Pitch dark or pitch power?

Pitch dark or pitch power?

Presentation skill is one of the critical ingredients in successful selling and pitching to your customers. No matter how strong your message: if you don't present with persuasion, if you don't work to a good structure, if you are unable to persuade your audience, if you don't involve your audience, you could well get that glazed over look coming from your most valued customer or prospect.

So your presentations and pitches need power!

Plan it!

The first ingredient in delivering powerful presentations is planning. You need to have a plan - you need to find out what you're going to say, to whom and how. In planning your presentation, you must first analyse who your audience is: who are the key influencers and decision makers?

What will they be expecting from the presentation? Are there any issues that should be avoided?

In deciding what to present, you need to ask: What is the desired response you want your customer to think or do as a result of the presentation? What are the key benefits that your customer should leave with?

Open it!

To grab your customer's attention, it is vital to start off strongly with a relevant and impactful opening. Your opening should establish common ground with your audience.

It should give them a word picture or visualisation, something that draws them into the presentation.

If you are trying to sell technology, as we so often do, try opening with something topical that grabs attention and ties back to the core of what you are wanting to say.

For example: "You are right in the middle of a revolution - the Internet revolution! Just think how the Internet is reshaping the way you work, communicate and trade. That's why it's critical to choose the right Internet tools to keep your business ahead of the game."

Prop it!

It is also important to plan how you are going to deliver it. What props or visual aids are you going to use? Will you be using a tool like Microsoft's PowerPoint? Whatever you use, make sure your props or visual aids highlight your key points or issues. Keep them simple and to the point to capture audience interest. If you are using PowerPoint, it is advisable to remember the following guidelines when designing your slides if you want to avoid "overload" or "underwhelm".

The fewer words you use, the better

Use brief bullet points and expand on them in your talkUse bold large fontsUse a contrasting background to your textDon't use too much animation that becomes distractingDon't let your slides rule your presentation - it is important that you involve your audienceEyeball it!

If you want to involve your customer, use eye contact. Look directly at your customers, especially the key influencers, when you are presenting. Another technique to encourage their participation is asking questions as you go. Asking questions keeps your audience on their toes and in tune. It makes them think. It encourages participation. It tells you that you are on the right track and that you haven't lost them. It is really useful to pre-plan your questions and use them to clarify points and emphasise what you are saying.

Practise it!

Finally, before you present, make sure you practise. Before every presentation, run through it on your own - out loud, over and over again.

When you are rehearsing, it helps to anticipate the sort of questions your customers are likely to ask. The more you practise, the better you will present!

Suzie Rogers is managing partner of Forte Communications. She can be contacted on

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