The best presenters I have seen concentrate fully on the audience, engaging them with both the content, their energy and their enthusiasm. Some of the best presenters I have encountered would have been "destroyed" by the video analysis in that their hands were doing this or their feet doing that!
Just over a year ago I attended a large Sales Force Effectiveness conference and was attracted to attend for a number of reasons. Firstly, I like to keep up to date with progress within the sales industry, particularly within sales representation and sales management. Secondly, it gave me the chance to network and meet new contacts; and thirdly, as I have a very keen interest in the power of effective presenting, this would be a chance to learn from two days of watching a total of around eighteen presenters. The purpose of this article is to highlight that based on what I observed over the two days, I now believe that the level of influential presentation skill is not what it should be and to that end, I will offer a framework for sales representatives and managers to work with in order that they can develop their business presentations.
Of the eighteen presenters (all of them at a fairly high executive level in the sales 7 marketing industry) there were only two who I would consider to have above average influential presentation skills. One executive was excellent, spoke with passion and had me listening to his every word while the other, although not quite so passionate, presented in a very effective, cool, calm manner which had me engaged due to the stories that he related. The other sixteen were at best average and at worst totally ineffective.
The most common failures were:
* Too much data and information crammed on to unreadable slides.
* Talking too fast and rushing through the slides.
* No attempts to engage the audience.
* Death by Power-Point. One person attempted to go through over sixty sides in twenty minutes!
* Lack of preparation was very evident in some cases.
* Some presentations were almost identical to the previous speakers.
* Some presenters came across as ‘arrogant’ experts.
I was not impressed and wondered exactly why such senior executives were not able to present effectively. In my twenty years in the sales industry I attended numerous presentation skills courses and I felt that at the time that most of them were effective with the result that I was a good presenter. It has only been in the last few years that having to present for a living as a self employed consultant that I have realised my level of skill was not exactly what it should have been. This has been reinforced in that since becoming an elected member of the Professional Speakers Association and now having seen some serious professional speakers in action, I needed to develop further my skills. I now believe that perhaps the traditional approach to developing presentation skills may be slightly flawed. Let me explain.
On all the skills courses I have attended much of the focus of the training has been on the speaker or presenter themselves, in terms of their body language, voice pitch and tone. There has been a huge emphasis on the use of video so that participants can see themselves on the ‘replay’ and in ‘slow motion’. A coach or trainer will assist in the video analysis thereby reinforcing that the presenter has some unique ‘mannerisms’ that desperately need changed! The end result of this is that I believe the presenter remains focused on their various body movements or ‘mannerisms’ such as what they do with their hands or feet and as such this switches the focus away from where it really should be - the audience.
The best presenters I have seen concentrate fully on the audience, engaging them with both the content, their energy and their enthusiasm. Some of the best presenters I have encountered would have been ‘destroyed’ by the video analysis in that their hands were doing this or their feet doing that! In terms of the excellent presenters, these ‘mannerisms’ were not picked up by the general audience because they were not evident to them due to the nature of the presenter’s content and the overall skill and energy that they projected. One aspect of presenting that every professional presenter agrees must be a priority is that of planning, preparation and practice. This is a must for anyone who presents and the old adage, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ is very apt! Planning, preparation and practice builds confidence and with confidence comes the automatic reaction of focusing on your audience and not on yourself.
I have developed my E5 Presenting with Influence formula and this I believe will give sales executives and managers a framework to base the preparation and execution of their presentation around, whether it is to a group of customers or within a team business meeting situation.
How do you engage your audience from the start and how do you keep them engaged?
How do you manage that engagement and still keep on track?
What does the audience know about you?
How will you manage their expectations as to what you are going to present?
Does your content meet the needs of the audience?
How are you going to present new information?
What evidence do you have to back up your claims?
Even the most ‘serious’ audiences want to be entertained, perhaps not through jokes (dangerous tactic!) but through real life stories and anecdotes. Do you have real life scenarios to reinforce your key messages?
In every presentation you will want the audience to react in a way that is positive. If it is a sales presentation you want at the very least a follow up meeting to discuss the opportunity further, at best, a clear commitment to buy. Your presentation must deliver encouragement to act.
The best way to deliver presentation skills training is not to emphasise the use of video but to create a learning environment whereby a training course is based around regular practice in front of peers. The feedback from peers, in the role of the audience, is far more powerful than reviewing the video footage with a trainer or coach. Presenting is about planning, preparation and providing your audience with a powerful, passionate message that will make them feel motivated to act as you would like them to. So, if you have had feedback that you stroke your nose, twiddle your thumbs, or stand at the ‘wrong’ side of the stage then provided your audience is engaged, enlightened, educated, entertained and encouraged to act then so what!
Did this Article help you? Share it on Social Media?
Sign Up Free once for a free Expertbase User Account - and never fill up a form again.