We called him Mr. PowerPoint
Powerpoint set the standard for presentation software and now there are so many alternatives it is hard to keep up with what’s out there, so I will use this article to talk about presentations in general and I will open this article with an example of exactly how not to use it!
I had a senior executive working for one of my companies who simply loved Powerpoint and what he couldn’t do with the software was not worth doing.
I always give autonomy to people I employ in senior positions and it was always a challenge for me to do so and I only intervene when things are not going to plan and in the case of this person, we were simply not converting the sales as we should have been.
In these circumstances, I go right back to the start of the sales process (customer engagement and pre-engagement) and then systematically work through the process and what concerned me most about this particular instance was that we had made a lot of presentations, but were failing to move up the value chain to complete the deal.
Let The Slide Show Begin
One look at the presentation material was enough to convince me where we were going wrong and all I had to do was to look at the audience (senior executives) and the style and content of the presentation – there were over 40 slides in this deck. I asked the person concerned to walk me through the presentation to make sure that I wasn’t missing something and I explained that I wanted to put myself in the shoes of the audience and get the feel for the process.
I was literally talked through each and every slide, even though I had explained that I just wanted a walk-through!
It was painful, to say the least, and the person concerned was actually a very capable individual, but I could not see the point of the process as most of it was extremely technical. The explanation I received was that it was a ‘technical sale.’ I immediately agreed but added that it was to the business layer of the organization, members of the executive leadership team.
Their role is to look at the business implications of purchasing (in this example) and not so much the technical details. The idea is to explain the business case to the business layer and validate the technical aspects with the technical layer. Ideally, both are run in tandem and will involve people at all levels from operational to senior executives, but in our case here, we were ‘technically heavy’ and this was the first presentation to the business layer.
Putting It Right
To say I drastically reduced the number of slides would be an understatement – I got it down to 4!
Executive Leaders have little time and want facts and information fast – that information must be relative to their own responsibilities and it goes without saying that the more interesting the presentation, the more chance there is of it being listened to and understood.
All I had done in reality was to separate the majority of the technical information from the business information and add a few hard-hitting key facts to the mix for good measure.
Everything ultimately comes down to time and money – money can always be recouped, but time cannot, so it is vital that you are acutely aware of the time you take to deliver information in respect of your client’s time. I always used to make sure I under-ran on the allocated time for my presentations and that was always appreciated.
Keeping It Interesting
One of the worst things you can do in any sales situation and especially a presentation is to talk about yourself or your company.
The focus must always be on your client and on what you do for them, so make your client the focus!
Over the years I have experimented with many strategies around presentations and I had the most success when I completely took off all of our logos and kept the slides as clean as possible. I did add a footer, where I would put in our key business message and details of our website URL
You never know where your slides may end up and I have found many a stray slide left in a meeting room that was designed beautifully but said nothing.
Every slide you have must be a slide that can sell and a simple key message in the footer of the slide with a means of contacting the company can solve that problem easily.
My other method of keeping things interesting is to add a little humor. In this example, the marketing guys and I were playing around with cartoons and we used some funny looking cartoon characters with speech bubbles with well-chosen quotes, with the key business points to the side.
Infographics are a great way to keep your presentation interesting, use them!
Remember also that your audience is probably exhausted with ‘corporate or management speak‘ and the same style of presentations from suppliers – bring some fresh thinking to the table!
Bear in mind that all my clients were large global corporations and I never once had anything but a good reaction from my audience. I remember once losing out on a deal to a competitor, but the client said that I could come back and present to them anytime. Not the outcome that I wanted, but at least I knew it wasn’t the presentations (it was actually the price)!
Your goal is to captivate your audience, get your message across and move everything toward completion, so don’t waste a second of the time you have and use the time to maximize success and don’t waste it on unimportant slides, or talking about yourself or your company unnecessarily. Some information is good, but most people give way too much and that only takes away the ‘captivation factor‘.
Your client will do their due diligence and work out who you are and gauge whether you are a ‘fit’ for them or not and independently of any presentation.
Here Are My Tips
- Don’t obsess with design – keep it simple and clean. Each slide should have a footer with a message and weblink
- Don’t talk about yourself or your company first – client focussed all the way
- Define your target audience – is it a ‘business’ one or a ‘technical’ one for example
- Write your last slide first – you will probably end up starting with that slide
- Write in simple ‘plain speak‘ English or whatever your language is
- Be acutely aware of time and take the least amount you need to get your message across
- Never, ever talk through slides – they are there to re-enforce your presentation and not to drive it
- Use infographics
- Use humor where appropriate and don’t be afraid to be different
- Make sure that whatever you do, it is in context with what you are trying to achieve and relevant to your audience
Most importantly, enjoy it!
Last modified: May 29, 2020