In January 2014 at the popular annual Consumer Electronics Show Hollywood, director Michael Bay’s participated a cringe-worthy crash-and-burn presentation.
Ouch. With that, the “Transformers” creator practically set a new gold standard for presentations gone awry, walking off the stage in painfully awkward fashion.
The poor guy wrote a blog post about the debacle later that day, explaining what went wrong:
Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES—I was about to speak for Samsung for this awesome Curved 105-inch UHD TV. I rarely lend my name to any products, but this one is just stellar. I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP's intro line and then the teleprompter got lost. Then the prompter went up and down—then I walked off. I guess live shows aren't my thing.
Have you ever had a sales presentation just crash and burn? Pretty painful, huh?
Maybe you’ve replayed it over and over, mortified by the memory of the moment. Most salespeople can probably relate.
Instead of dwelling on these missteps, however, focus on the lessons learned—something constructive that will help you circumnavigate trouble next time around.
We can all learn something from Bay’s faux pas, which leads us into our first of nine tips for sales presentations that close:
1. NEVER simply read your slides
Have you ever sat through a sales presentation in which the presenter—hopefully not you—simply reads the slides on their computer verbatim?
That’s the worst, right?
Yeah, don’t do that. It’s almost depreciative of your audience; they know how to read. Simply regurgitating the content that’s right before the eyes of everyone in the room shows a lack of preparation and familiarity with the content of your presentation. Would you want to buy from someone like that? Neither would your audience.
As a matter of fact, we would suggest not reading any of the content on your slides verbatim. Refer to it, paraphrase it, point to it, but don’t be Siri to your audience.
2. Start a conversation
Bay’s blunder on the CES stage could almost be matched in cringe-worthiness by long, boring presentations which lull the audience to sleep—and there are probably more of those flops than there are those of the Bay variety.
Maybe you’ve even fallen asleep in a presentation. Or more probably, you’ve at least lost the presenter and found yourself staring off in to space.
A good conversation can keep the audience awake and engaged. Ask the audience questions. Don’t get too caught up with a computer screen—catch up with the people in front of you about their brand or lifestyle. Discern their needs and goals. Talk about those rather than just reading.
3. All eyes on them
Body language can be loud, too. What does it say to your customers if you can’t make eye contact or focus on them but stare instead at your slideshow?
Looking at your audience, asking them questions, intermittently nodding in agreement with them or showing empathy with their needs shows that you have a genuine interest in helping them, not just helping yourself get through a presentation.
4. Practice, yes, but don’t be robotic
Michael Bay may have thoroughly practiced his CES presentation. (Probably not.) But he was probably too rehearsed, too scripted.
Yes, you should definitely practice. Present to your spouse, kids or dog. Present to your colleagues or to yourself in the mirror.
But memorize the flow of the presentation, not the script. Remember, no teleprompters. Know the progression of ideas like the back of your hand.
5. If you must lean, lean on fact
Bay was using his teleprompter as a crutch. Then, when he tried to wing it, he could hardly muster anything before making the walk of shame offstage.
Memorizing concrete facts about your product or service offerings will help you to avoid all kinds of problems, including technical difficulties like Bay’s.
Cite white papers and case studies and other facts about your product or service and strategically pick the facts you use based on competitor offerings. Emphasize them so the audience will retain them.
Don’t waste your audience’s time by spouting off information that has no relevance to them and their interests. Make sure your presentation is highly customizable and can be tailored for the audience in front of you, not the last one you presented to.
The presentation, after all, isn’t for you. And it’s not for your product or service offering. It’s not even for your boss. It’s for the people sitting in the room—your potential customers.
Go through your slideshow the night before you present and make sure you’re not including irrelevant slides or bullet points. Also, take stock of how much your presentation talks about you versus how much it talks about your potential client or customer’s problems and how you can help them.
7. Keep it short-as-can-be and sweet
“Short” is a little subjective, no? Danny DeVito probably thinks five-year-olds are short. Shaquille O’ Neal probably thinks 6-foot-8 LeBron James is short.
When we say “short-as-can-be and sweet,” that’s what we mean. We’re talking about concision. What’s absolutely necessary to say? By all means, say that. What’s redundant and extraneous? Cut it.
Now, this doesn’t go for the whole time with your audience, just your actual PowerPoint presentation.
Try to spend the vast majority of your time in conversation with your prospect. What do they need? What do they have? What is their business model? How can you best serve them? That part doesn’t need to be short. But it should all be sweet.
8. Focus on effect
Unseasoned presenters like to concentrate their presentations on their product or service offerings. They spew out a list of benefits and features about their offering and maybe even use adjectives like “awesome,” “great,” and—wait for it—“industry-leading.”
But what, specifically, will your product or service offering and its many industry-leading benefits and features do for the audience? Spend your time there.
Sell results. What kind of effect will what you’re selling bring to buyers? That’s what they’re wondering.
9. Get creative
Don’t use antiquated PowerPoint animations; make the presentation creative. Here are a few ideas to get the juices going:
- Make it engaging by incorporating trivia or a game
- Leave them with a fun memento
- Crack jokes and, if they flop, crack jokes about the bad jokes you cracked
- Consider PowerPoint alternatives, especially non-electronic ones
- Explore unique presentation techniques like Pecha Kucha
Ultimately, the best way to keep your presentation engaging is to relax, be yourself and offer great value.