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This ain’t your daddy’s presentation


When my dad was in sales, he didn’t have to compete with a steady stream of “urgent” texts or emails for his prospect’s attention.  He was rarely rushed along, asked to stick to the “script” or sandwiched in between competitors.  My father had the luxury of building rapport and transitioning into his presentation organically.  I don’t have to tell you that times have changed and so have buyers.  So why are so many sellers still using the same old presentation techniques from the seventies, eighties and nineties? 

If you want to connect with today’s busy prospects, stand out from your competition and be remembered when buying decisions are made, you need to start carrying some tools from the present in your “present”ation kit.

In today’s fast-paced world, you may have your prospect’s eyes and ears at the start of your presentation, but don’t be fooled:  You have yet to win her mind.  Like an actor at curtain’s rise, you must quickly gain your audience’s attention and give them a compelling reason to come along with you on your journey.  This requires a whole different approach to your presentation--and your opening in particular--unless you’re willing to risk losing your audience.  And as any good actor knows, once lost, it’s nearly impossible to win them back.

Here are three tips you need to know if you want to win the audition for your audience’s attention:

  1. Ditch the corporate overview

Remember getting cornered by “that guy” at a networking event who went on and on about himself immediately after being introduced?  Bad news:  You may be “that guy” if you’re still opening with a corporate overview.  Your prospect likely already knows--or has access to--much of what you think you need to tell them.  Sure, there are key points you want to highlight for your audience, and there’s a place for that, but it is not in the first few minutes of your presentation.  Sprinkle in relevant facts or accomplishments throughout your presentation.  Place your overview at the end or have it available as a leave behind.  Trust me, it won’t be missed.

  1. Start in the middle.

Think about how we communicate today: Texts are 160 characters, Twitter, 140.  Even commercials have been reduced from 30 seconds to 10.  Are you taking this into account in your presentation?  Today’s buyers are short on time and attention.  They want you to get to the point…fast.  Yet, like the rest of us, they will sit through a two hour movie.  Why?  Sure, it’s entertainment, but think about where movies begin.  Do they start with a lot of backstory about how the characters met or where they grew up?  No!  They start with the car chase or the lovers meeting.  Identify the most interesting part of your message and jump in.  Trust that your audience is intelligent enough to connect the dots.

  1. Know your “One Thing.” 

Imagine your prospect is telling his manager about your presentation the next day.  What is the one thing you want to be sure he gets across?  Of course we all have many things we’d like our prospect to remember, but if you had to pick one, what would it be?   In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath state, “if you attempt to say three things, you end up saying nothing.”   Make it easy for your audience to recall what’s really important by summarizing your “one thing” in a simple power-bite, then put it up front in the opening and call back to at the end.  It will make your message, as the Heath brothers like to say, “sticky.”

Step into the present with your presentation.  Make the most of hard won time in front of busy prospects and start using some new tools.  Your daddy would be proud.

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Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, helps sales and business executives craft and deliver winning presentations and demos by applying today’s best practices from business, acting, improv, and storytelling. Julie’s techniques for leveraging proven performance skills in presentations have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies. Learn more about sales workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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