You are in sales and chances are, you are articulate, friendly and knowledgeable. You are a person who likes people, and it shows. You may even have the presence and charisma we admire in the world’s best speakers–I call it The Likability Factor.
But the fact is, even great presentation skills are useless if your PowerPoint gets in the way of your ability to connect–and close the sale.
That happens when you copy the style you see most often–because most PowerPoint presentations are shockingly ineffective. It happens when the people “writing” your presentation have no confidence in you–or when you lack confidence in yourself. It happens when somebody thinks that every word they want to say is so stunningly important it must be in print lest they forget.
And it happens when presenters ignore the fact that there is an audience with needs and interests and better things to do than to listen to a reader read to them.
Just last month, a new client sent me his PowerPoint sales presentation in advance of a “presentation renovation” we had scheduled. He assured me it only needed “tweaking”. Then I opened the file to see 57 slides of mind-numbing text on a white screen. The first slide said: Hello. My name is Tom Smith and I want to thank you for inviting me here today. Surely Tom could have remembered his own name!
Some people call it: Death by PowerPoint. I call it: The PowerPoint Sleeping Potion. But whatever you call it, bad slides can wreck a good pitch. Not good.
The trick to a perfect pitch is simplicity. This is your stuff and you could talk about it for hours; you don’t need every word on the screen to bore your audience to tears. Equally important, when you simplify everything, your audience pays close attention to you instead of checking your slides for grammatical errors and mistakes in parallelism.
For a powerful presentation, deliver a memorable message and eliminate everything that intrudes on the connection between you and your audience. Here’s how: 3 steps to the perfect pitch.
1. Reorganize content to simplify it.
Print out your presentation and toss the pages on a table. Assemble all the pages into 3 distinct piles of information; each pile covers one topic. (Limit yourself to 3 piles because three is all your audience can remember.)
- Give each pile a title that implies a benefit–such as Cost Savings or Innovative Technology.
- Review each pile and eliminate as many pages of text as you can.
- Look for another way to convey the message on each remaining page of text. Perhaps a pie graph would do it, or a powerful graphic. Failing that, choose two or three keywords for the slide that encapsulate the essence of what you want to say.
2. Find a unifying theme and use it throughout.
Think about your Big Message–the one thing you want your audience to remember about you–and determine the theme underlying that message. For example, your message may be about evolution or breakthrough or attention to detail. Whatever it is, come up with a graphic idea that conveys that theme.
- Find a high-quality picture that conveys the idea instantly.
- Don’t insert the picture so it looks like an afterthought in a box. Use it as the slide background.
- Dull down or fade the background picture and write your two or three keywords in big white or yellow font.
- Once you have your theme, use it both verbally and graphically to create cohesiveness and to reinforce your message.
- Review your titles to be sure they are in keeping with your theme. Modify or change where necessary.
4. Convey authenticity.
- Present like a real person–not a robot. When you are no longer tied to the screen, you can speak conversationally–like a friend.
- Use real, everyday language; I call it Shirtsleeve English.
- Eliminate jargon, businessisms and acronyms.
- Feel free to gesture and move–like a real person in friendly conversation.
Power comes from passion. Simplifying your presentation frees you to be passionate and energetic. When you streamline your pitch to create a memorable message and theme, you’ll find your own enthusiasm is contagious and reflected in your audience.
Once you are liberated from a script on the screen, you can introduce humor, conversational comments and appropriate stories. Your body language will be friendlier, your language less stilted, your ideas more compelling. You can be the warm, knowledgeable and likable person you are naturally.
Your presentation is your most potent closing tool. Simplify, eliminate and purge to make it look good. And when you free yourself to be yourself, your Likability Factor will soar making you look fantastic.
Results are predictable: your powerful pitch will connect with your audience and you will close more sales. Simple.