Tag Archives: sales presentations

Could you present blind?  4 Lessons in preparation from Olympic champion, Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps

Many presenters share the actor’s nightmare of being in front of an audience and not knowing their lines.  I lived that nightmare early in my sales career. A Presenter’s nightmare As a new salesperson I was excited when I received a last-minute opportunity to present to an important prospect.  Although I didn’t know the product well or have much preparation time, I felt confident.  After all, everything I needed was on my slides!  I arrived at the prospect’s office, introduced myself, clicked on my PowerPoint and…nothing happened.  I clicked, rebooted, prayed.  Still nothing.  Soon my audience was chiming in with suggestions, all to no avail.  (Now mind you, this was before flash drives and the ability to email large files easily.) I decided to forge ahead – sans-slides – since I knew it would be difficult to get this same group of people together any time soon.  I wish I Read More

Why Salespeople are Ditching Your New Sales Presentation

throwing away presentation

Your marketing department just invested a lot of time and money creating a dazzling new presentation for the sales team.  So why, three months later, is no one using it?!  Here are just a few of the reasons I hear from salespeople: “There’s too much information in it.  It’s not my style.  It’s already out of date. I can never find what I need…” While there’s some validity to these claims, when salespeople “go rogue,” (i.e., use a hodgepodge of content or throw out the presentation all together), key messages get lost, and quality and accuracy suffer – along with the customer and the opportunity. Sales or Marketing?  Who is responsible?  Despite all the talk of the disconnect between sales and marketing, both share a common goal:  communicating the value of your solution in a way that drives the customer to take action.  And sales and marketing also both play Read More

5 Ways to Shake up Your Sales Presentation in 2018

Stand out from the crowd

It’s 2018, and by rough count, I’ve sat through a thousand sales presentations.  Most of them have blurred together in my mind.  What stands out?  The exceptionally good ones…or the cringingly bad ones.  Your prospect may not have seen quite as many as me, but they likely struggle to recall most of them as well.  Why does this matter? Boring, forgettable presentations are unsuccessful presentations.  Why are today’s presentations so forgettable? In a day and age where we know so much about our prospects, from their interests and dislikes, to their challenges and goals, it seems surprising that most presentations are still so ineffective.  Part of the problem is that most salespeople today are still following a presentation structure that has been around since the seventies  (even though many of today’s prospects were not even alive in the seventies!)  This dated, ineffective structure includes too many elements that are unnecessary, Read More

How Snack Size Presentations Keep Your Prospect Engaged

snack size candy

I love snack size foods.  They’re cute, they’re portable, and they create the illusion that I’m eating lighter.   I say “illusion,” because I usually end up eating more than the equivalent of a full-size portion – especially if it’s a candy bar! Snack size foods have exploded in the last five years for those very same reasons.  Smaller packaging gives customers a relatively low-risk way to sample a product — without making a full investment in money, time or calories. In a selling environment where customers show an ever-increasing reluctance to invest their time and energy to sitting through – or sifting through – long presentations or product demos, it’s time to think about going snack-size as well. Customer’s Love Affair with Snack Size Content The majority of people consume content today in snack size portions.  We get our news and entertainment on demand, read or watch only so long Read More

Emotional Intelligence in Sales, Empathy and the Actor’s Magic “If”

Meryl Streep

“I’m curious about other people. That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.” ~ Meryl Streep How did Meryl Streep play real people like Florence Foster Jenkins and Margaret Thatcher with such depth and authenticity? How did Daniel Day Lewis give the definitive portrayal of Abraham Lincoln? What does either have to do with emotional intelligence in sales?! While neither star had experience ruling a country, or singing opera, but they delivered authentic and award-winning performances requiring remarkable insight and empathy for their characters. One of the key qualities of emotional intelligence in sales is empathy, or the ability to identify with and understand what it’s like to walk in your customer’s shoes. Authentic empathy goes beyond simply recognizing what your customers emotional state is, to actually sharing in those feelings. Who has time for Empathy?! As a busy salesperson it Read More

Does Your Presentation Have One of These Bad Movie Endings?

Have you ever sat through a good movie, only to leave disappointed or confused by a bad ending?  Like a movie, a presentation can build up a lot of good will, only to tear it all down in those final few moments.  Some endings seem to go on forever, Lord of the Rings style, or leave your audience with more questions than they started with (No Country for Old Men or Inception anyone?)  Whether they’re poorly constructed or executed, bad presentation endings leave a bad taste in the mouths of prospects and can undo all your hard work. Luckily, bad presentation endings – like bad movies – can be avoided. 4 Bad Presentations Endings Here are four bad  presentation endings  – movie style –  I see presenters making and how to make sure they don’t happen to you.  Note, movie SPOILERS ahead! 1.  The Never-ending Ending Example: Lord of the 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!

The 3rd Annual Oscar Best Presentation Awards

Chris Rock Oscars 2016

You already know who won the Oscars for the announced categories, but do you know who won the award for Best…or Worst Presenter?  Or the Best “Addressing the Elephant in the Room?” If you look at The Oscars from a sales perspective, it’s a great collection of mini-presentations and monologues given in front of a live and virtual audience with short attention spans and high expectations. Which makes it the perfect setting to understand what works when presenting to a business, what doesn’t and why. Here are the results of my 3rd Annual Oscar Presentation Awards and the sales takeaways: Best “Addressing the Elephant in the Room:” Chris Rock With his first line, “Welcome to the white people’s choice awards,” Chris Rock took on the negative press about the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees. He handled a sensitive subject that had received major press the weeks leading up 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

Stop Fighting for Attention! Use Real-Time Polls to Increase Audience Engagement!

Business team using their mobile phone

Tired of fighting with a smartphone for your prospect’s attention during your sales presentation? Stop fighting and embrace it by using the power of real time polls to promote audience engagement and reinforce your message! The Power of Gamification Real-time polls come from the world of gamification — the use of game elements like scoring, rules, and competition – and are an effective new tool to have in your presenter’s toolkit. By combining mental focus, physical activity, and ongoing action, real-time polls are an excellent way to gain audience attention, drive learning and retention during your presentation or demonstration: Power up your Q&A: Asking your audience for a show of hands is so 20th century. Posing a thought-provoking question on a topic that leads into your presentation and asking your audience to weigh in on their smart phones and show them the results in real-time? Now you’re moving into the new Read More


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