How to Make a Good Sales Presentation Great – The Role of the Presenter

A presentation is a performance. And while it may be true that some people are naturally better performers than others, it is also true that a few solid presentation techniques along with some serious practice can transform an ordinary presenter into a masterful one. And to achieve mastery, you must first understand your role as a presenter. So, here’s the score.

When faced with a major sales presentation–or even a minor one–it’s common practice for presenters to prepare by cramming as much “stuff” as they can on their PowerPoint slides. These presenters believe they need all that “stuff” to persuade the audience to make a buying decision. They are convinced that their role as a presenter is just to spit it all out. Big mistake!

The reality is, when you take center stage at the front of the room, when you turn on your computer to turn on your PowerPoint, your job is to turn on your audience. All the content in the world will not do that for you. It’s your presence that counts–because people buy from people they like. So it’s your job as presenter to be likable.

Simply put, as a presenter, your role is to be the star of the talk show. When you shine, you are likable. And when you are likable, your audience turns on to you and to the product or service you are selling.

That’s not to imply there is no place for detail. Of course there is. But it’s not on the screen. You wrote it in the proposal that got you to center stage in the first place. It goes in the handout you pass around just before the Q&A so you can refer to it when appropriate. It may also be in the promotional materials or brochures you leave behind.

So, let’s examine what great performers do and how, as a presenter, you can do it too–because great performers have several key traits in common, traits that make an audience tune in and turn on day after day or week after week. These are the traits that turn good performers into stars.

Now, I’m not talking about actors who skilfully deliver their lines in a play or a movie. The performers I mean are talk show hosts or news anchors or MCs who keep an audience listening to every word or keep a game show moving right along. Nobody expects you to become the Howie Mandel of the presentation circuit or the Oprah Winfrey of PowerPoint, or even the Anderson Cooper of the sales pitch. But you can learn a lot from them–and you should.

Great talk show hosts and great performers exude energy. They are not rooted to the spot like potted plants. They are not drones or automatons reciting memorized lines. They use their hands and their bodies like real people do when they are speaking to friends. Even when they are stuck behind a desk or perched on a stool, their energy is obvious. You see energy in their demeanor and you hear enthusiasm in their voice–because they know that energy is engaging. An audience responds to energy with excitement of their own–and that makes for a winning arena.

Great talk show hosts and great performers are passionate–and it shows. Politics aside, compare Obama’s smile to McCain’s and you’ll instantly know what I mean. Think of the contrasting styles of their delivery–one comfortable and easy and warm, the other not. When it comes to presenting, you want your warmth and passion to show. You want to look comfortable so your audience feels comfortable with you. Eliminate anything that gets in the way of your ability to be warm and likable and passionate so you can become the star performer you have always wanted to be.

Great talk show hosts and great performers connect with their audience. They make great eye contact — with individuals they may be interviewing or with the camera–and they smile often and talk naturally. They use what I call “shirtsleeve English.” They don’t search for fancy phrases in an attempt to dazzle their audience with ten dollar words when a fifty cent vocabulary does a better job. They talk to express–not to impress–and so should you.

Great talk show hosts and great performers understand how to use props. Since the star is the focus of the show, every prop they use–whether it’s a map or a phone or a graphic visual–is a support for their performance, not a replacement for it. Translated to a presentation, that means your PowerPoint should enhance your performance, not provide reading material for your audience to focus on while you are trying to hold their attention. I’ll say it another way: you are the presentation; your PowerPoint is a prop. Do not use PowerPoint as a crutch because it impedes your ability to star.

The very best presenters warm up their audience right from the get-go and you can learn more about that later in my article on presentation openings. But for now, practice getting these performance techniques right and knock ‘em dead. Stand in front of a mirror and catch yourself being natural. Videotape yourself as you talk through your material and check to be sure you are smiling often, speaking with energy and enthusiasm, moving your hands and your body like a real person with something fascinating to impart.

When your goal is a great performance, you can’t afford to play it by ear. You must hit the right notes–and deliver with style and flair. That’s the score.