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11 ways to make your next presentation a sure-fire success

January 25, 2016 by Andy Bounds

Sales presentations{{}}People ask me loads of questions about presentations. So here are 11 FAQs and answers that can help you transform your presentations.

Q1: How do I engage audiences immediately?

By doing something engaging at the start. For example:

  • Use intriguing words/phrases - "I want to share a secret with you - something that nobody outside this room knows".
  • Use an emotive adjective - "We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
  • Use an emotive verb - "I'm really excited to be speaking to you today. Because…"
  • Teach them something - "Did you know…?"
  • Ask a question.
  • Tell a story.

Q2: How do I keep them engaged?

Keep doing engaging things. Think of all the things audiences like - stories, humour, impressive visuals and so on. And ensure you do at least one of them every one to two minutes.

Q3: What's the most important thing about presentations?

There are two - the beginning and the end. The start must engage - use one of the starts suggested in Q1 above, deliver it with lots of energy, have a good title and ensure Slide One looks impressive.

And the end must contain a Call To Action. If it doesn't, your audience won't act. For example, if your last slide says "thank you", they'll merely say "you're welcome" and then leave. If it says "Next steps", there'll be some.

Q4: What's the best way to structure a presentation?

The answer to Q3 showed how to start and end. But what about everything in between? Well, there are two structures that work well.

Firstly, to build a logical argument, use the 4Ps:

  • Position - the world currently looks like X.
  • Problem - and the problem with Position X is…
  • Possibilities - three solutions to this Problem are…
  • Propose - I suggest we do option Y because…

Or use this structure to build buy-in to change:

  • Why it's needed - explain the problems with the current situation.
  • Future vision - the ideal future we want to get to.
  • How we'll get there - everyone's actions, to move from the current situation to the desired future.
  • How we'll overcome our barriers - the things that might get in the way, and how we'll remove them.

Q5: How do I stop people looking at my slides?

One excellent way: don't use them. Or, minimise the words on them, so there's nothing to read. And/or press "B" or "W" to black/white the screen, so they can't see them.

Q6: How do I improve my slides?

The key rule: avoid bullet points. Trust me on this: nobody loves them. There's always a better way to present information. For example, click on the PowerPoint tool SmartArt (in the Insert tab) and you'll see loads of formats - barcharts, flowcharts etc - you can drop your points into. Also, high-quality images work well. Go to Google images, type in your keywords and you'll find hundreds of them.

Q7: How can I make my presentations more interactive?

Ask questions. Obvious, I know. But people rarely think their questions are part of the presentation. Instead, they prepare their slides, and practise their run-through - but they don't script/practise questions. Which means they tend not to ask any. So it isn't interactive.

Also, when thinking of questions, ensure they're thought-provoking - "Which of these five benefits will your customers find most valuable?"; not bland - "Any questions? Anybody? Please? Nobody? OK then..."

Q8: What if I overrun?

Never, ever finish late. Even if the audience seems to love what you're saying, you finishing late makes them late for the next thing in their diary. Trust me on this: they won't ever be grateful to you for this.

Here's a very handy hint: when you need to jump ahead in your slides, simply press the slide number you want to go to and the Return key - you'll jump straight there. The audience won't know you've jumped. Of course, you need to know what the slide numbers are; so, print them out in advance.

Q9: What if the IT doesn't work?

Don't rely on it. Take a paper copy with you, so you have notes to present from.

Q10: How do I remember everything?

Use notes. But put these notes on a hand-held card/piece of paper on your desk, not on the big shiny screen that your audience is looking at. Your notes help only you; the screen helps only them.

Q11: How do I handle my nerves?

Lots of ways, including:

  • Think in advance of the AFTERs - in other words, why your audience - and you - will be better off AFTER the presentation. Will you have helped them save time, be more productive, make better decisions, have less risk? And how will them getting these AFTERs benefit you?
  • Practise. A lot...
  • ...especially the start. Know exactly what your first two or three sentences will be. When they come out OK, the rest tends to follow.
  • Front-load your presentation with your best bits. Saving your best stuff for later isn't as good - they might have switched off if you don't grab them early.
  • Make it shorter and more interactive. It's very daunting to open your mouth thinking "right, I'm the only one in this room who's speaking for the next 60 minutes". It's much easier when you think "right, we're having an interactive chat for the next 20 minutes".

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds. Andy is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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How to prepare for a successful TEDx talk

December 14, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to prepare for a successful TEDx talk{{}}TED talks and the independently organised TEDx talks are hugely popular with both speakers and their audiences. An opportunity to speak at such an event is on the bucket list for many people, so when I was invited to speak I jumped at the chance.

And yet ten years ago, I had a debilitating fear of speaking in front of groups. The turning point came for me one day in a team meeting. I was so nervous I couldn’t give a short five minute update and someone else had to step in whilst the entire room looked at me. I was mortified. That day I decided to do something about my situation.

Joining Toastmasters enabled me to improve both my confidence and my speaking performance. When you join you get a manual with ten speech projects that help you gradually build your confidence and skills as a speaker. The great thing about having a structure to follow is that you hone your speech writing style and understand the value of preparing your material well.

Here's how I prepared for my TEDx talk, which was entitled Why women need to speak up; a subject very close to my heart.

Preparation

I wanted to share my message at TEDx without notes and be as conversational as possible. I also wanted to include facts and figures that supported my message. I spent many hours researching my material, writing and rewriting my speech and rehearsing so that I felt comfortable enough to speak in front of a live audience as well as a video camera. Preparation helps you feel comfortable enough to get out of your head and just be present in the moment to really connect with your audience.

Timing

All TED talks have a cut-off point of 18 minutes, and for good reason; people’s attention spans are limited so you have to get your ideas across quickly.

At Toastmasters, speeches are timed to ensure that the meeting finishes on time but also to help you learn how to keep to time.

Working through my speeches within the club helped me understand how to craft and deliver my message within a designated time slot. Also, when you’re really familiar with your material and know what it feels like to speak for five minutes or 30 minutes you can adapt when you get thrown a curve ball.

Quite often meetings or seminars go over time because other speakers haven’t prepared properly. This has a knock on effect.  So, when the chair says “unfortunately now you only have half the time to get your message across” you can quickly adjust and deliver.

Evaluation

At Toastmasters every speech is evaluated. Practising in front of a live audience week after week and getting this feedback has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my development as a speaker.

Far too many presenters don’t understand that the audience experience is key. Rehearsing and testing your material is crucial to ensure you engage your audience and create a good experience for them. Getting feedback helps you understand what the audience sees and hears.

Final thoughts

I used to be terrified of speaking in public, but with focus and effort I got to a stage where I felt confident and competent - and now I really enjoy it.

Whether you are as terrified as I used to be, or you simply want to ensure your talk is the best it can be - follow my advice and you’ll ensure your moment in the TEDx spotlight is a success.

Copyright © 2015 Jay Surti is a member of Toastmasters International.

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Ace your next presentation - tell a story!

November 23, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Ace your next presentation - tell a story!{{}}

A key skill for marketing professionals is being able to create presentations that stick. Whether you are looking to win more budget internally or to pitch a new client - by harnessing the power of business story-telling, you can stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.

Stories are powerful tools. They change how we think and feel about something, so a well-structured story takes your audience on a journey they'll always remember.

Still, many marketing professionals don't know how to use story-telling in their presentations. There are several key things to remember:

Facts

First, do your research. Double check any facts and figures; don't be caught out by claiming something incorrect.

Structure

Once you have your information to hand, start assembling it into a story - this is your script. Your presentation should have a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as an overarching narrative. Work out any obstacles, find solutions and create a central character. Write these down and don't worry about editing in the beginning.

Review

Take a break from what you've written and go back to it with fresh eyes. Focus on why your idea will appeal to your audience and cut out anything that seems unclear or non-essential. Your watch-words for this process should be clarity, accuracy and efficiency.

Messaging

What do you want your audience to remember? The bottom line is always the most important thing. Once you've developed succinct and engaging content, you need to distill the take-away message down to one sentence.

Design

Design is essential for making a good first impression. You have limited time: people take just 15 seconds to make an initial judgement. The software you choose can help get you noticed. Everyone knows about Microsoft PowerPoint but there are new alternatives out there that you can also use - Google Slides and Prezi are two of the more popular ones.

Six more key things to remember are:

  • Keep text to a minimum. Think headlines, not paragraphs. Less is more;
  • Highlight the main messages – use bold and font size to emphasis what you want people to focus on and remember;
  • Focus on one thought at a time and stick to one idea per image;
  • Use colour wisely. Use Adobe's color wheel to pick a complimentary colour palette and use it consistently;
  • Use great photography. Invest a small amount of money (£5-£30) in buying images from an image library like istockphoto to make your presentation stand out. But avoid having lots of photos without a purpose;
  • Choose a business-style font that sets the right tone – a sans-serif font for a factual approach, and a serif font to give a more stylish impression.

Remember that the visual impression you give is just as important as developing excellent content, as illustrated in this Prezi.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer Waldron, UK country manager of presentation software company Prezi.

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Four simple ways to improve your presentations

November 03, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Four simple ways to improve your presentations{{}}Do you love giving presentations? I thought not; most people don't.

Here are four simple techniques that boost two key things - your confidence and your chances of success. They are:

  • First impressions
  • Links
  • Involvement
  • Passion

They're easy to remember - the initial letters spell FLIP.

First impressions

How you start sets the tone for everything. Have a great first sentence and your next ones will probably go well. Have a shaky opener and it will impact on the rest.

So, practise your start. A lot. As a simple guide: spend 20% of your preparation time on the first 2% of your presentation.

And don't just practise it in your head. Say it out loud. Go to the venue beforehand and say it there… anything that ensures you're good on the day.

Another important element of your first impression is your title. It's going to be hard to wow a room if your presentation's called "Q2 update". It's much easier if it's called "Three things our competitors can never do".

Doing all this will take about 10-15 minutes. Not a lot when you think about the huge impact it will have on your audience.

Links between slides

Good links between slides give your presentation flow and pace. But most presenters don't consider how to link slides together. Often, they use the next slide to prompt them. But if you can see the slide, so can your audience. So they know what you're about to say.

It is well worth scripting how you'll go from one slide to the next. Then say it before you click on the next slide.

Here's an example: slide 8 discusses finances; slide 9 covers messages. So, after covering slide 8's content but while that slide is still showing, you'd say: "So, as you can see, the finances are strong. Let's now see how we'll achieve these numbers, through better messaging."

And then you'd click to bring up slide 9.

Again, it doesn't take long to script your links. So it's minimal work for a great return.

Involvement

Audiences prefer to be involved in some way - it's much better for them than just sitting, watching and listening for hours. So get them involved. Options include:

  • Ask them to write something down;
  • Give them a quick exercise to do with their neighbour;
  • Do a quick quiz;
  • Show them something funny, so they're involved by laughing;
  • Ask questions.

Passion

Audiences like presenters who show passion. And they switch off from those who don't have it. So find your passion. And make sure it comes out in your presentation. You should feel passionate about at least one of these:

  • Your content;
  • The afters - why you/the audience/others will be better off afterwards;
  • Your job;
  • Your company

So try using FLIP next time you're presenting. As long as each of the FLIPs are there, you've a great chance of impressing your audience.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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Posted in Sales | Tagged presentation(s), PowerPoint | 1 comment

What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you...

October 05, 2015 by Andy Bounds

What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you…{{}}The Sales Executive Council (SEC) has found that salespeople behave in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Here's what they found.

(As you read this, ask yourself two questions: "Which am I?" and "Which is best?")

The relationship builder

  • Gets along with everyone;
  • Builds strong advocates in organisations;
  • Is generous in giving time to others.

The reactive problem solver

  • Reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders;
  • Ensures that all problems are solved;
  • Detail-orientated.

The lone wolf

  • A bit of a maverick - follows their own instincts;
  • Self-assured;
  • Can be difficult to control.

The hard worker

  • Always willing to go the extra mile;
  • Doesn't give up easily;
  • Self-motivated;
  • Interested in feedback and development.

The challenger

  • Has a different view on the world;
  • Understands the customer's business;
  • Loves to debate, often creating "positive tension" with the customer to help arrive at the best outcome.

Those two questions again:

  1. Which are you?
  2. Which is best?

The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers. In other words, those who provoke customer thinking.

So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship; the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution.

The rationale here is: customers don't always know what's best for them. As Henry Ford famously said "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".

The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think "Well I'd never thought of it like that". When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them; and for you.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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Seven ways to improve your sales proposals

September 01, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Seven ways to improve your sales proposals{{}}Persuading people to do what you want is hard; especially if you aren't there to do it – which happens when someone has asked you to submit a written proposal.

Here are seven quick ways to make your proposals more persuasive:

  1. Agree your solution before writing it.
  2. Agree the layout before writing it.
  3. Agree the follow-up before writing it.
  4. Ensure your titles engage ("Our proposal" doesn't).
  5. Ensure your emails impress.
  6. Include a timeline.
  7. Make it easy to read.

1. Agree your solution before writing it

You are more persuasive than any piece of paper could ever be. So, don't rely on your proposal to do your selling for you. Instead, make your proposals a confirmation, not an exploration.

In other words, agree your proposed solution verbally during your meetings with your prospect. Then use your proposal to confirm with her what you've already agreed.

This is much better than using your proposal to explore possibilities you haven't discussed with her yet. (A good check: you should be able to write "as discussed" before every sentence in your proposal).

Benefits: it's more likely to work; it's much quicker to write.

2. Agree the layout before writing it

It's also important to agree with her what you'll write in the proposal. If you don't, you're guessing what she wants to read. And you'll be wrong. You'll write too much. And it'll take ages to think what to put in there. And, even then, she won't read much of it.

To bring this up in your meeting, simply say "I don't want to bore you by sending irrelevant information. So let's agree what the headings of the proposal will be".

How can she possibly refuse? She isn't going to say: "It's ok - be irrelevant".

Benefits: it's much quicker to write; she's more likely to open it instantly, because it contains exactly what she asked for.

3. Agree the follow-up before writing it

If you've ever written a proposal, you'll have experienced the Black Hole of Doom that many proposals fall into. You send it. You don't hear back. You then worry - do you chase (and maybe annoy her) or wait (and feel powerless)?

The simplest way to resolve this: agree before sending it when you'll speak afterwards. Something like "So, I'll confirm what we've agreed in a proposal for you. When shall we speak again, to discuss it?"

Benefits: you keep momentum high; no Black Hole of Doom.

4. Ensure your titles impress

Most proposal titles are dull - "Our proposal" and the like. And the section titles can also be dull – "About us", "Our experience", "Our track record"…

But titles drive everything. They're a document's first impression. So they have to draw the reader in. You know this to be true – after all, if this wasn't the case, every article in every newspaper would have the title "More news".

For the title of your proposal, include her number one priority. So, if it's to increase market share in Belgium, call it "Proposal: how we'll increase your market share in Belgium".

For the sections, think what she'll find most interesting in that section, and put that in the title.

For example, I recently helped a large IT company win a £multi-million contract with a customer that wanted to improve their competitive advantage. We changed one section's title from "Our cutting-edge IT" to "How our cutting-edge IT will transform your competitive advantage" – much more interesting to the client.

Benefits: great first impression; the prospect reads everything.

5. Ensure your emails impress

If you email your proposal, she'll have read lots of things before even looking at it. Ensure they all impress:

Covering email title: Not just "Your proposal". Instead, something like "As discussed: our proposal about increasing your market share in Belgium".

Covering email: Make it short; after all, you want her to open the proposal. But it must be well written and benefits-rich; plus remind her of the follow-up you've already agreed.

Your attachment: The attachment file name will probably be similar to your email title. This is much better than a proposal file name I saw recently – "Proposal TS000625April15".

Benefits: great first impression (plus, you don't undo all the good work you've done so far.)

6. Include a timeline

When people buy, they want certainty. So, help her visualise how things will go. Timelines work really well for this. They clearly show who is doing what, by when. And that, the sooner she agrees to go ahead, what will happen immediately. Always good for building pace.

Benefits: clarity of offering; injects pace into the process as she sees what she'll get the minute she says yes.

7. Make it easy to read

I know you think she'll print out your proposal, turn off her email, put the phone on divert, go into her favourite room with a cup of tea and devour it over many hours…
But she won't.

It will be a skim-read, where she's searching for the content she's most interested in.

So, it must be easy to read quickly:

  • Short paragraphs – four lines maximum;
  • Short sentences.
  • Short phrases/words. So turn things like "prior to the commencement of" to "before".

None of these seven approaches take more time than you currently spend on proposals. In fact, most reduce it.

So, seven ways to write better proposals… and in less time. Good for the customer; good for you.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

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