If you’re in sales, you know your presentation is your most powerful closing tool. Even if you’re speaking at a conference or in a public arena just for the fun of it, you want your presentation to be engaging and memorable. Either way, you wish you knew the secrets that make a presentation great.
If you’re like so many people I meet in my workshops, you’re probably convinced it’s all about content. It’s possible you’ve suffered for days over content, hoping to dazzle your audience with details. Perhaps your whole team has been busy assembling content–sticking in everything they might possibly need. They may have struggled to get it into a logical order. Maybe they’ve even written a script. It’s possible they have given serious thought to the “message” and if so, it’s likely they decided to put it at the end–to be sure packs a really big punch.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!
Whether you are in sales, education or service, whether you’re a professional or a once-in-a-while presenter, it isn’t smart to put your audience to sleep.
Yes, I’ve written about this before, but the question comes up again and again–so the answer is worth repeating. Whether you’re presenting for two hours or twenty minutes, for predictably positive results, here’s a better way. Ten easy prep steps.
1. Craft your message. To you, your message is the one key concept you want your audience to remember. To your audience, it’s what sets you apart and above your competitors. Without a strong message, a presentation is just an information dump–often confusing and easily forgotten
Be sure your message resonates intellectually and emotionally. It should sound like a strong statement of fact–something special about your product or service or gizmo that your audience can count on.
Polish and simplify your message–to make it clear and memorable
For example, a good message might sound something like: we build the safest strollers in the industry. Or count on us to grow your money. Whatever it is, your slides and your talk should reinforce your message and your message should be clear from your slides and your talk.
2. Assemble your content. Content is not important for its own sake. It is simply proof that your message is true. To decide on the content you need, write down every point you could possibly want to make. Eliminate everything that is not absolutely essential.
3. Organize your content. People pay attention when content is organized simply and logically–ideally into 3 clear topics they can easily remember. In deciding on your topics, choose titles that support your message. And do stick to the magic number 3. Then organize all your points under the 3 titles you’ve chosen. If you’ve got too much, toss it. The reality is, too much information makes it all instantly forgettable.
4. Create a Title Slide for each topic. A good Title Slide reinforces a benefit. Create one for each topic and insert the appropriate content on a couple of slides that follow each title slide.
5. Eliminate excess verbiage. Remove all sentences from your slides and use essential keywords only. A good rule of thumb is: 3 to 6 words on a slide. Period.
Keywords will keep you on track and keep your audience focused on you. An audience stops listening when you start to read from the screen because they are reading too. So don’t do it. It’s annoying. Besides, if you simply wanted them to read, why did you ask them to come?
Moreover, a presenter reads more slowly aloud than individuals can read to themselves–which creates a cognitive dissonance. So in addition to being bored, the audience becomes unhappy with you. That’s not good for sales.
6. Eliminate all fancy transitions. Yes, PowerPoint offers an array of swirling, twirling and eye-popping “transitions” the kids love. But use none of them. That means zilch, nil, nada, zero. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. In fact, those transitions physically nauseate most adults–literally.
7. Come up with a metaphor that captures your message. Use that metaphor as a continuing theme in your graphics and in the way you deliver your content.
8. Create an engaging opening. I’ve left the opening until now because it’s only when you’ve got your whole act together that you can come up with a powerful opening. Remember, you’ve only got about 30-60 seconds to convince your audience you are worth listening to. That means you have no time to waste introducing yourself and expounding about how happy you are to be there. You’ll introduce yourself after the audience is hooked–not before.
Hooking your audience with a strong opening is the key to engaging them. And here’s how you do it.
Tie your opening (and your close) to your message in an original way. You might use an anecdote, a story or a magic trick. Whatever it is, be creative and original. It works even in the stuffiest arenas.
I’m not suggesting you go all show-biz if it’s not in your nature. But I am suggesting you come up with an engaging way to open into your message while differentiating yourself from your competitors.
Yes, you will say your message several times—most importantly, at the beginning and at the end. Still, an engaging opening makes your message stick.
Find the essence of your message and look for a story or anecdote that illustrates what you mean. For example, your message may be something like, “When you buy an XXX computer, we make sure it comes with all the pieces you need. You know it will work as soon as you plug it in.”
Since your main point is, “we put all the pieces together” you could open with a story about your kitchen reno or about assembling a scooter that didn’t work because the wheels were missing. Just be sure your opening leads to the point of your message. Then you’d say something like, “Don’t worry. With an XXX computer, you’re ready to roll as soon as you plug it in. We put all the pieces together for you.”
For the close, repeat a variation of your message–maybe even showing a perfect scooter so you can say, “This scooter has all the pieces. So do our computers. And you can be sure they work the first time and every time–the instant you plug them in.”
Open with a story that leads to your message. State your message. Then rehearse delivering your slides—until you are totally fluent and at ease. And practice your close. Do it again—and again—until your energy and enthusiasm are all the audience sees.
10. Deliver to win. That’s it! You’re ready to roll.
If you want to engage your audience from the very first word, follow the 10 steps here and you’re bound to succeed. Your message will be clear, your organization will be logical, and your presentation will be energetic. Indeed, 10 steps of prep is all you need for a winning presentation.