Persuasive Presentation: 5 Rules to get it Right

Instant judgement is the most popular non-contact sport in business today. Nobody likes to admit it, but within minutes of meeting somebody new, most people form an opinion. Is this new person worth listening to? Do I like him? Do I trust her? Would I want to do business with this person?

When an audience awaits your sales presentation, they actually want to like you and they are hoping for the best. They are open to buying–or they wouldn’t be there–and they want you to be interesting, intelligent and informative. They hope you will inspire trust. They are eager for you to be fascinating or motivating or entertaining.

And yet, according to research, when you present, you have about 45 seconds–I call them “golden moments”– to convince an audience you are worth listening to. If you don’t, they will tune you out before you get a chance to turn them on.

So, as a presenter, you had better make those golden moments count.  Turn on your personal power and become the persuasive speaker you’ve always wanted to be. Here’s how.

1. Power Up Your Presence

Take your place with authority. Look important and your audience will see you as important. Stand tall and take up space. That means using gestures to punctuate your comments and facial expressions that can be seen at the back of the room.

When President Kennedy was preparing for his presidential run, he practiced smiling in front of a mirror every day–to be sure his eyes crinkled. Why? Because he wanted to project sincerity. You can do that too, to be sure your smile reaches across the room and appears genuine.

2. Control Your Voice

Practice voice control. It’s hard to be persuasive when you sound unsure or insincere. Women who have a sweet or “girlish” voice face an even greater challenge if they want to be taken seriously. 

A strong, sincere voice carries weight and projects authority. Work on projecting a strong, warm voice. That’s persuasive.

And that’s not all. Vary your intonation. I don’t mean the silly sing-song, up and down tune of the flight attendant. Their audience is usually buckled up and sound asleep by the end of their pitch. No, I want you to inject emotion into your voice so it sounds real, enthusiastic and energetic. That’s persuasive!

3. Project Energy

Energy is magnetic. It draws people to you and is a requirement of every good presenter. If you can’t muster up the energy to present, ask somebody else to present for you.

Don’t guess about your energy level; this is too important. Find out if you project sufficient energy by simply taping yourself for two minutes. Turn off the sound when you watch the replay and you’ll quickly see if your energy comes across. If it does not, try it again. And while you are watching yourself, check your smile. Do you smile often enough? Does it look genuine? If not, try harder.

4. Enrich Your Content

To enrich your content, add the human element. There is no need to add detail, data and minutia to your slides. All that good stuff was in the proposal that got you invited to the short-list presentation in the first place. Plus, if you are smart, it is also in your handouts–not your slides.

In any case, at this point, your audience knows what you propose and likes it well enough they want to know you better–so they can decide if they want to do business with you. Now is the time to make the human connection.

Sprinkle interesting anecdotes, appropriate stories and great quotes throughout your presentation. Be sure these tid-bits are on point, brief and engaging. Try them out on a colleague to be sure you can tell them successfully in two or three minutes and use them to highlight the important points. Use humor and real life examples to emphasize a key idea or message. And no, you may not tell jokes. Leave that to professional comedians.

5. Make Solid Eye Contact

You’ve heard about eye contact before because it is essential. Lock on to a pair of eyes in the audience for 3 to 4 seconds–no more. Then move on to another pair of eyes. Practice doing this as you talk so it appears to come easily and naturally. This take a bit of practice because if you move from one person to the next in order, it looks contrived. Rather, skip around the room and the eye contact you make will convey a real interest in each audience member.

Follow these simple tips and you will capture your audience and hold their attention. Your personal power will be magnified and in the end, you will reap the rewards of making a compelling impression in those first golden moments.

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