tell a story

Tips #1: Tell a story

Most professional presenters (e.g. the TED folks) are usually masters at storytelling. Using a story to explain something is like using an example to explain a difficult concept, it helps people translating in their mind the theory into practice.
Also, it helps taking your audience on a journey with you, by letting them picturing what you’re pitching, and seeing themselves walking that very same path you’re describing.
You can actually compare your presentation to a movie script. Great movies have a rich scenario with ups and downs that captivate the spectator from beginning to end, keeping the audience’s attention high at all time.
Now, your story can be a consumer’s journey, an anecdote or a personal story as long as your audience can relate to it. e.g.: when advocating to transform the end user’s experience when dealing with “Forms”, relating to your last personal experience when applying for a Visa or doing your own tax return will be something that most people will also be able to relate to (unfortunately).

What if you don’t have a personal anecdote to tell? Well make it up and talk hypothetically. Don’t start inventing “true stories” though... you want to stay genuine.


Create an emotional connection

tips #2: Create an emotional connection

In line with the previous tip, you ideally want to make an emotional connection with your audience when telling your story. I don’t necessarily mean adding cute puppies to your presentation though some animal lovers might appreciate it but rather connecting on shared values and purpose. For example, knowing that your customers are invested in various charities and highlighting that you’ve helped similar organisations with their digital marketing initiatives will definitely increase your level of likability and generate trust.


Know your audience

Tips #3: Know your audience

It’s obvious, knowing and understanding your audience will help building a story that resonates with them.
You need to understand precisely who is in the room, their role, their personal objectives, their history with vendors, their affinities, their struggles and how they like to interact with you. Only then, you’ll be able to put yourself into their shoes, be relevant and make a difference.
The same applies when speaking at marketing events. Of course, you won’t know personally everyone in the room, but you should be able to get, from the marketing team organising the event, % on represented industries, job titles, companies size and more. They should even have detailed personas for the attendees that you can use to tailor your message.


Make it Visual

Tips #4: Make it visual

Most likely everyone has been victim one day in his life of ”Death by powerpoint”
This practice which usually implies hundreds of slides, each one more wordy and unreadable than the others can usually be identified by a high number of people looking at their smartphones…
I will not cover in details the do’s and don’ts with powerpoint (it deserves a separate article) but keep in mind those few things: "A picture is worth a thousand words”

  • The human brain retains way better visual information than text, 80% as opposed to 20% as highlighted in this great infographic by the neoman agency
  • The younger generation, do not want to read, they want to watch as evoked in a study done by Mary Visser with GenZ students.
  • Your slides shouldn’t distract your audience, they should be looking at you and hearing from you instead of trying to read your slides.
  • Don’t use your slides as notes to remember what you need to cover.
  • If you need the text on the slides because you're planning to send them after then do a separate pdf document.
  • Mixing nice imagery, diagrams, video, whiteboarding and discussions will break the monotony of your presentation and keep your audience more engaged.


It's not a race

Tips #5: It's not a race, take your time

Just remember one thing: Less is better.
Another pattern I see too frequently is people trying to pack within an hour as much information as they can, turning a meeting into an outbound marketing communication, overwhelming people with information.
Things to keep in mind to avoid that:

  • Interacting with your audience is key to make sure you're covering what's top of mind for them as well as making sure they are engaged throughout the presentation.
  • Going too fast can be overwhelming and hard to follow for your audience. Give them time to think and absorb what you're telling them.
  • Making good use of pauses while delivering a message will help breaking the monotony of your speech on top of building suspense for what you're about to say. Not to mention that you need it to breath properly.
  • if your audience is engaged and interested by your content, they'll usually extend the meeting to cover the other items and/or organise a follow up meeting.

Be flexible, do not stick to the script at all cost

Tips #6: Be flexible, do not stick to the script at all cost

Picture yourself working 3 days in a row on a product demonstration, customising it end to end with the customer's assets and 5min into the meeting, before you even got to show the cool stuff, the CMO decides he gets it and wants to hear about something totally different.
Sounds familiar?
Even if you've done proper discovery work prior, this can happen and you should plan for it.
"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong".
After all, "anything that can go wrong will go wrong". At this point, you have 2 choices, either carry on with your script and deliver that demo you worked so hard on or adapt and change gears. You should certainly not let your meeting derail from anyone's question however if your main stakeholder understand your point or if your point is not a key priority for him/her, don't waste his/her time and move on.
At that point, you might not have a slick demo or slideware ready to go to cover the requested point so that's where you need to breath, let go of your computer and turn the meeting into a discussion, potentially leveraging the whiteboard if you have one to illustrate visually the concepts, postponing the actual product demo to a later meeting (if required).


it's about your customer first

Tips #7: it's not about you or your company

When presenting to customers, we tend to put forward first what we have to sell and sometimes end up talking way too much about our company, how great we and our products are upfront. We all know too well the saying "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail"... Now instead of starting with the generic introduction of your company, your credentials, what you're great at doing, why not considering starting with your customers' challenges, the impact it has on their business and how you can help them addressing it. "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail".
Keep your gartner quadrant, your company's details, your customers cases for the end, when you've demonstrated that you understand their problems and that you have a solution for them, then put forward your credentials. this one is way more than a tip, it should be a philosophy.


Talk Value, not features

Tips #8: Talk Value

You can do the best demo or presentation, showing the coolest stuff you have in your bag, if you don't make it clear to the customer how it addresses his/her challenges and what value it delivers, it's all for nothing. People might be engaged, fully awake and you might even get some "Waows" but in the end, you haven't moved the needle for your audience.
"So What?" That's why, at every stage of your presentation, you need to translate every features you're showing into either operational or business level value for your audience. You need to question every bit of information you're delivering with this question: "Why does it matter to me?" while putting yourself in your audience's shoes.
There's nothing sadder than seeing a customer trying his best and struggling to link what he's hearing with his actual problems. So instead, make it easy for him/her!
This aspect is covered in few presentation methodologies including Demo2Win which is pretty popular amongst presales organisations. For those who haven't heard of it, I warmly recommend you to have a look at it.


Keep it simple

Tips #9: Keep it simple (and stupid)

There are few things behind that tip that are worth discussing.
Confusing your audience with complex concepts will either be interpreted as you showing off or worse as you not mastering the topic well enough to explain it in simple terms (to quote Mr Albert Einstein). After all, an idea can be spread and go viral only if it's easy to understand as well as easy to apply.
Also, keep in mind that people don't need to know all the details and in many case this will only bore and confuse them. Determine the level of information required by your audience, get the details ready in case they ask for it but otherwise, stay at a comprehensive and comfortable level for them.


your presentation tips

Tips #10: what about sharing your tips #10 with us?


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