Presentations That Sell – Seven Fatal Flaws and How to Fix Them – Part 6

Most business presentations are intended to persuade, inform, motivate or entertain. Some are meant strictly to sell — which means they must persuade, inform, motivate and yes, entertain.

No matter what your purpose is, if you want your audience to sit up and take notice, you’ll need to stop reading a script from from the screen. The reason is simple:reading interferes with the listeners’ ability to connect with you. And it’s that connection that allows you to persuade, inform, motivate and entertain.

If you want your audience to hear what you have to say, they need to focus on you — and that means you must avoid the 6th fatal flaw.

You read your script from the screen.

True, your eleven year old nephew may be a wizard at playing a computer game while listening to rap and doing his homework, but few adults are capable of that sort of cognitive multi-tasking. Our adult brains are selective — paying attention to only one cognitive task at a time. We have learned to focus on a single “thinking track” and tune out everything else.

As soon as you start reading, I stop listening. In fact, I start reading too. But when you read aloud, you read more slowly than I do as I read to myself. I begin to get irritated with the dissonance. My irritation often escalates to annoyance, at which point, I may start looking for mistakes in the text — to prove to myself that my annoyance is well-founded.

If I am a detail person, I may identify lack of parallelism in the lists you have on screen, or find grammatical errors, or points you have missed or muddled. I begin to ask questions that throw you off your flow. I shuffle in my seat and start writing my shopping list.

And that’s not all. The instant you start reading, you stop looking at me. If I look at you, I receive nothing in return and I lose that nice human connection I was hoping to find with you.

Like all potential buyers, I know you are not the only vendor in the marketplace. And when all is said and done, I am looking for a “friend in the business” which means I need to feel a connection with you to find you likeable. If you and I can’t make eye contact, either because your eyes are focused elsewhere or because I am now deeply engrossed in editing your written work, I may begin to feel that I am trapped in an airless room listening to a robot read.

Presentation is a performance. That doesn’t mean you are pretending or deceiving or feigning interest. It does mean you are playing a role –the role of friendly, trustworthy advisor. And it’s your job to keep my attention. It’s your job to be likable — because people buy from people they like.

When you insist on reading endless screens of dense and deadly text, I lose interest. I don’t like you and you lose. When your screen highlights a keyword or two, or when it enhances your performance with a clever or creative touch, I am free to focus on you — so I am persuaded, informed, motivated or entertained.

P.S. In the next article, find out more about the fatal flaws you must avoid and profit from it.