4 Tips For Handling Mixed Presentation Audiences

As a savvy presenter, you find out as much as possible about your audience members before you address them. What do they already know about the topic?  What do they need to know?  What do they want to know? Will they be receptive or reluctant to hear what you have to say? You plan accordingly.

But almost nothing calls for more planning than a mixed audience—both technical and nontechnical decision makers, beginners and advanced learners, or groups of amateurs peppered with professionals.

Consider the following tips when you present to such diverse groups.

1)  Engage the advanced without insulting the less knowledgeable.

Make it your goal to aim for the higher end of the spectrum.  That is, plan content to interest the seasoned audience members. Their engagement and participation will interest the less knowledgeable because those audience members have even more to learn.

The beginners don’t yet know what they don’t know; therefore, almost all topics and discussion interests them. They are like the proverbial sponge soaking up all that transpires. Yet, take care that you don’t insult beginners and amateurs by locking them out of the presentation with jargon and references to other resources, tools, and processes with which they’re unfamiliar. So how do you do that?  Next tip …

2) Provide shortcuts. 

When you need to deliver complex information that will only confuse and lose the less experienced in a group, consider providing that more technical content in a truncated fashion: Can you provide it on a handout? Mobile download?  Reference to a website link?  Does the technical process, specification, or explanation really need “air” time?

3) Prefer clarity to brevity.

Brevity is good; clarity is better. Never sacrifice a few words or sentences in order to be brief. Slide screen space, paper, and air are cheap. Misunderstandings that lead to errors can be expensive. If you need to define a term, do so.  If you need to add a detail, add it.  If you need to use the whole phrase rather than the acronym, use it.

4) Use—don’t abuse—their experience.

Forcing advanced learners to sit through an elementary explanation wastes their time and causes them to disengage quickly. Instead, acknowledge and engage the more seasoned people in your group by giving them opportunity to share their expertise with the less experienced.

When you make a point, call on them to share a case study or ask them to elaborate on how they’ve applied this principle, strategy, or truth  in their own work.  In a teaching session, pair the advanced with the less skilled learners to pass on additional teaching points and tips to extend the learning.

Handling a widely diverse audience can be a challenge.  But with forethought and creativity, the outcome can be stimulating for all.

About the Author:

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase their productivity and effectiveness through better communication: writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and client communication. An expert in executive communication and a keynote speaker, she is the author of 46 books, published in 23 languages. For more information, visit www.booher.com

No One Loses When Presentations Finish Early

Next time you’re planning a presentation consider finishing at least five minutes early. Most presenters shoehorn 60 minutes of content into a 60-minute time block and it rarely fits. The audience’s lasting impression of you becomes that of a presenter clicking feverishly through slides, speaking at a break-neck pace and being obsessed with your watch.

A better approach is to take the pressure off and plan to finish five minutes early. That gives you two appealing options. First, you can simply give that time back to your audience, and they’ll remember you favorably as the only presenter in recent memory who let them out early. Second, you can provide additional time for always-valuable Q&A or a relaxed summarization and close.

Either way you’ll set yourself apart from the mass of presenters who race against time or exceed scheduled speaking slots, leaving audiences feeling they’re unprepared or simply unprofessional.

14 Ideas for Better Sales Presentations

Sales presentations are important, but thousands of people each day deliver material that is tired, ugly, and ineffective. These 14  ideas will help you easily improve your sales presentations, stand out from competitors, engage your audience and sell more.

Prioritize Your Messages

If you have a long list of reasons prospects should choose you, chances are that your prospects will get lost and forget half of what you tell them. Worse still, you won’t know which half of your sales messaging will be forgotten – and buying committees will have divergent views about the value that you bring.

See if you can focus your sales message on three key reasons to buy, and place everything else into one of those main categories. It will make your sales presentation far more persuasive.

Be a Challenger

Since Dixon and Adamson found that sales reps who challenge and teach things to their prospects sell more, everyone wants to be a “challenger.” What’s one of the best ways to challenge your prospects? Start your presentation by looking at why what everyone has always done doesn’t work and won’t work, and what that costs.

As an example, our own pitch explains why arguing over slide copy is pointless because text-heavy slides all suck.

Cut Half Your Material

It’s very rare indeed that prospects complain that a sales presentation got to the point too quickly, or didn’t go on for long enough. So why is cutting material from your sales presentation such a hard idea to implement?

Most sales presentations cover ground that’s unnecessary, list too many features, and confuse ‘why change?’ with ‘why us?’ Edit your presentations aggressively – try cutting half the material, tell your story pithily, and make certain to address the decision your prospects are making at the right stage in the sales cycle.

Lose the Text

No, don’t shorten your bullet points. Don’t even limit yourself to one line of text per slide on a beautiful photo background (even if you have seen this idea used at conference presentations). Don’t use text to communicate at all. Just use photos you took or that are really relevant, graphs, charts, and other visualisations.

People can’t read and listen at the same time – so stop undermining your sales presentation with lousy text-heavy slides.

Use a Physical Prop

Find a prop, pass it around, talk about it, show it, let your audience hold it. The prop can be your product, or an object that helps explain what’s different or important – a kitchen funnel if you are talking about your impact on the sales funnel, a broken part if you are going to emphasize what’s wrong with competing approaches. 3D props help to make presentations compelling.

(For a famous example, check out Richard Feynman explaining why the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded at 2 minutes into this video.)

Mix Your Media

Don’t just use slides, or a whiteboard, or video, or pitchbooks. Mix it up. Use a variety of media, as appropriate, as part of your sales presentation. Each time you change the media you are using attention levels rise. So, mix things up to help make your presentation more compelling.

Create a Hyperlinked Interactive Menu

Plan out the sections in your presentation, and then create a small navigation bar at the bottom of each slide. Hyperlink parts of the relevant slides, and click on the menu when presenting to skip to that section. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Record an On-Demand Version, and Track It

Forget providing a printout of your slides – it won’t help you to sell. It just gives an excuse for a gatekeeper to stop you coming back to pitch to the real decision maker, and it’s as-likely-as-not going to get copied to your competitor.

Instead, use a tool like Brainshark to record a narrated version of your sales presentation, and then track exactly who watches. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your sales presentation go viral through an organisation, selling for you while you sleep. Now there’s an idea…

Video Yourself Delivering Your Sales Presentation

Your slides aren’t your sales presentation. A presentation needs a presenter too, and presenting confidently and clearly can make all the difference. Video yourself presenting and try to (1) say “you” not “we” (2) explain clearly what the benefits for prospects are by using phrases like “which means you get…” (3) eliminate your verbal ticks and (4) interact confidently with your visuals.

Stop Half-Way

This next sales presentation idea is based on the insight that your sales presentation doesn’t need to be a monologue. Having a discussion can really help. Try presenting only your introduction – describing the problem and the cost of not solving it – and then stop presenting and start questioning. Then, once you reach a natural pause, present your solution.

Have a Conversation

One-way sales presentations make sense in a formal pitch situation where the prospect doesn’t want to talk, and is insistent every presenter follows a clear formula. Otherwise… What sales person doesn’t want to listen and adapt to what a prospect is saying? Why plan out  a 20-minute monologue when you can present a few slides, talk, then follow-up with whatever’s relevant? A true visual conversation.

Have a clear message you want to get across by all means, but be flexible about when you say what.

Annotate Your Slides

A lot of people don’t know about PowerPoint’s annotation tools. In show mode, hover your cursor over the near-transparent pen at the bottom left of the screen. Then just write on top of your slides using the mouse. Annotate photos, populate charts, or even ask your prospect to take control and sketch out their own situation.

Hand Over Your iPad

There’s been a lot of hype about iPads in sales, but more Angry Birds and email than sales conversations and enablement. But the iPad can work excellently for sales conversations. Divide your sales presentation into short sequences, and present with SlideShark. Use a sketching app such as Bamboo to share ideas.

Sit on the same side of the desk. Hand the iPad over to your prospect. Be conversational and interactive.

Get Help From a Professional

If you really want to get your sales presentations right, consider bringing in a professional presentation agency to help you. An outside view can help bring consensus about what’s important. Presentation design expertise can protect your brand and deliver compelling visuals. A persuasive sales presentation pitched frequently can bring a rapid ROI.

About the Author:

Joby Blume is a managing consultant with BrightCarbon, a company that helps sales and marketing teams create effective sales tools. That primarily means presentations, but it can also mean dynamic animations or visual conversations – anything that uses BrightCarbon’s visual storytelling abilities. For more information, visit http://www.brightcarbon.com/


How to Use Analogies in Presentations

By Scott Schwertly

If used correctly, analogies can greatly strengthen and nuance a presentation. Like most vague literary terms that we haven’t thought twice about since high school, it’s helpful to start with a definition: An analogy is a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification. It’s essentially a complex metaphor, and it’s certainly one of the best ways to clarify dense, difficult information for your audience.

Here are some tips on how to use analogies effectively in presentations.

Statistics Don’t Stick

We’ve discussed at length ways to effectively use statistics. None of those methods involve simply stating a statistic and moving on. Statistics don’t stick with audiences; people don’t remember cumbersome data if it’s not presented in a framework that provides meaning for them.  Chip and Dan Heath reinforce this in their book Made to Stick, writing, “Statistics will, and should, almost always be used to illustrate a relationship. It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the number.”

Using appropriate analogies is an effective way to establish that relationship. They cite the Beyond War movement in the 1980s as an example of using a compelling analogy to provide context for an abstract idea.

The group was on a mission to prove to people the real danger of nuclear weapons, and they needed to make this abstract, vague notion a tangible one. They did this at various ‘house parties’ by dropping BBs into a metal bucket. The representative dropped one BB in the bucket to represent the Hiroshima bomb, and then spoke to the calamitous effects of that event.

Then he dropped ten BBs in the bucket, representing the power of the missiles on one nuclear submarine. Last, he dropped 5,000 BBs in the bucket, one for every nuclear warhead in the world.

This analogy provided a poignant framework for the audience. They would remember for a long time the haunting sound of the BBs hitting the metal, and that sound would be forever tied to the impact of a nuclear weapon.

Vague, abstract information doesn’t stick with audiences. Tangible, visual analogies do.

Scale and Topic Matters

One of the most important considerations when dealing with analogy is scale. It’s imperative to choose the right scale, which means selecting the most tangible one as possible. We’ve all heard analogies with a scale “reaching from the Earth to the Moon x amount of times.” That can be an appropriate scale if you’re dealing with a very large statistic, but if you’re talking about a few miles, that scale would be much too large.

Choose a framework for your analogy that imparts a compelling impression on the audience. They should come away from your analogy with an ‘Aha!’ or ‘Wow!’ reaction because the comparison feels so tangible.  

And be sure to choose an appropriate analogy in terms of topic. If you’re speaking to Europeans, soccer might be a great analogy to invoke when talking about percentages. But if you’re speaking to Americans, maybe football would be better. Make the analogy easy for the audience to relate to as well as understand. Don’t forget that your audience’s needs are the most important thing. Fashion your analogies accordingly.

Use Wisely

Regardless of all the benefits of using analogies, proceed with caution when crafting a presentation with one. Remember that your audience doesn’t know what you know as well as you do, so keep everything as simple as possible. It’s easy to mislead or confuse people with a convoluted analogy, so put yourself in the audience’s shoes before you decide if it works or doesn’t.

The whole point of using an analogy is to make things easier to understand, not more difficult, so use them only when you’re dealing with recondite material. Don’t make something more complicated than it needs to be.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, beware of bringing analogies full circle, or referring to them at several different times during your presentation. The meaning can easily get confused, and you can lose the audience by inducing a ‘Wait, what is he talking about?’ moment.

Use analogies wisely, and only when it will, without a doubt, help your audience more fully understand your presentation.

About the Author:

Scott Schwertly is the CEO and founder of Ethos 3, a leading presentation design and training company.  From big names like Guy Kawasaki to big companies like Google, Pepsico, and NBC Universal, Ethos 3 has been responsible for bringing the message home. For more information about Ethos 3, visit http://www.ethos3.com/

7 Tips for Powerful Sit-Down Presentations

By Dianna Booher

Whether it’s answering an offhanded query, “How’s the project going?” or selling your ideas for conducting a new employee survey, every presentation you make is an opportunity to establish an executive presence and move up in your organization. Consider these tips for improving both the substance and style of your next presentation so that you can speak up with confidence and authority.

Don’t “Let Down” for Sit-Down Presentations

In a business setting, you may make presentations to only a few people seated around a conference table or desk. Although there is no correlation between audience size and importance of the outcome, consider several issues in light of the informal setting.

First, consider the group’s expectations. Do not assume that because the audience is small, its members do not expect a formal presentation—visuals and the works.

Second, because you are seated around a desk or table—at eye level with the group—you must convey your enthusiasm, assertiveness and authority at “half mast,” through your facial expressions, posture, and voice. Sitting down may tempt you to slouch, but don’t. Sit comfortably erect, leaning slightly forward in your chair to show attentiveness and enthusiasm for your subject. Sit back in your chair to convey openness to questions.

Position yourself to maintain eye contact with everyone in the room. Do not get stuck between two listeners so that you have to turn your head back and forth with each point, as though you are watching a game of table tennis. If possible, remove any physical obstacles that block vision or create “distance” between you and your audience.

Sitting down or standing up—decisions count either way.

Never Let Facts Speak for Themselves

Facts need interpretation. According to Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” If you don’t believe this, tune in to the next political campaign. People can make facts and numbers mean almost anything. Interpret yours so that your listeners draw the same conclusions you intend.

Make Statistics Experiential

People digest numbers with great difficulty. Graphs and charts help. But if you can go beyond these common visuals, do so. For example, one manager speaking before his peers at IBM about his budget being cut dramatically yanked off his jacket to reveal his white shirt—with great big holes cut out of the sides and back. Amid the laughter, he made his point dramatically and memorably.

To demonstrate the cost of absenteeism to your organization, have your group complete a worksheet on “Employee Ed” who misses six days a month three times a year. Then increase those absences per warehouse in each division as the audience calculates on their worksheets. The numbers will come alive as they themselves work with the changing results.

Use Metaphors, Similes, and Other Analogies to Clarify and Aid Retention

A metaphor is a word or phrase substituted for another to suggest similarity. For example: “My friend is my Rock of Gibraltar,” “Time is money,” “Kill that idea,” “That question will be the litmus test,” “This new product line will be our insurance policy against obsolescence.”

A simile compares two things with the actual words like or as in the analogy. Recently, I’ve heard business presenters use examples such as these:

“Trying to process these data with your computers is like trying to mow your lawn with a pair of scissors.”

“Your files are like athletic socks and dress socks; you don’t need both every day. Access should determine how you should store them.”

“This new legislation before Congress is like throwing a nuclear bomb at an ant hill—and missing the ant hill.”

The more complex the idea, the more important it is to simplify and illustrate by comparison.

Use Analogies to Provide a Consistent Framework

Think how many times you have heard the functioning of the human eye and its parts compared to the working of a camera—an excellent analogy for clarifying a complex process. Or how often have you heard complex routers referred to as a telephone switchboard—with each part of the equipment explained as it compares to a small telephone system?

Probably the best-known analogies and allegories are Biblical parables and Aesop’s fables. “Concern over the unrepentant means leaving the 99 sheep to look for the lost one.” “The tortoise runs a slow but steady pace and crosses the finish line a winner.”

Such visual or emotional analogies help audiences follow a lengthy presentation step by step.

Remember that Timing Indicates Emphasis

In general, a good rule of thumb for allocation of your overall time is to spend 10 to 15 percent of your time on the opening, 70 to 85 percent on the body, and 5 to 10 percent on the closing. This allows slightly more time up front in the introduction to grab attention, “win over” a hostile or uninterested group, and establish credibility than to close the presentation.

If your presentation includes an involved action plan, that section most likely should be part of the body of your presentation, and your close should focus on the final persuasive push toward the decision to act.

On the other hand, you may discover that you need to cut. In doing so, always keep the audience’s preferences in mind. Think of your presentation as a roadmap. If your audience wants to take only interstate highways to their destination, do not pencil in all the farm-to-market roads along the way. This merely clutters the map.

With regard to information overload, as John Brockmann so aptly put it, “Most houseplants in the U.S. are killed by over-watering.”

Never Ramble on Past the Point of High Impact

Anything you say after your polished point of close dilutes your impact. Do not ramble on with anticlimactic drivel. Say it and stop.

About the Author: 

Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase their productivity and effectiveness through better oral, written, interpersonal, and cross-functional communicationClients of her communication skills training firm, Booher Consultants, include IBM, Northwestern Mutual and Lockheed Martin, among many others.  For more information, visit www.booher.com

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