales reps’ understanding and confidence in the process and provide them with valuable insights they can apply immediately in the field. 5 Sales Role-play Tips for Success from the Theater: Clarify expectations.  Making sure everyone is clear about the goal of the role-play is key.  Keep Read More

Presentation Myths Busted

7 Presentation Myths – Busted! Get the Facts Before Your Presentation

A lot of advice on giving a presentation has been floating around since fax machines and uninformed buyers roamed the Earth.  Some of these presentation myths are urban legends, and some have simply reached their expiration date. Regardless of their source, these practices are capable of derailing your presentation, damaging your credibility, and causing your audience to tune out.

Like the popular television show Myth Busters, (No, your microwave will not blow up if you microwave a metal bowl!) I set out to “Bust” or “Confirm” some of the more common presentation myths I hear today.

7 Presentation Myths Busted

1.  All presentations should follow the 10-20-30 Rule  BUSTED

This widely quoted advice from Guy Kawasaki states that no presentation should use more than 10 slides, last longer than 20 minutes or use less than a 30 pt type.  In my experience, bad presentations can have three slides or 103 slides. They can be 10 minutes long or an hour. While this “rule” is rooted in selective facts (average attention span of about 20 minutes) it doesn’t take into account that you can actually “reset” that attention span to keep audience engagement high. Good news for presenters with more complex solutions!

Ultimately it is not the number of slides or minutes that determine whether a presentation is good or bad.  It’s the quality of those slides (All bullet points? Stock images?), how they’re presented (are you reading them to your audience? Are you interacting with them?) and whether that presentation is structured to align with audience attention spans.

Read more about maintaining attention in your presentation here.

2.  Never turn your back on your audience BUSTED

Of course you don’t want to have your back to your audience for an extended period of time, but a strict adherence to this old wives tale leads to all sorts of unnatural behavior.  I’ve seen presenters do weird cha-cha movements across the stage to avoid baring their back.  Or conversely, presenters remain tethered to their laptop or podium like a dog on a chain. If your movement is purposeful (i.e., to get somewhere), take the most direct route possible and be sure your back is not to your audience when you’re delivering a key message.

3.  The first 2-3 minutes of your presentation are the most important.  CONFIRMED

Research and Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen, agree with me here.  People form first impressions very quickly (7-15 seconds!), and those first impressions determine how people listen to you and perceive you.  Therefore it’s absolutely critical that you get your opening right.  According to The Charisma Myth: ‘CEO’s and HR pros admit they’ll decide whether to hire someone in the first few seconds.”  Spending a little extra time on your opening to make sure it truly reflects your message and your prospect’s best interests, has a major impact on the outcome of your presentation.

4.  Start your presentation by telling your audience about yourself and your company.  BUSTED

If #3 is true then #4 must be false.  Talking about yourself is not the highest and best use of those first few minutes. Start with something of interest to your prospect, like an insight into the problem you’re there to solve, or a preview of a potential benefit your solution delivers.  Get rid of the company overview.  It is highly unlikely that you and your company are a complete mystery to your audience.  Studies show that B2B buyers do up to 2/3 of their research before even contacting a company.  Don’t use those valuable first few minutes regurgitating what your audience likely already knows!

5.  Too much practice will make you appear phony.  BUSTED

Of all the presentation myths, this is perhaps the silliest. Presentations are one of the few crafts where practice is given a bad rap.  Imagine telling Michael Phelps to spend less time in the pool!  Proper practice gives you the skills and the confidence you need to focus on your audience during your presentation. What makes presenters appear phony is not practice, but “poor practice.”  If you practice any skill incorrectly you will simply reinforce already ineffective behaviors. Want to ensure your practice correctly and improve dramatically?  Practice with an experienced coach.

6.  Never read from your slides BUSTED

Blasphemy, I know!  But hear me out:  While most of the time you should NOT be reading your slides, there is an important exception to this rule.  If your slide has a short  (1-2 sentences) quote, statistic or key statement on it, go ahead and read it along with your audience. They’ll be reading it anyway. And this practice keeps you from the temptation to jump ahead and talk about something else while your audience is still reading from the slide.

7.  Close with Q&A.  BUSTED

When you save Q&A for the end of your presentation you relinquish control of how (and when) your presentation ends.  What if you get a question you can’t answer or one that incites negative discussion? Or, what if an audience member keeps the rest of the group hostage with a barrage of questions? Instead of leaving your audience with a strong, closing message that inspires them to move on to the next step, they remember the negative experience.

Take control of your closing and end the party on time with this method.

Don’t let these and other Presentation Myths keep you from getting your message across to your prospects.  Make the most of those hard-won customer-facing moments by getting my monthly Presentation Spotlight Newsletter with critical tips and tactics!

A Wake-up Call for Presenters from The Ig Nobel Prize


Wake up call for presenters

Imagine being just two minutes into your presentation and someone in your audience announces, “Please stop, I’m bored.” This is precisely what happens each year at the Ig Nobel’s ceremony at Harvard.  This much-anticipated awards ceremony honors the most unusual achievements in science, medicine and technology.  2016 winners included a Japanese team whose study concluded that “things look different when viewed from between your legs,” and a German team who discovered that “if you have an itch on one side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the opposite side of your body.” (I can’t wait to try this one out!) The Ig Nobel Prize is put on by the Annals of Improbable Research to spur curiosity and help people decide for themselves what’s important and what’s not.  A decision that audiences do all the time during any presentation. Like most things about Read More

Presentation Power Tools: Time to break the PowerPoint habit?


Presentation Power Tools, Alternatives to PowerPoint

This is part of my Presentation Power Tools Series.  Stay tuned as I I test drive some of the hottest new tools for creating and delivering powerful presentations and demos! Habits are tough to break.  Like a lot of salespeople, I’ve had a long, love/hate relationship with PowerPoint. Despite the many frustrations — limited graphics and designs, clunky files, and a propensity toward text boxes and bullet points —  it’s been the vehicle of choice for presenters for the past few decades.  And while features have been added over the years, like cloud access and better collaboration tools, PowerPoint’s inventor summed up both the tool’s strength and it’s fatal flaw in one sentence: “PowerPoint itself has probably changed less than the world around it has changed in twenty-five years.” Robert Gaskin, PowerPoint inventor Let’s face it, a heck of a lot has changed in the world around us, especially when Read More

Bad Presentation Advice…and What to do Instead (Part 1)


bad presentation advice

Part of what I do as a presentation coach often involves helping salespeople unlearn bad presentation advice they’ve adopted over the years.  Some of this advice is simply dated, handed down from a time when prospects relied on salespeople to provide them with all their information, or when attention spans were greater than that of a goldfish.  Some of it is advice rooted in good intentions but morphed over the years into more of an “old wives tale” than good advice. Bad advice is not only ineffective, but it can do real damage to a presenter’s credibility and cause audience tune out. Both of which can lower your chances of success.  I’ve compiled a list of  the top offenders I still hear being bandied about in sales and provide some alternatives for what to do instead. Bad Presentation Advice …and What to do Instead “Never turn your back on your Read More