Presenter notes in PowerPoint or Keynote are a great way to make sure you hit key points in your sales presentation or remember to ask your audience a question or reveal an insight. They’re right there in front of you when you need them so you don’t have to shuffle through papers or worry about blanking out. Even if you don’t end up referring to your notes, the act of typing them with the associated slide can provide mental reinforcement. But while there are numerous resources to help you create presenter notes, very little instruction exists on how to use them in a way that sounds natural and engages your audience.
Most of the time salespeople exhibit the following ineffective behaviors when using presenter notes:
Salesperson is stuck behind their laptop
Eye contact is limited to the computer screen
Missed opportunities to engage and read audience
Script sounds like it’s being read from a teleprompter
Let’s face it. It’s hard to read notes, sound authentic, and interact with your audience at the same time. Unless you are skilled at it, your audience can easily see that you’re reading notes — or in a web presentation, hear it in your voice — and prospects feel less engaged. Reading from a script is neither easy or natural. It requires a special skill set, one used by professional actors, television hosts, and news anchors, and one that you can use to ease the burden of memorization while keeping engaged with your prospects.
These presentation transgressions can be avoided when you learn some simple best practices for using presenter notes:
- Write down key phrases, numbers or words that you need to get right. Don’t use full sentences or you will be tempted to read your notes verbatim which will cause you to come across as wooden.
- When you need to use your notes, glance at the screen, get the information you need in your head, then look at your prospect as you speak. Need to get the next line? Repeat the process.
- Don’t use notes for every slide, especially the ones that are obvious.
- Make a point of stepping away from your laptop for several slides at a time when you don’t need your notes.
- Memorize key parts of your presentation, like the opening, closing, any stories, benefit or value statements. Don’t rely on notes for these important elements to ensure you are connecting with your audience as you are saying them.
- Get familiar with your script. Don’t assume that because you’re using notes you don’t need to practice. Get tips on how to practice with your script to keep it fresh.
- Know your subtext. Many salespeople try to memorize their script word for word and then get thrown off when they forget a specific word during their presentation. Focus on the subtext — the underlying meaning of each line. What are you really saying and why are you saying it? Knowing the subtext helps you put concepts into your own words without scrambling for precise words and sentences.
- Don’t predetermine how to say a line. Many presentation books and coaches tell you exactly which words to emphasize and where to pause or smile or gesture. This produces the worst kind of insincere performance and reinforces a mechanical delivery that is tough to break. Just as a good actor doesn’t give the same performance night after night, your delivery — your tone, emphasis, pitch — should change based on what’s happening in the moment. Your reaction to your prospect — both verbally and nonverbally — will keep your delivery fresh and exciting. Check out this article for more tips on proper script memorization and practice,