Tag Archives: presentation skills

What’s Your Story?

story3In a past post we shared some simple yet powerful insight on the power of storytelling. Among other things, stories are much more memorable when compared to selling presentations or lectures, and they often inspire others to take action!

During the selling process, the ideal times to incorporate a story are when trying to reinforce the value proposition or when addressing a concern or objection. Stories area also an excellent way to engage an audience when making presentations.

But it is also important for sales professionals and sales leaders to recognize that a poorly-told story can have the opposite effect!

Here are six guidelines for crafting and telling the most compelling stories when engaged in selling or making a presentation:

  1. Start with a character your audience can relate to. Make your ideal customer the hero of your story.
  2. Set the stage. One quality of a bad story or storyteller is the feeling that you being subjected to pointless rambling.
  3. Establish conflict. You can’t have an interesting story without conflict.
  4. Foreshadow.  Foreshadowing is a simple technique of hinting at what is to come, thus building suspense and value.
  5. Use dialog. Stories are about people, and people talk. This can enable us to vary tone and “voice” during presentations as well.
  6. Keep it interactive. Use receptivity tests or rhetorical questions to keep the audience engaged.

Read the full article…

5 Presentation Pitfalls

avoidpitfallsWhile selling presentations will vary based on product or service type and complexity, there’s a good chance that, regardless of industry, there are some common mistakes we would all like to avoid.

Here are five of the top presentation blunders based on research and data presented by several sources, including SellingPower, Inc., and BrainShark:

  1. Too many words, not enough value: Many sellers are too focused on dumping out all the information they can – but that doesn’t sell. Instead we must present a persuasive value proposition that is aligned with buyer needs and priorities.
  2. Lack of support: The use of “social proof” in the form of customer testimonials or case studies has proved to be the most persuasive means of supporting a selling presentation.
  3. Too much ad-libbing, not enough preparation: While many of us think that we’re good enough to simply “wing-it,” buyers do NOT agree.
  4. Too much talking, not enough listening: Even if we focus on our value prop, we can still lose the room if our presentation is too one-sided. We must get our audience involved, which means listening with both eyes and ears.
  5. Bad non-verbal communication: No smile, poor posture, poor levels of eye contact, and no variation in voice tone most often yield no sale!


Better PowerPoint Presentations!

Many of us use PowerPoint as a presentation tool, and this blog post from ACreativeAtWork.com shares some good ideas for enhancing our slides.

Three suggestions that stood out are:

  1. Respect the template. Placing images or text in your slides that interfere with the template looks sloppy and unprofessional.  Avoid this at all costs.
  2. Use the “set transparency color” option with your pictures. While not always an appropriate option, using this with graphics and pictures with solid backgrounds can allow you to seamlessly integrate them into your slide design; nestling them close to your text without interfering with your message or template.
  3. Be consistent with your font types, sizes, and colors. Inconsistency often happens as a result of cutting and pasting text from other programs into your slide.  Inconsistency with fonts not only looks unprofessional, it is diminishes readability and distracts from your message.

Interactive Presentations: Engaging Your Audience

A few people have asked about the best way to make their presentations more interactive, as our previous post suggested 15%-20% of a selling presentation should involve asking questions.

A good first step is to craft questions in advance as part of our preparation regimen. 

Most of us tend to write down our “speaking points” before making a presentation (if we prepare at all!), but fewer of us give much pre-thought to the questions we might ask.  

When doing so, you might find the following article helpful: “5 Keys to a Good Question.” 

Once you’ve made the effort to identify good questions, be sure to use them!  This requires a belief in the value of including questions in what most people consider a “speaking” activity.  

To help solidify our faith, we might consider the fact that the average person can listen and think at a rate that far exceeds the average rate-of-speech. Therefore, if we drone on and on during our presentations without engaging our audience, this disparity can cause their minds to wander.  If, on the other hand, we mix in some thought-provoking questions (both direct and rhetorical) our audience will find the presentation much more interesting! 

It’s also a good idea to avoid the pitfall of making our presentation lop-sided with features. As noted in a prior post, too many sales presentations are “all about us,” when they really should be about “what the audience gets!”

As a final thought for enhancing interactivity, if we’re using some type of visual support such as Power Point, we should include a few thought-provoking images. 

You might review a recent newsletter, which contains an article about making our “customers and clients the “stars” of our presentations, and also shares some interesting perspective on how the use of “visual cognitive dissonance” (the above-mentioned images) can significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of our presentations.

Balance Your Sales Presentations!

In one of last year’s posts we noted that sales presentations should contain the right mix of information flow and interactivity, and should be uniquely balanced to best fit audience interests, needs and priorities.

The illustration describes this balance in greater detail, and provides general guidelines for the approximate degree to which each “ingredient” might be added, so as to result in the best presentation.

You can also download a worksheet from our website that contains a full-sized version of the illustration along with a few additional suggestions for developing effective, persuasive and balanced sales presentations.

Punch-up Sales Presentations with “VCD”

Visual cognitive dissonance is a tool that can give sales presentations more “punch” and also increase retention-levels among customers, prospects or audiences in general.

Researchers define dissonance as a mental state of conflict or incompleteness; and visual cognitive dissonance presents something visually that doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance. 

When presented with such an image the audience tends to look again… they want to work out or understand the diagram, or whatever they are being shown (surrealist art, jigsaw puzzles, images, etc.); they want to know more, and ultimately they tend to retain more of what has been presented because of the cognitive or interpretive-thinking process they used during the presentation. 

“…this never fails to demonstrate that Visual Cognitive Dissonance increases audience attention,” says author and killerpresentations.com CEO Nicholas Oulton.

“It produces over 90% recall of the diagram, 80% recall of the information sequence and 75% recall of the verbal information (from the presenter!) that accompanies the diagram.”