Ever dreaded going in front of an audience to give an important presentation?
Some people seem naturally more confident with their presentation skills, or have more experience than others, at delivering a top presentation. They make it entertaining and effortless in appearance.
Will Mckelvie, training specialist with RightTrack Consultancy provides some key insights regarding presentations. Having spent many years in sales and senior sales management as well as being an accredited designer and facilitator of training – here is what he has to say:
Question: Will, what can you tell us about presentation skills and more importantly how to make your presentation engaging and impactful to your audience?
Answer: I think firstly it’s important that we establish that presentations are given from many purposes and we need to be clear on the purpose. For example, we give presentations to inform or educate, to persuade or influence. We present to inspire or motivate and lastly to sell either a product, service or ourselves.
Question: Okay, so for the purpose of this interview let’s focus on sales presentations.
Answer: Of course
Question: What tips can share to help develop sales presentation skills?
Answer: It’s often sighted and quoted in many areas but when it comes to presenting it really is all about preparation, preparation, preparation.
A great presentation is about figuring out what your audience needs to hear, what they need answers to and what’s important to them. You then select your key messages to answer your audiences questions.
Great presenters follow the following format:
- They profile their audience
- They structure and shape their messages to the audience
- Lastly they design the slides and visual aids
Question: So it’s not all about the slides or the PowerPoint then?
Answer: Let me be clear that the slides are important to use as a visual aid. They’re there to support your key messages and make them more memorable but after you’ve identified whom your audience is and what they need to hear.
Slides alone will not deliver your message. If they were, we could simply email our presentations to our clients and let them read through.
Question: What common mistakes do people make during sales presentations?
Answer: The most common is taking the wrong approach. The typical approach is often the reverse of the ideal approach.
A sales person will often prepare the slides
- They’ll include as many sales messages as possible
- Learn the slides
- Present the slides whilst often reading them directly from the screen thus losing vital connection with the audience
- Think great, I got across all my sales messages and phew thank god that’s over!
Question: Sounds familiar so what’s wrong with this approach?
Answer: When you take this approach it becomes about you the presenter and the written word. The presenter is delivering a whole heap of information with no clear message or message specific to the individual needs of their audience. They’re following a structure dictated to them by their slides, rather than a natural way of thinking.
Question: I guess we’ve all experienced a little piece of “death by PowerPoint” in our time!
Answer: Absolutely because the process has become about the presenter getting through the presentation. It should be about what the audience needs to hear – this avoids the audience becoming lost or confused as to what the presenter is communicating.
Question: What else should sales people consider?
Answer: We also need to give a lot of consideration as to where and when we should be conducting our presentations?
Question: Surely our client decides this for us when they confirm the appointment?
Answer: Well yes they may have confirmed an appointment, they may have confirmed a meeting but have we confirmed the need for a sales presentation and if so, is this the right time?
Question: Carry on, please elaborate.
Answer: We need to give consideration to where we are and more importantly where the client is in the sales process. Do we know the client and have we taken time to build rapport and understand their specific needs or problems. If not, we’re relying on the presentation to sell our product or service. This will rarely work but it’s unfortunately a common pitfall.
Question: So what should the presenter do to avoid this pitfall?
Answer: The sales person should ensure they have clarified and understood the customer’s needs, interest and importantly agreed a desire for a solution. The presentation can then be aligned and relevant to these needs and demonstrate the solution. If you’ve not profiled your customer and spent time to create and identify needs, you will not know what the solution is.
Question: Any top tips for handling or managing presentation nerves?
Answer: Nerves are completely understandable but they disappear with practice. You often here tips such as hold a pen. Don’t do this as you’ll fiddle with it and distract your audience. Others say imagine everyone in the room naked – How would you concentrate? Some books advise you to stare at the back of the room; this loses vital eye contact with your audience.
It simply comes back to preparation. Know your audience, know your key messages and the benefit you can bring to your client. You will then appear and become more confident. Lastly conduct a review of what you have done to prepare for the next time and practice, practice and practice.
Question: Is feeling confident at the end a good indicator of how well you’ve done?
Answer: Yes but don’t confuse confidence with relief, or self-appreciation, at getting though all your sales messages.
Ask yourself the following after your presentation:
- Did I engage my audience?
- Did I answer the one question my audience really needed?
- Did I structure the information in an easy to follow manner?
- Did I get my point across?
- Lastly did my visual aids support my message and where they impactful for my audience?
Question: Any final thoughts or anything you would like to share?
Answer: Show off ‘rock star’ presentation skills by doing the following:
- Hook your audience and tell them why they should listen – the what’s in it for them!
- Use simple language and easy to understand messages which are relevant
- Make your messages memorable and use the correct visual aids to support your messages.
Just remember that a great presentation is just great communication and you won’t go wrong!
By Will Mckelvie | Righttrack’s Training Specialist