Death by PowerPoint

Death by PowerPoint

The convergence of voice, video and data is poised to generate huge changes in the way we communicate and educate one another. We've already seen multimedia technology give the business presenter a multitude of fascinating tools to enhance business and sales presentations. The benefits are many: building images, introducing video clips and animation, the ability to make changes at the last minute . . . at Rogen we recommend them all.

However, as we start to complement existing technology with each enhancement, beware of letting the visual aids dominate your sales presentation. We see this on a regular basis, particularly in the IT industry. It's the well-known and dreaded "Death by PowerPoint". (See How to Deliver a Better PowerPoint Presentation ).

All around the country at conferences, sales kick-offs, sales pitches and team briefings, business presenters are placing a giant barrier between themselves and the audience, which means that any connection with the audience is impossible. This usually occurs because of one of the following reasons:

1. The presenter incorporates such a stunning array of video, sound effects, animation and complex diagrammatic material that listeners are more interested in how on earth it was done, rather than what is being said.

2. The audience is anaesthetised by the sheer volume of busy PowerPoint slides. I once worked with a senior executive on an important 20-minute conference address. He had 65 slides! Many were highly technical, and after working on his presentation, we reduced it to five lean and purposeful slides.

The way to get around this is to make sure the visuals add to your presentation, rather than subtract from it by keeping all the attention off you. Presentations are about people talking to each other, not about computers talking to people - even if you're showcasing a technology product.

If you are using PowerPoint, to avoid it dominating your sales presentation, use key points on which you can expand. Using bullet points also adds a degree of credibility to your presentation - you are seen to be doing more than simply reading from a slide.

Insert a few blank slides so the client will pay attention to you, rather than the visuals.

Break up your presentation. Don't be afraid to add a bit of variety. Kill the computer for a while and use a flipchart, overhead or boards - and at times don't use any. Sit down and chat. Move around the room. And above all, give your audience a chance to get to know you and your sales team.

You, not the screen, are the presenter. People buy big-ticket items from people, not machines. The visual aid is not the product or service you're selling; it is only helping you sell the product or service. Your audience take-out should not be, "Gee, they were great visual aids . . ."

The take-out should be, "I'm sold!"

Jeff Sheard is sales director for Asia-Pacific of Rogen International.

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