Sunday, February 3, 2008

What's Your Point?

I took a couple of business prospects to a presentation last Monday. The prospects were eager to see the business, the speaker had been part of our team for several years, he was making great money and was very successful. And yet neither of my prospects joined my team. Why? Because I hate to admit it, but even I got lost during the presentation and I already knew how it worked. And the presentation I said would be 30 minutes long wound up being almost 90 minutes in length. By the time it was all over, my guests wanted nothing more than to bolt for the door and head for home.

Why do most people want to use twelve words when two will do? And what makes them think we are interested in every incident in their lives? The stories may be funny to some people, but when you're trying to get your point across, less is definitely more. Rambling, drawn out presentations only lose everybody trying to listen.

When making a presentation or sharing your business with a prospective client, get to the point quickly. You'll hold your listener's attention much more effectively. Since most people think faster than they speak or listen, if you start to ramble, their thoughts will wander to other things. And you want their attention focused on what you have to say. If you are dealing with a younger person, it's especially critical. It has been scientifically proven that younger people have much shorter attention spans. Their brains are used to processing short bursts of information. These products of the computer and video game era aren't going to sit still for your epic presentation. So lay out your bottom line quickly and succcintly. The Gettysburg Address is 272 words - a mere 10 sentences long. And yet it is regarded as one of the most greatest speeches in history.

How can you become better at making a presentation? Preparation and practice. First, listen to some speakers you like and who capture their audience's attention. Observe other business presentations and note what kept your focused and what caused your mind to wander. Then prepare your own presentation. Make an outline of points you want to make to help keep you on track, but don't write the entire presentation. You'll be too tempted to just read it and that' another no-n0.

Now the most important part - PRACTICE! Give your presentation to your family, your friends, your colleagues - anyone who will listen and give you constructive criticism. Rehearse until you feel completely comfortable. If possible, tape yourself so you can hear and see for yourself how look and sound.

Don't let poor presentations skills cost you business. Keep it short, keep it pertinent, make it interesting, and PRACTICE!


Mary Eileen said...

This is a wonderful post with great advice! I've been making presentations for years but your reminder that brevity is usually best really struck home. From now on, if I start to see eyes glazing over, I'll remember your words. Thank you!

BeverlyM said...

An excellent post! Some of the best presentations I've everheard were done in 20 minutes or LESS, had a little humor and pitched me without even knowing I had been pitched!

I always take notes from the best speakers because that helps ME.

Heidi Caswell said...

Yes, I'd rather listen to a 20 minute presentation, with humor, than a boring 90 minute deal.