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.

OSRAM – The Five Components of an Effective Presentation – Part 1 of 5 – The Objective

How do you give an Effective Presentation? What makes the difference between an average presentation and an effective presentation? This is Part 1 of 5 in a series of articles.

There are five main components of an effective business presentation. The acronym OSRAM should help you to remember them and help you to light up your audience. The five components are:

  • The Objective
  • The Speaker
  • The Room
  • The Audience
  • The Message

You should consider each of these components in turn to maximize the effectiveness of your presentation. Neglecting any individual component can ruin an otherwise successful presentation. Put them together correctly and you will turn on a light in people’s heads; brighten up their lives; get your audience to see and understand things, about which they were previously in the dark.

This series of articles looks at each of these components in turn and discover what needs to be done to ensure the success of that component.

The Objective

What do you want the audience to do as a result of your presentation?

To create an effective presentation the first thing you need to decide is what the objective of the presentation is. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But there may be more to that simple statement than you first perceive. You could say that for a product presentation the objective is for the audience to learn about the product, but that would be a very poor objective, as there is no action associated with it and no way of measuring how successfully it has been accomplished. The question you should ask yourself is ‘Okay, after my presentation they will know more about our product, but what do I want them to do next?’.

If your answer is ‘I want them to buy it’ then maybe you have gone to the other extreme. This objective may be fine if you work on a market stall and sell a vegetable chopper that cuts, slices and dices everything from tomatoes to pineapples. In that case, it may be realistic that after you have presented how easy it is to use and what a lovely job it makes, some people will want to buy one. For a market stall presentation, “selling the product” is a very good and plausible objective, which is measured by the thickness of your wallet at the end of the day.

However, for most business-to-business sales, it is unlikely that the presentation will lead directly to the sale. The sale may happen months later by which time you will have forgotten how well the presentation went.

So what is your objective? And how can you measure your success? The best objectives are SMART objectives.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

In the above examples objectives “getting the audience to know more about my products” is not easily measurable or very specific, and buying the product is not very timely.

A reasonable objective, when the presentation is the first real contact that members of the audience have had with your company, may be for 40% to arrange follow up meetings with your sales force.

When you are presenting at a conference on a subject, in which your company specializes, you may measure the success by the number of people who come up to talk to you after you have finished. You can set yourself a target of say 10 people. If only two people want to talk to you afterward, then it may be because your presentation did not stir up enough interest. If over 20 people come to talk you, you will have exceeded your expectations.

As every presentation has an objective it is important that the presentation concludes with a call to action that informs, encourages and directs people to meet your objective. If you want them to arrange a meeting with your sales force, you need to tell them to arrange that meeting and make it as easy as possible for them to do it. Consider having the sales force join you after the presentation so they can talk to their prospective clients, there and then.

With an objective of having people to talk with you after a conference presentation, you need to tell the audience where you will be and that you would welcome the opportunity to discuss any aspect of the subject in more depth, on an individual basis, or answer any more specific questions that your presentation has raised in their minds.

As you can see, by objective, what I am really talking about is what action you want the delegates to take following the presentation.

Of course, yours is not the only objective you need to consider. What are the audience’s objectives likely to be? What do they want to get from your presentation? Understanding your audience and their objectives is the key to an effective presentation and is discussed in the section entitled ‘The Audience’.

Your OSRAM objective should be SMART and remember to use a call to action at the end of you presentation to reinforce your objective.

How To Engage A Presentation Audience – Use A Theme To Your Presentation

When we think about about a presentation we typically consider the presentation itself, its preparation, planning and rehearsal. But it’s also critical to consider how we engage our audience — how we actively encourage their listening, understanding and belief in us. Just standing on the podium and speaking won’t do the trick.

Fortunately there are some techniques that we can use. And a major technique is the presentation theme. There are 5 things to bear in mind, though, when we use a theme in our presentation.

  1. Make it memorable. Themes help our audience to remember our presentation. And when our audience only retains some 10% of our speech that’s important. Themes are remembered by an audience because they can be. They work in much the same way as logos, slogans or catch phrases. They are typically creative, clever and appropriate for the task.
  2. Keep it simple. Our theme should be both simple and consistent. The simplicity is critical for memory — we don’t want our audience struggling with complexity at this stage of the event. Consistency is all important. We should neither deviate from the theme during the presentation nor be tempted to make adjustments as we go along.
  3. Be practical. Our theme should evoke practicality and purpose. If it has these qualities it will be familiar to our audience and prove more meaningful. Practicality suggests utility and benefit — both are of interest to our audience. When our audience can sense practical benefits attributed to listening and engaging their engagement increases.
  4. Be thorough. There is no need to struggle for ideas when thinking of a theme for our presentation. There are many workable approaches to getting it right. We can talk to the conference organizers. We can establish whether the conference itself has a theme. Or we could identify if our particular day has a theme to it. In either case we should aim to use this theme — or tweak it slightly to our own purpose. Using something that has resonance elsewhere will be productive. As an alternative we can look at all the other presentations on the agenda and establish whether there is a theme that runs through all of them. If there is, then use it. We could also think about some of the pressing issues that our audience will recognize from their work or professional interests. Issues such as: competition, globalization, outsourcing, innovation or quality. Such issues might be both relevant and familiar. Therefore, they could prove useful in building a theme that is practical, consistent and simple.
  5. Consider the objective. As we finalize our theme we should recall the purpose or mission for our presentation. We are looking to achieve something with our audience. Change their ideas. Change their opinions. Or, change something that they do. Our theme should help us in this mission. Both our purpose and our theme should be aligned.

Our audience will only recall some 10% of our presentation. Our task as speakers is to increase that percentage or, at least, ensure the right 10% is retained. A practical and memorable theme will boost an audience’s memory retention and assist their engagement.