Tag Archives: presentation skills

Your Executive Presence (When you Don’t Wear Black Turtlenecks)


Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs raised the bar on public speaking and executive presence for all of us. Even acclaimed Irish actor Michael Fassbender felt unequal to the task of portraying the legend in the film, Steve Jobs, telling his driver on the way to rehearsals: “You should slam it. It should cause a break and it should get me out of this gig.”  So you’re not an actor. You don’t (always) wear a black turtleneck.  And you don’t have weeks to spend obsessively rehearsing for every speaking engagement.  Is it still possible to exhibit the executive presence necessary to win over important clients, rally the troops, or engage a large audience? The short answer is “yes.”  After all, if you’re alive and taking up space, you have presence.  The question is a matter of degree and expression.  Do you have enough presence to command the attention of two people, or two-hundred?  And Read More

What’s Your Sales X Factor? 5 Questions to Find Out!


Yes, it’s the name of a popular television show, but it’s also an extremely important quality that salespeople need to have in today’s competitive marketplace. X Factor, def: “A variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.” What is the Sales X Factor? Your  Sales X factor is that variable that gives you a significant advantage over the competition.  In customer-facing events like presentations and demos, it is often the ability to: Quickly connect your solution to your prospect’s unique challenges Structure your message in a compelling and memorable way Deliver your message in a way that wins the minds and hearts of your audience and inspires them to take action Why you need an X Factor Each day your prospect navigates through a steady stream of vendor e-mails, voice mails, proposals, presentations and demos.  Each vendor claims to be the best.  But product Read More

Tom Hanks, Credibility and Sales


Tom Hanks and Sales Credibility

Describe a film as a “Tom Hanks movie” and everyone knows what to expect:  A highly likable, regular guy who gets caught in extraordinary circumstances but rises to the top due to his true good character. It’s this credibility that has landed Tom Hanks at the top of the list of “Most Trustworthy People in America,” according to Readers Digest and Forbes. The credibility of the Tom Hanks brand translates to big bucks for the actor and the projects he’s associated with.  Sales credibility and the power of your brand translates into dollars for you and your organization as well.  So it’s good to do a gut check and ask: “How is my sales credibility?” Credibility is incredibly important and difficult to quickly gain in sales. When trust is low, as it is at the beginning of most salesperson-buyer relationships, your every statement is subject to scrutiny and skepticism. So Read More

5 Proven Acting Tips for More Confident Presentations


Confident presentations

“Show confidence!” This was one of the least helpful pieces of advice I received before delivering my first sales presentation.  Not only did it lack practical tactics or steps, I didn’t want to just appear confident.  I wanted to feel confident. Confidence is vital in sales. Prospects want to feel like they are making the best possible decision and placing their business and trust with a credible partner. A lack of confidence on the part of a presenter can quickly call that trust into question and give prospects reason to choose another vendor, especially when all things are equal. I learned more about delivering confident presentations from my training as an actor than from any sales training I’d received. The acting tips below are tactical and proven to work in a craft that knows what it takes to appear – and ultimately feel – confident in front of an audience 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

The 2 Secret Sales Weapons You Already Have (and aren’t using!)


Secret weapons

Question:  Two actors are auditioning for one role.  Both are equally qualified and both read from the same script. Yet only one actor wins the role while the other goes home empty handed. Why? Answer:  You may have answered something like:  “the winning actor brought personality to the role, he had charisma, he made the audience feel the lines.”  But whatever your answer was, I bet it didn’t have anything to do with the words he used! This is not unlike what happens in a sales presentation or demo. Many vendor presentations use the same words and even scripts as their competitors.  Things get blurry for our customers — especially as differences between products and services get smaller and buying cycles lengthen.  So while a well-crafted message is a critical component of your presentation, don’t rely on your content to do all the heavy lifting by overlooking the tools right Read More

Can you handle the truth? A sales lesson from actors on taking feedback


Hardly anyone likes being told that the way they’re doing something isn’t working.  For salespeople and performers alike, there’s a certain vulnerability that comes with stepping into the spotlight and taking feedback.  Feedback can feel like a personal attack if not handled properly, but just like any other competitive performance, there is rarely improvement without it. As a presentation coach, I honor the courage that it takes for each salesperson to put themselves out there when I give feedback.  But taking feedback is only half the equation.  It’s how salespeople handle that feedback that ultimately determines their success. Two Ways Not to Take Feedback I’ve noticed that salespeople who struggle with taking feedback fall into one of two camps.  The first explain (often in great detail) why they made a certain choice, what they were taught or read, or what they meant to do and why it should be working. The Read More

What’s Your Drop the Mic Moment in Your Presentation?


Obama drop the mic

Good presenters have a clear central point.  Great presenters make that point in a compelling and memorable way.  In other words, they have a Drop the Mic Moment. Too often I see salespeople bury a profound statement in a load of information, rush too quickly into their next point, or worse, over-explain what they just said, diluting the impact of their message all together. In case you’re unfamiliar with the millions of drop the mic memes, the phrase typically refers to a bold gesture of confidence by a politician or performer from Obama to Kanye, after delivering a great performance or impressive argument or even insult. (For fun, check out the Late Late Show host James Corden and his Drop the Mic rap challenge.)  When a performer drops the mic, it confirms in the audience’s mind that they’ve just experienced something noteworthy.  Something worth remembering. As buying cycles get longer Read More

Is your presentation built to persuade? The anatomy of a persuasive presentation


Agreement, two managers offering collaboration

Presentations, like movies, television shows, and speeches typically follow a basic three-act structure invented by Aristotle: they have an opening, a body, and a conclusion. There are many variations on that structure and each serves a different purpose – whether it’s to entertain, inform, or inspire. As a salesperson it’s not enough for your prospect to walk out and be “well-informed” or say “that was a fun presentation.” To drive your prospect to take action, you need a structure designed to persuade. Research shows that the structure proven most effective in persuading audiences divides your presentation into three parts: Situation, complication, resolution. This structure works for a variety of reasons: it places the focus on your prospect’s challenge or objective — rather than your product, service, or company — and it organizes your message in a way that can shift your prospect’s perception, open her mind to new ideas, and Read More

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Performance Sales and Training: Persuasive Presentation Skills to meet the challenges of today’s B2B Sales Environment