• Warren Leppik

Presentations: go visual or go home

Eric Bergman, a noted professional communicator, speaker and trainer, is clearly not a fan of slide presentations, and for good reasons. In his book “5 Steps to Conquer Death By PowerPoint”, he discusses what he calls the common PowerPoint sins: text-heavy slides, long lists of bullets and clip art – all deadly dull and unproductive for those all-important presentations.

Don’t just tell them. Show them.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s important to understand that tools like PowerPoint are powerful only when used as visual mediums. Text-laden slides don’t ignite the senses or spark the imagination of viewers and are the primary cause of “death by PowerPoint”. The magic of these tools appears only when used to navigate dramatic images, dynamic videos and creative animation that reinforce what the presenter is saying.

When you show viewers a bullet-ridden sales presentation, they’re not listening to you. Instead, they’re reading your slides. It’s been proven that text on screen draws the eye and is not only read, but read over and over again – that’s just the way the brain works. Rather than helping, it makes retention of what you’re saying poor, regardless of how pithy your pitch is.

There’s a time-honoured expression that journalists follow to convey colourful and lively human interest stories. It’s really quite simple: “Don’t just tell them. Show them.” Funny, isn’t that why we use tools like PowerPoint in the first place? Yet, the majority of presenters show nothing but text. They don’t say “a picture is worth a thousand words” for nothing. A presentation that uses video, animation and carefully chosen images engages sales prospects and clients alike. That’s how you create a connection between you, your product or service and your audience.

Touch their heart with testimonials

There’s nothing quite as powerful as customer testimonials to aid in telling your story. By strategically incorporating customer experiences into a slide presentation, you not only help to demonstrate products or services, you can also overcome a prospect’s concerns or pre-conceived objections through the stories of customers who once had the same concerns.

Features and benefits are table stakes. Make your presentation the conduit through which customer’s can enthusiastically share stories of the client experience that a prospect can look forward to. Client experience is tied to your staff and culture and hard to duplicate. Your customer’s emphasis on your commitment to resolving a prospect’s problem is sales trump. With professional help to capture these messages, you’ll energize your pitch by applying techniques that TV, films and videos use to captivate audiences.

Written testimonials lack video’s emotional impact. Features and benefits are of interest only AFTER you’ve engaged your prospect. Video allows you to tell your story using the words of your customers. The idea is to boldly engage the viewers’ senses by turning your presentation into an illustration of what it’s like to be your customer, creating the desire for detail, rather than drowning your audience in detail before interest is even established.

Design slides to make the presenter the star – to clarify and enhance only

Too many people use PowerPoint as speaker notes. Boring slides are only made worse when someone insists on reading every last word to you. Facts and figures can be referenced in brochures, handouts or the company web site. What’s lacking in most presentations is a plan for how someone should FEEL after the presentation.

Finally, as in other situations, be aware that less is often more. Be strategic. Video is meant as emotional punctuation to a story the presenter weaves with his words. What people most often forget is that it’s the presenter that should be the focal point; otherwise, why not just email the PowerPoint to the prospect and have them go through it themselves? Your slides should be designed to clarify and enhance your message and not overshadow you as the presenter.

So get creative, realizing that PowerPoint should be used as a dynamic backdrop only, to reinforce the relationship that you, the presenter, is trying to build with an audience.

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