Sales presentations – the art of presenting engaging PowerPoint presentations

Wright Brothers

Over the millenniums the day of May 22 has been the host to many events that have been real game changers – on May 22 in 334 BC Alexander the Great defeated the Persian armies of Darius III, in 1570 the first atlas was published, and on May 22, 1906 the Wright Brothers were granted a patent for a device they called a “flying machine.”  But for those who are involved in giving presentations the real big event was May 22, 1990 – the date that Microsoft officially launched PowerPoint.

For those that have only a fuzzy memory of the art of presentations prior to May 22, 1990, there was a device called an overhead projector.  People used this device to project “transparencies.”  Most of these transparencies were created by the presenter and were, to say the least, not very artistically or technically sophisticated.

Let’s fast forward to the present.  This very day in an unimaginable number of conference rooms and meetings, people are doing presentations using PowerPoint.  The slides look grew – in many cases they incorporate vivid graphics and interesting videos. There is little question that these PowerPoints look an order of magnitude better than a comparable set of transparences.

Unfortunately, elegant media support comprises only half the ingredients necessary for an engaging presentation.  The other half is up to the presenter.

So, given that half of the challenge has been addressed by our friends at Microsoft, what does the presenter need to do to make a presentation engaging – answer: engage? To deliver an engaging presentation getting the audience involved is key– you have to talk with them not at them.  So, the only question is … how are you going to do that?

Obviously there is more than one answer that enables us to move from good to great presentations …  and no answer works for all types of presentations.  But if you have a scenario that looks like the following, an idea that is easy to pull off consistently is the notion of integrating “Station Breaks” into your PowerPoint presentation.

Let’s assume the scenario is: you’re delivering a 60-minute presentation at a professional association meeting. The topic? How to plan and execute sales calls to an audience of 25 people.

How to do you engage? When creating the presentation develop five or six questions and put each one on a slide. The questions should be inserted throughout the presentation.  Each question should relate to the content that immediately preceded it. Tell the audience about there will be “Station Breaks” when you introduce the presentation.  When you come to one of the questions – pose it to the group and then ask each person to turn to the person beside them and discuss the question for a few minutes.  Then solicit ideas from the group about the question, comment – then move on to the next topic.

Although the idea is a simple one, using “Station Breaks” can totally change the dynamics of the presentation.  You are engaging the audience with each other and with the presenter. The keys are crafting interesting questions – and asking the audience to discuss the questions in pairs before the group discussion.

As a final sidebar, you can even pull this off with groups of 200 to 300 people except you cannot, due to the size of the group, solicit answers after the pair discussions – instead provide some typical answers so the pairs can compare those with the ones they discussed.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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