9 Presentation Pointers to Keep Your Audience Engaged

Posted on June 6, 2014 in Audience Contact, Creating Rapport, Editing Slides, Guest Posts, The Key to Make a Successful Presentation, Tips & Tricks by Tobias Schelle

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Guest post by Mike Kamo

“You can see by the chart here that, by purchasing our fantastic widgets, you are going t…” Blink. You’ve lost them. Your sales presentation is over before it started.

You’ve got a poor presentation there, my friend.

Well, are you ready to get a win at your next sales presentation? Sure, the chances of closing a deal at a sales presentation aren’t typically overwhelming, but what you can do is set yourself up to get the win by engaging your audience so much that they’ll be ready to sign up when you follow up.“I’m not there to entertain”, you’re thinking. I’m there to convince them to buy. Yes, but if you fail to get them energized by doling out a routine “hear what I’ve got to say” sales pitch, you’re probably not going to get them to buy anyway.

I’ve got a few suggestions that will help improve your sales presentations to the point that you’ll have your audience eating out of your hand. (Okay, you might not be beating them off with a stick, but they’ll be engaged.)

1.   Be prepared. Set up the entire meeting in your mind. Go through your opening, prepare how you’ll respond to questions, work through your visuals, and practice closing the meeting (how do you want it to end?). If you are prepared and have practiced your delivery, you’ll know when to engage them in a two-way dialogue or the moment they’ll be viewing a funny image (see #4 and #9 below).

2.   Open strong. No, I don’t mean bowl them over with a super-aggressive pitch. I’m talking about getting them engaged early, maybe with an opening question thrown out to the group or a funny anecdote about you and/or your company that will loosen up the room. By connecting with your audience early, they will be more likely to be interested later on. (NOTE: Be careful when using humor, especially during your opening. Make sure your comments are appropriate for all members of the audience.)

A mention of a current event or news story can also be effective.

3.   Set them up. Let your audience know the key talking points that you’ll be delivering. Let them know how and when questions will be handled. People are usually more engaged in a meeting when they have an idea of what to expect. Explain a little about what they’ll see if you’ve got visual materials to display. Try whetting their appetite with a teaser, or teasers, about what is coming. Prepare them for how you’ll “wow” them. While it can be effective to hand out a presentation agenda or a slide deck printout as a way to set up your meeting, you should also open the door by laying out in your opening what you’ll accomplish during the presentation.

4.    Use imagerybut not too much. Embed images in your presentation that evoke a response. Whether it’s laughter, concern, anxiety or another emotional response, images can be a great way to get your audience members to pay attention…and maybe move them toward a buy.

Use images that are funny, interesting, spectacular or emotionally driven. But don’t forget to also consider how relevant the images are to your “story”. Choose images that stand out while contributing to your sales pitch.

5.    Ask the audience. Your sales presentation should include several instances where you ask the audience a question. To get them engaged, you want to get them thinking about what you’re asking. Ask questions that lead them to the conclusion you want to reach. Give them questions that could evoke more than one response, therefore, generating wider participation from your audience. For instance, ask them about how to solve a problem or handle a challenging situation.

Asking about personal experiences (that aren’t embarrassing) can be a good way to get people involved, like “has this ever happened to you?”

6.   Get suggestions. Get them involved with the presentation! Ask your audience members to provide ideas or complete an unfinished chart, table or list. By throwing out a request for responses, you’re bringing them into the conversation and getting them to become part of the process. Ask for ideas (i.e. “what would you do?”) that stimulate a personal connection with the presentation.

7.   Engage with them. I know, you might be thinking “I’m trying to get them to engage with me”. But I’m talking about you connecting with audience members by acknowledging that they are there. Engagement is a two-way conversation that requires exchanges that show you understand them and their role in the meeting. Occasionally address a single audience member with a positive remark about their position in the company or an aspect of their job. Ask for confirmation that indicates you see eye-to-eye: “Can I get an Amen?!”

8.   Stimulate activity. If possible, build some time into your presentation to allow audience members to engage with each other. This can be helpful in getting them to come to a common conclusion about how awesome your solutions are. The size of your audience will dictate whether this tactic will be worthwhile (it may not be appropriate for large audiences if doing so will take considerable time). Either create small breakout groups or manage the task using a single group. The objective is to get your audience to be actively engaged with solving the pain points by implementing your solutions.

9.   Use video and sound. Often people tune out during lengthy sales presentation simply due to hearing a single voice, especially if the presenter has poor presentation skills. By infusing some video clips, you can “wake up” your audience by changing their attention spot, breaking up the monotony of a droning sales pitch. In some cases, music or funny sounds or familiar noises can break up a presentation and get them listening again.

People often want to be entertained as well as informed during a sales presentation. Use visual and sound cues to get your point across and keep them interested.

Sales presentations that don’t engage the audience are doomed to failure. The fast-paced, often distracted world we live in requires us to deliver presentations that stimulate, entertain (to a degree), and engage people throughout the pitch. I encourage each of you to set up your presentations to drive the most activity, response and thoughtful engagement way you can.
Can you think of other tactics that can be used to engage your audience? Share your ideas!

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Mike Kamo is the VP of marketing for Strideapp. Stride is a Cloud-based CRM and mobile app that helps small to medium sized agencies manage and track leads, as well as close more deals. They can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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