Not every sales interaction requires a slide presentation. But when a presentation is appropriate, success in persuading your audience to believe or act as you hope depends on both your content and delivery.
If your presentation needs revamping, look at Ten Steps to a More Engaging Sales Presentation.
If your presentation is rock solid, make your delivery every bit as powerful. Lessons from prior training fade with time, so here are some reminders to keep you at the top of your game.
How you stand, move, establish eye contact, and speak determine how your audience perceives you. You may not be conscious of your bad habits. Break yours by video-recording your delivery. PCs, Macs, and tablets make this easier than ever. The table below highlights what you should look for. After the table are tips for breaking bad habits and establishing good ones.
Tips for breaking bad and establishing good habits
- 1) Keep idle hands out of your pockets
Sometimes it just takes a slight adjustment to break a bad habit. If you tend to put a hand in your pocket, sew or tape your pockets closed in your practice slacks or jacket. Women have an advantage here, being able to select slacks or skirts without pockets. While it may feel unnatural to you to have your hand at your side, it won’t look unnatural to your audience. Keep your hands at your side when you don’t have a reason to gesture. That will allow your audience to focus on your face and slides.
- 2) Only use hands to gesture
Speakers who successfully keep their hands out of their pockets have one other trap to avoid. You’ve probably seen even practiced presenters either wrap arms around their body or wring their hands in some way at the start. To resist this temptation, practice pressing your thumb to a finger of the same hand. Or use a presentation pointer to keep one hand usefully engaged.
- 3) Eliminate “um” and other stop words
We all occasionally utter an “um” or similar pause-words like “you know.” But frequent use of “um” or stop words conveys uncertainty, unpreparedness, and a lack of confidence. Practice taking a breath instead of uttering a sound or stop word when you need a moment to think. Your breath will make your pause look natural. Pauses are good, especially after an important point. Speakers who don’t pause enough may leave their audience behind.
- 4) Substitute confident eye contact for furtive glances
A lack of effective eye contact can also convey a lack of confidence. Not looking your audience in the eye and rapidly sweeping your eyes across the audience undermine your credibility. Focusing too much on a single member or a subset of your audience can offend.
When you videotape yourself, have either several sticky notes or magazine images taped to the wall as stand-ins for your audience members to practice making and holding eye contact for the length of a thought. Your eye contact sequence should not follow a discernable pattern.
- 5) Replace slouching with an erect stance
Shifting weight to one leg makes you look casual when you want to look energetic and respectful. If you have trouble breaking this habit, practice it when you engage in casual conversations. Ask family or friends to help you catch when you revert. That’ll help you become aware of when you do it.
- 6) Move with purpose
Movement exudes energy, but pacing signals nervousness. If you are a nervous pacer, go to the other extreme. Practice standing in one spot to finish discussing a slide. In general, it’s a good idea to stand in one spot for the first minute of your presentation so your audience gets comfortable with you. Practiced speakers use movement to emphasize their words (e.g., move to one side for a “before” story and another side for the “after” story) or to introduce a new slide or point.
Small changes can make presenting more enjoyable for you and your audience. The first step is recording yourself to detect habits that may be sending the wrong signals to your audience. It only takes a little practice and a few clever tricks to replace unconscious habits with a more powerful presence.
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