Presentation Fatigue: 5 ways the struggle is real for your prospect and fatal for your sale


Unless your prospect just arrived from a distant planet, he will have seen more than his fair share of presentations – whether it’s company training, personal education, other vendors, Ted Talks, you name it.  As you read this thousands of presentations are being uploaded on Slideshare and a younger generation is being raised on a steady diet of slide presentations in the classroom. In fact, a study found that two-thirds of students said most of their instructors used PowerPoint in the classroom.  Yes, a new, presentation-savvy and PowerPoint weary audience awaits you and your slide presentation with a big collective, “Ho hum.”

 Presentation fatigue is real and prospect symptoms, like listlessness, an inability to focus on your message, and a heightened need to check electronic devices, are often fatal for your sale.

Five things you must know about Presentation Fatigue to lessen its effect on your prospect and improve your outcome:

1. Slides don’t differentiate you

I can see you Prezi users out there shaking your heads. It’s true. Not all slideware is created equal. But while most presentations are still done on the granddaddy of slideware, PowerPoint, it doesn’t much matter whether you’re using Keynote, Prezi, Slideshark, or Zoomit. One person talking while slides are being displayed is as novel to today’s prospects as pop-up ads. Sure, a customized, well-crafted, professional deck will have a greater impact than a sloppy, amateurish or generic one, but don’t be disappointed if your greatest slide effect elicits nothing more than a slight flicker of interest from your prospect.

2. Slides won’t make a boring message interesting

A boring company overview on a beautifully designed slide is still boring. If your message is the same as everyone else’s – or delivered in the same structure — presentation fatigue will set in early and progress rapidly. So shake up the status quo. Cut the company overview, introduce an insight, a benefit, or start your presentation with a quick story that leads into your topic to avoid early tune out.

3. Your medium is not your message

If slides aren’t the differentiator they once were, what are? Whiteboards? Tablets? Laser shows? As technology improves the options will continue to evolve, but whatever your medium of choice, it is there to support your message, not BE the message. Often I see presenters rely on content-heavy slides to carry the message. But delivering content alone doesn’t sell. To get your prospect to sit up and pay attention, see things in a different light, or inspire them to take action, you need to create an intriguing storyline for your content. Using the elements of a persuasive structure: situation, tension, resolution, can help you to do that.

4. You are the instrument.

As the delivery vehicle for your message, your voice and your body are powerful anecdotes to combat presentation fatigue, yet few people use them consciously.  While prospects may be bored with slides, other human beings hold infinite interest for most people. Studies show that 93% of what we communicate in those first few moments come from the sound and quality of another person’s voice and physical presence – not the words.  Leverage this fact early and you have an engaged audience.  Miss the boat and you have an uphill climb. Consider using variety in volume, pacing, pausing, and emphasis to draw attention to make your content come to life. Employ purposeful movement to keep attention high and inspire confidence.

5. Engagement is key to retention.

A long, one-sided monologue is boring with or without fancy slides. Plan interaction in your presentation by asking smart, insightful questions, conducting a real-time poll, or assigning your audience tasks, like writing questions or suggestions down on a whiteboard. The more you get your prospects to participate in your presentation, the higher their attention and the greater their retention of your message.

If slides are your medium of choice, by all means get updated on contemporary design guidelines to keep your presentation from triggering narcolepsy. But remember, a slide deck or any presentation medium is the supporting cast. You and your message are the star. Avoid the fatal effects of Presentation Fatigue by spending less time tinkering with your slide deck and more time crafting a powerful message and considering how you’re going deliver that with impact and engage your audience.

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