I remember one time sitting in the audience of a pitching event. There was one company with a complex niche product and a buzzkill presentation about it. Later I could only remember one awkward moment in the presentation.
Their slides were crammed with details in small font, I could barely see what was on there, let alone have the time to read it all. I realised I cannot listen to the speech and read the slides at the same time, so I decided to give my full attention to the speaker. I only listened and ignored the slides completely.
Ask ourself is your sales presentation helping or hurting you
Your big idea and how you deliver it are important in your presentation, but so are the visual aids you use. The visual aids are there to help to get your point across to your audience. In sales, that usually means your sales presentation.
Focusing on the next three things, forces you to clarify your pitch and make it easier for your audience to follow, understand and remember your idea.
Communicate one message per slide
Focus on what is relevant for your big idea. What are you bringing to the table with it; what is the value you provide your clients?
When you know what that is, communicate it clearly, concisely and keeping to the point. If your idea requires several arguments to back it up, then, either put each argument on one slide, or better yet, in the case of a sales presentation, make one Why [insert big idea]? slide. Otherwise your deck may become too long and difficult to follow. Dedicate one slide to explain what you are selling, another for what your client gets when they buy, another for what it costs etc.
Make it understandable and easy to process
A presentation is like a joke; if you have to explain it, it’s not that good. A slide needs to be understood in three seconds without too many, if any, further explanations from you. Also your audience can only process one idea at a time and do only one cognitive task at a time. Ideally they can have a quick look at the slide, understand it, and focus their attention back to you and what you are saying.
One fundamental issue many forget is that it is physically impossible for human beings to do two cognitive tasks at the same time. In regards to sales presentations, it means we cannot read and listen simultaneously.
When I had to choose between listening and reading
Now coming back to that one particular experience, which I told about in the beginning of this post: The time I chose listening over reading and ignored the slides completely.
At one point of the presentation, at the time of an exceptionally complex and crammed slide, the presenter points in a stiff and rehearsed manner to the slide and says “as you can see from the slide”. The speaker had decided not to even explain that point verbally, only to refer to the slide. Suffice to say, I did not get the message but still remember the awkwardness to this day. I had hoped I would have gotten the full picture by listening to the presentation, regarding the visual aids only as an aid.
We can only either listen or read – don’t force your audience to choose between the two.
Keep it simple and…
Keep it short
Keep it long enough to convey your message and short enough so that it only has room for relevant content. Don’t distract yourself or your audience with more than what you need to get your message across. Irrelevant content will only take away from your message and confuse your audience. Focus on the key message you want people to understand and remember. Be ruthless in determining what is relevant and what is not. Slash nonessentials.
In the end the length of your presentation and amount of slides used depends on the type of presentation you are giving. But for a sales presentation, for your thirty to sixty minute meeting, usually around ten is enough.
If the sales presentation is too long or complex, it’s probably a sign that you are not sure about what you want to say. And if you don’t know, how can your client know? And if they don’t know what you are trying to say, how would they know what to buy and why?
In conclusion, my short memorable advice to you is:
It’s visual aids not visual dominance. Keep to the point and keep it short.