The Successful Presenter

Communicate When It Counts

Sales Conference Eliminates Slides, Saves Money & Generates Results

Effective Sales Presentations At Conference
This past fall, I had the pleasure of working on a project that verified everything I believe about effective presentations in general, and successful sales presentations specifically.

What do I believe? You can enhance your presentation success and improve your sales results by telling your story effectively, while minimizing the slides you use or eliminating them altogether.

I was hired by a mutual fund company to provide presentation training to portfolio managers in advance of the company’s bi-annual sales conference in San Diego, CA. The conference was attended by retail investment advisors and was an important sales opportunity for the firm; investment advisors are its primary retail sales channel.

The purpose of the training was to help all portfolio managers shape their stories and tell them effectively in an interactive format. The goal was to create a conversational atmosphere that encouraged engagement, questions and dialogue with the audience. The assumption was that this would strengthen relationships and enhance sales results.

The portfolio managers were divided into six presentation teams according to investment style. For about five weeks prior to the conference, each team participated in five or six two-hour training sessions and rehearsals.

Using my strategic approach, which is
freely available to everyone, I first helped each team shape its story for a 45-minute presentation on how they manage money to help clients achieve their financial goals. The remainder of training then focused on helping them tell their stories effectively, while answering questions clearly and concisely.

PowerPoint-Free Zones Enhance Sales Presentation Results
Slide-Free Zones
As the content development process unfolded, all breakout sessions became slide-free zones. This was not necessarily done by design, but it became clear to everyone that very few, if any, visuals would be needed to tell each team’s investment story effectively.

As an added bonus, the company saved US $10,000 by not using slide projectors during the breakout sessions.

And, instead of handing out thick, cumbersome copies of presentation slides at the conference (the previous conference provided a 176-page book of two slides per page that was likely never read), a short feature article (500-800 words) was written to recap each breakout session. The logic was that investment advisors could use these articles in subsequent sales discussions with their clients.

Finally, the group established the objective of generating a Q-Ratio equal to or greater than one for each breakout session. In other words, the portfolio managers would strive to answer more than 45 questions during their 45-minute breakout session, while still completing their presentation content and finishing on time.

The logic is simple. More questions from the audience equals more interest and more engagement. Interest and engagement are critical to sales success.

Results Demonstrate Success
The breakout sessions generated as many as 50 to 80 questions and exceeded a Q-Ratio of 1. Some of the comments on evaluations included:
  • Very interactive, especially amongst the fund managers. Hope to see this more often at future conferences.
  • Outstanding in every sense.
  • Great interaction during the conference.
  • Interactive and informative. Very enjoyable.
  • The best conference of its kind that I’ve ever attended.
All speakers achieved a rating equal to or greater than 4.0 out of 5.0, with a median grade of 4.3. This is an amazing accomplishment, especially with a group of investment advisors, who are arguably one of the most difficult audiences to please. To put this into perspective, the final keynote speaker (Michael Lewis of Moneyball fame), achieved a rating of 4.5.

In addition:
  • Ninety-six per cent of attendees rated the investment team as industry-leading (36%) or strong (61%). Four per cent rated the investment team as average. For many attendees, this was their first opportunity to meet the investment team.
  • Seventy-one per cent of attendees said they would be more willing to recommend this company’s investment products to their clients.
  • Seventy-seven per cent of attendees said they will make this mutual fund company one of the top three mutual fund companies that they recommend to their clients.
Based on the success of not using PowerPoint to develop content, many of the portfolio managers are now saying that they plan to adopt this approach in all presentations—everything from internal presentations to their teams to road shows that promote products and services.

At the start of the process, portfolio managers had difficulty understanding how they could deliver presentations without using slides. At the end of the conference, it was clear to everyone that minimizing the slides they use in presentations is the way forward to enhance engagement, understanding and sales success.

Relaxed Conversation: Your Best Style

Whenever we deliver a presentation, we need to achieve two goals: convey our message; convey our personality. Each of us achieves those goals every day in relaxed conversation.

The fundamental premise, therefore, is that relaxed conversation is our best possible presentation style. This video examines why it’s important to have the same conversation with the group that you had one-on-one.

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Two Changes to PowerPoint Could Make the World a Better Place




I’ve given the issue much deliberation and I’ve come to the conclusion that the next edition of PowerPoint (or Keynote or any other slideware program) should encompass two changes. These two simple changes would not only improve presentations and other forms of face-to-face communication, they would also have the potential to make the world a better place.

The first change is quite simple. For all-text slides, no font smaller than 96 point. This would solve a number of problems.

PowerPoint slide for presentaiton skills
´┐╝First and foremost, it would reduce the amount of information that someone can cram onto a slide, as the sample here demonstrates. The person presenting would never have to ever again say “I know you probably can’t see this” because everyone would be able to see it!

Second, this change would make it virtually impossible for presenters to put their notes on-screen. Ever wondered what causes bullet-point boredom? Now you know. (Of course, the best way to avoid bullet-point boredom among audiences is to never, ever use PowerPoint as a content development tool. Instead, use the free workbook available from this website.)

Third, a minimum 96-point font would also solve the problem of presenters reading to their audiences. (As an aside, for those who feel compelled to read their presentations to us word-by-word, I would like to express a sentiment that the entire world shares: In the name of all that is beautiful and gentle on this planet, please stop.)

Finally, presenters who feel compelled to create all-text presentations will not be able to use much text, especially when we consider the second change I propose.

Link PowerPoint to User’s Bank Account
The second change is radical, but possible. It would improve presentations, and has the potential to make the world a better place in which to live.

Every PowerPoint user would be required to link the program to his or her bank account. They would be allowed four slides per presentation (which, by the way, includes the title slide).

For every additional slide, the program would automatically transfer twenty-five dollars (or the equivalent in pounds, euros, francs or yen) from their bank account to the bank account of their favourite charitable organization.

Think of it. More than 40 million presentations will be produced today. If we conservatively estimate 30 slides per presentation, we end up with more than one billion extraneous slides (40 million x 26). That’s $25 billion per day pouring into the coffers of charitable organizations the world over—or more than $125 billion per working week.

If people didn’t change their behaviour, we could tackle homelessness, hunger and health care around the world in less than a month. Half a trillion dollars goes a long way.

Heck, after a few months, we could focus on tackling the budget deficits of most major nations on the planet.

Of course, this is a no-lose proposition. If presenters do change their behaviour and live within the four slide limit (and focus on creating conversations with audiences rather than dumping data), the world would still become a better place for everyone.

The moral? Listen more than you talk

I recently had a meeting with the director of strategic initiatives for a nation-wide presentation and staging company, who heard me speak at an IABC/Toronto evening event.

He was intrigued by my comments on PowerPoint, one of which is my belief that for one of the first times in human history, we have developed a communication technology that actually decreases our ability to communicate effectively.

He e-mailed me after the event to say that he sees “dozens and dozens of power point presentations every year. Much of the content (and the format) is underwhelming – even the font size,” adding that “I don’t think I will ever look at a power point presentation in the future without thinking of your comments.”

What can I say? As my kids will tell you, the quickest way to get something out of the old man is to pay him a compliment, so I suggested that we meet and chat about my perspective on the use of visual aids.

During our meeting, he showed me some of the visuals he uses for pitches to prospective clients. I must admit that the part that really intrigued me was the way they develop artist renderings to help carefully plan client events, which are then compared with photographs of the actual event.

The story here is that the company carefully works with its clients to plan events, which significantly increases the chances of achieving the success the client is seeking.

This is probably a good place for a visual aid, because it supports the company’s story; they carefully plan and execute events for their clients. But I did question the inclusion of an organizational chart. I didn’t think it added any value whatsoever.

During our conversation, he told me a story of when he worked in the broadcasting industry and three advertising companies were pitching for business. Two brought visual aids and were highly focused on delivering their message. One brought no visual aids, but focused on listening carefully and creating a meaningful conversation with a prospective client.

Guess who got the contract? The agency that listened more than it talked.

The moral? Listen more than you talk

If you’re pitching business, the emphasis should always be on the prospect, not on getting through your presentation. Read more...