How to make sure your presentation doesn't fail
Presentations are crucial sales tools, especially in today’s competitive business world. They’re valuable opportunities to connect with prospects, set your business apart from competitors and close the deal. But a winning presentation isn’t always easy to create. In fact, many things can go wrong that can ruin your hard-earned opportunity at a buyer’s table. So, if you want to make sure that your presentation ‘sails’ you to a sale, avoid these common presentation killers.
The biggest presentation mistake? Not having a personalized presentation. Each buyer has a unique pain point and is in need of a unique solution. If you don't customize the presentation, the buyer can't see themselves using your product or service. So when preparing the presentation thoroughly research your prospect’s company, its needs, challenges and culture, as well as its industry. What specific information and insights will appeal to them – and what are the best ways to communicate these? Use your answers to these questions to tailor a focused, well-structured presentation, which will inspire your audience to take the next step.
"When I meet with a potential client, I ask myself how can I bring a different perspective, ask a challenging question, or make this person in front of me think "outside the box". It doesn’t matter how I do it, but I want to make sure that when the meeting ends, the potential client is convinced that I’m more interested in making their project a success, than in making them feel good", Magali Vives, Consultant
“Most sales people show up with a nice slideshow, going through the strong points of their proposal. Unless you sell perfectly designed presentations, you might reconsider your approach. Ask yourself the question: how to create impact? Let me give you an example: as a trainer-coach, I will get in front of the audience and deliver a piece of our proposed solution so that the client witnesses the same magic a participant will experience in our training. Are you selling ice cream? Far better than explaining why yours is best, make your client taste it. Be colorful, original and different!” Carl Jacobs, Consultant
"Don’t improvise – rehearse and have material prepared in writing", Silvio Ballerini, Senior Consultant
Stumbling with your words, reading from your slides, searching for your notes and struggling with technical equipment. Distractions such as these can be avoided by rehearsing ahead of time. Make also sure you can complete your presentation in the allotted time. Double-check all the technical aspects and decide beforehand where to place your notes and the other items you need.
“Change the pace and pitch of your voice, add pauses, ask questions. Don’t be monotone!”, Cristina Chis, Consultant
Starting a presentation with a monotone voice and floppy body language can kill your momentum in a hurry. Emotions are said to be contagious. So if you are lacking energy and enthusiasm this can easily spread over to your audience.Always start off with a strong, attention-grabbing opener. Let them know what kind of information you'll share, why it's relevant and how they can benefit by collaborating with you. Practice a conversational tone, while speaking clearly and at a moderate pace. Maintain eye contact to build a bond with your audience. Control distracting mannerisms that can divert their attention, like nodding your head excessively or overusing filter words like "um".
And don't forget to smile! Show the passion you feel for your product and company. And don't be afraid to let your positive attitude shine through.
"Don't oversell your features and undersell the advantages and benefits for the client”, Thierry Stéphan, Senior Consultant
Speaking about too many benefits can turn a prospect off. Recent studies have found that too much information can distract a person, resulting in a negative impact on decision making. So instead of bragging about everything your product can do, focus on one to three benefits that will solve a specific pain point for your prospect. By highlighting only key benefits in your presentation, the prospect is more likely to retain the information, which will be critical when they make a decision.
“Don’t talk too much about your company or yourself. Talk about insights that can challenge your prospect, about similar client situations and how you supported them. This will help your prospect see the benefits you can bring”, Cristina Chis, Consultant
"Don’t get lost in details – keep it simple and focus on the evidence", Silvio Ballerini, Senior Consultant
“Vary your presentation with different methods and tools: video, doing an activity, storytelling, post-its …”, Cristina Chis, Consultant
PowerPoint should enhance your presentation, but text-heavy, overloaded, irrelevant and unprofessional slides can destroy it. The focus should be on you and what you’re saying, so limit the number of slides you use. Only include value-adding facts and ideas, use less text, simplify graphs and include relevant, meaningful images and videos.
"No one-way-communication – engage your audience", Silvio Ballerini, Senior Consultant
Too many presentations only focus on the features or benefits of services and products. While they are important, storytelling (sharing case studies and testimonials) enable you to demonstrate the benefits of your offering and help you to connect with your audience in a memorable way. Weave a story and captivate your audience by incorporating interesting characters and situations, or even humour where appropriate. And don’t be afraid to ask questions to get your audience’s feedback and input on key points.
Your presentation may not always go as planned. When your audience steers it into a new direction (by asking questions or commenting), see it as an opportunity to learn more about them. After all, they are the reason why you’re presenting. However, try to anticipate any queries ahead of time, so that you can still provide the answers that they are looking for.
"My advice is to have already started your presentation before the meeting starts. By this I mean send out a message via LinkedIn or Survey Monkey beforehand to discover what all the stakeholders are looking for. This way you already know more upfront and you can tailor your pitch to the needs of your audience", Jos Verbruggen, Consultant
Many presentations fail right at the point when it matters most – they end without highlighting the key messages or a call to action. What do you want your audience do to with the knowledge and insights you’ve shared? Are you going to provide more information or set up another meeting or site visit? Use your conclusion to provide the answers and use the valuable opportunity to make a final, lasting impression.
Originally published on June 8, 2015, updated October 9, 2018
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