Are you still presenting like it's 1999?

By: Spencer Waldron

Date: 15 November 2016

Are you still presenting like it's 1999?In the past few years there has been a sea change in the world of marketing and another one in the world of sales. And guess what? They're connected.

We no longer buy stuff the way we used to. We don't want to be marketed to or be sold to in the same way anymore. That's why inbound marketing came about and why the concept of the challenger sale has risen to prominence.

So a lot of us changed our marketing practices and changed our sales approach; but the humble presentation doesn't seem to have been updated in the same way. Most of us are still presenting like it's 1999.

Taking the leap

We all resist change. Change can be scary and, let's face it, the way we present hasn't changed in a long time. But those of us willing to take the leap are the ones that will win, the ones that will stand out.

When you go to a meeting with a potential client the same thing always happens. You exchange pleasantries and then you open your laptop to present. It's as if another person just entered the room. Everyone looks at the laptop.

The presentation dictates where the conversation goes. That's exactly the same as interruption marketing. Something that we all agree is not an effective way to do business. That's why we changed.

So how do we move presentations forward? The chances are that when you go to present to someone you will know 80-90% of the possible questions they might ask. You also know your products and your market inside out. Of course, each potential client will ask different questions. That's the tricky bit - but it also presents a valuable opportunity.

Questions come first

When I talk on a stage I always say to the audience that asking questions is the most important part of my presentation because that's when they get to ask me what they really want to know, rather than just listening to what I have decided to talk about. That's the point. You need to know what it is that they're interested in first, before you can make a big impact with your presentation.

This is where "conversational presenting" comes in. I don't mean just talking in a conversational style as opposed to a formal style. This is something entirely different. It's about disrupting decades of ingrained behaviour when it comes to giving presentations.

In the past, people used to have one deck and they'd present that to every person they met. Then we evolved into having a core presentation deck that stayed the same and we'd personalise it, depending on who we were presenting to, with relevant additional slides.

Conversational presenting

Conversational presenting is about building a beautiful presentation that has all the content you could ever need in a meeting (but you may only use a quarter of it each time) and which is designed in a way that makes the content completely flexible and accessible.

So what could the structure of a conversational presentation look like?

It would start with a conversation. Walk into the room, put your laptop (or better still a tablet) on the table and start talking. This is a mixture of a discovery talk to find out what the customer wants to know from you in the next 30 minutes, and then looking for a way that you can challenge the way they do business. From that conversation you can work out which sections you need to show them from your presentation.

The end point

It's important to mention here that as a sales person you must control the end point - the end of the presentation, the call to action, the close. You know where you need to get your customer to. The powerful thing about conversational presenting is that you can get them there in a way that feels natural, tailored and engaging. And it will be different for each person you present to.

It's time to turn things around. So don't let the presentation drive the discussion - make sure the conversation controls the presentation.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2016 Spencer Waldron is European regional director of presentation software company Prezi.