What’s the best way to start a sales presentation?
Start with a success story about how you helped one of your
The big mistake is to start with a story about your company,
founder and vision statement. Your prospects don’t care about any part of that.
Instead, start with a story about how you helped a client achieve success.
Describe the initial condition or prospect’s challenge. Tell
how you helped them and then talk about the results.
One of my clients was on a losing streak. He was making
presentations to clients and getting shut out. After I coached the CEO on his
presentation he closed the next deal which meant a $10M deal in his pocket.
I tell this success story in many of my presentation skills
coaching presentations. It’s a powerful start.
question is difficult to solve, but possible"
"You need a
"We'll sort it out."
These phrases are part of a list that the Kremlin has
instructed Russian government officials to avoid using. The reason is that
these phrases are a few of the ones that have been used to extract bribes and
gifts. (As reported in the Guardian)
The Kremlin is hoping to reduce the amount of corruption
within the Russian government. Cutting down on corruption seems like a good
idea. By identifying key words that have been traditionally associated with
corruption the Russians are shining a light on this problem.By banning the use of these phrases they are
stigmatizing the words and hence the practice.
Those seem like a good start because that’s exactly how
society tackles problems with diversity and other social issues.
Language and the choice of analogies shape our thinking –
particularly regarding immoral, illegal or questionable activities.
Business announces “down sizing” instead of firings.
Respect your audience and especially
their time. Develop the habit of starting your meetings and presentations on
time. Do that and people will notice. They'll be more willing to attend your
meetings and they will make the effort to arrive on time.
They will also be in
a better mind set when they notice you starting on time. If you want to annoy
your audience, start late.
Announce the times
(start and end) and provide directions
If it's your meeting,
clearly advise all invitees exactly what time it will start. One trick to
convince people of your intentions is to state an odd time - e.g. 9:03, 1:07,
If your presentation
is the main feature and there are some things happening before you go then it's
a good idea to state that upfront. Imagine attending a concert only to be
forced to endure unannounced warm-up bands for hours before the main act (a la
If your meeting is in
a conference center or hotel, ensure that there are clear directions from the
main entrances to your meeting room. Check with the venue staff.
Plan to arrive early
You get there early.
If you haven't been to this location before be sure to double check the
directions and the map. Allow for travel delays and the potential for bad
If you are travelling
out of town to deliver an important presentation, you might want to arrive the
Check the room and
test your equipment
presentation room before anyone arrives. Get into the room and get comfortable
with it. This is easy to do if you arrived the day before your presentation. At
least plan to arrive one hour before the program begins so you can get into the
Start even if...
At the promised time
start your presentation. If you've checked the room and your equipment then you
are ready to go. If you've clearly communicated the start time and directions
then most of your audience will be ready. Someone will always be late.
To help get people
into their seats and ready as the time to start draws near, announce "Five
minutes to start", "Two minutes to start" and even "We're
starting in 30 seconds."
If your equipment
fails just before your presentation - start! Start on time and that means you
need to have a Plan B opening while the crew is fixing the equipment problem.
Don't make the audience suffer because of your equipment failure or lack of
Don't do what one
Vice president of an IT company did at a presentation. Clearly she hadn't
checked her equipment. When she was introduced she walked up to the stage with
her laptop and handed it to the crew who were seeing her for the first time.
They scrambled to hook up her laptop and ran into problems. Meanwhile the
audience was waiting.
She watched the crew
for a couple of minutes, remembered the audience and turned to us with an exasperated
tone, "Talk amongst yourselves."
She clearly didn't
demonstrate respect for the audience or the crew who got her equipment working
in a few minutes.
Respect your audience
and start your presentation on time.
Should I tell a joke when I start my presentation?
Ha, ha – don’t do that. Don’t start with a joke.
That is an antiquated piece of advice given to novice
presenters by other novices.
I’ve seen it done and it was painful to witness.
There’s nothing wrong with making people laugh but you
should avoid telling jokes. Maybe you heard a joke over coffee or while having
drinks and it sounded funny – but don’t use it in your presentation.
The traditional jokes told by comedians might have made the
audience laugh but the comedian was a professional joke teller. You have no
idea how much effort they put into rehearsing the joke so they could get the
delivery just right. Most jokes die when the delivery is wrong.
You probably don’t have that experience so the joke will die
and that’s a terrible way to start your presentation.
Also the joke probably doesn’t relate to your message. The
audience will be wondering “What does that have to do with this?”
And most jokes poke fun at someone. It’s not a good way to
start your presentation by putting someone down. There’s a good chance that you
will offend some people in your audience with your insulting attitude.
The audience doesn't care about your
hard luck story - unless it's funny. Even if it is funny, don't tell a story
unless it makes a point that supports your message.
The speaker began his presentation by
telling us that he had crossed three time zones to speak to us this morning.
I'm not sure if he was bragging or complaining. There seemed no point to his
tale. It didn't relate to his topic. Perhaps he was explaining why his
presentation might be substandard. Perhaps he simply wanted a little sympathy.
Curious, he was there to sell his
product and he seemed to be groveling.
He continued to relate his travel story
by admitting that he instructed the taxi to take him to the wrong hotel.
Clearly he had not checked and confirmed details.
There was no point to this story so why
did he tell it. Did he believe that this was a good opening? Did he think that
he was establishing rapport with this story that illustrated his ineptitude?
It wasn't funny. Instead, it lowered
his credibility while boring us right from the start.
Fortunately for him his product was way
more interesting than he or his presentation. Yes, sometimes the audience is
astute enough to see past the ineptitude of the presenter. But you can never
count on that luck.
Recently I experienced my own travel
frustrations on the way to a morning presentation. I planned to take the
commuter train and arrive about 45 minutes before the start of my presentation.
Because of Murphy (what can go wrong
will go wrong) my train was taken out of service and the next train was delayed
by a medical emergency. I walked into the packed meeting room as the MC started
to read my introduction and began my presentation at the scheduled time.
The audience didn't need to know about
my journey. That wasn't why they were there. So I didn't mention the delay to
them. I quietly talked with the organizer to dispel his anxiety.
The presentation went well. Part of the
reason was that I focused on the audience and my intended message and not on
the frustrations of the morning journey.
Sometimes a story from your journey
might help your presentation but be sure it does before you tell it.
PS: This incident also served as a
reminder to have the phone number and email of the contact in my BlackBerry.
This book about public speaking was a fresh approach to a
topic that has been written about and spoken about by many. The book was an enjoyable
and easy read that took less than two hours to digest. Don’t let those
characteristics fool you. I was pleased at the number of powerful public
speaking techniques that were thoughtfully covered and memorably reinforced.
The author, Akash Karia, thoughtfully analyzed four speeches
from the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Three of the four
were winners of the final round of the World Championship.
Toastmasters is an international non-profit organization
that helps people become better public speakers.
I’ve read many books about public speaking that simply
repeat the same tired ideas and sometimes outdated lessons. Akash promised in
his introduction that this book would not waste time on fluff. I believe that
he kept his promise. The book covered many powerful presentation techniques
that took me years to learn. These are techniques that I teach my coaching and
The author introduces each public speaker, provides a speech
excerpt, a link to a video of the speech, a few thought provoking questions for
the reader and insights from the author.
This style of teaching seems to be engaging, entertaining
This book is ideal for Toastmasters who hope to participate
in the Toastmasters Annual Speech contests. They will see a comprehensive
approach to public speaking success. They will also enjoy the excitement of the
World Championship Speech Contest.
The winners of the Toastmasters World Championship tend to
deliver inspirational and entertaining speeches. These speeches are only seven
minutes in length. So this isn’t about delivering a training workshop or
technical report. These speeches tend to be about one key message delivered in
an entertaining way.
However, most presenters can learn effective presentation
techniques from this book. A leadership speech must be engaging and
inspirational. A sales presentation must persuade people to act. Even a
technical presentation must build rapport, illustrate points and reassure the
audience. The author points out that some techniques in these examples might appear
exaggerated because of the size of the audience and setting. Individual
presenters can certainly adapt a technique to fit their audience.
Although each presenter demonstrated similar techniques,
they also flourished because of different individual strengths. The point is
that you can learn from others and must thrive on your own unique strengths.
The four public speakers featured in this book are Craig
Valentine, Darren LaCroix, LisaPanello
and Jock Elliot.
If you are really serious about public speaking you can
visit any or many of the five dozen Public Speaking blogs listed as resources.
I enjoyed reading this book and I’m happy to recommend it to
novice and experienced public speakers.
How to stop your voice from
shaking during public speaking?
First consider that no one is as familiar with your voice as
you. The first time you heard your recorded voice you were probably surprised.
You might even have said, “That’s not me.”
The reason I point that out is that you might notice your
voice shaking but your audience might not. They just might not know how your
voice should sound. You voice can sound different at different times of the day
depending on your energy level, recent meal or emotional state.
Your voice shaking could signal that you are tensing up
because of anxiety, anger or exhaustion. There might be other causes but these
seem to be the most common.
If tension is the problem the solution is to relax. You can
do that by pausing as soon as the shaking starts. Simply pause for a few
seconds. Smile while doing that so your audience doesn’t suspect any
To both extend the pause and relax your throat you could
take a drink of water. It’s best to have a glass of room temperature water
handy. Ice cold water isn’t good for your speaking voice.
Take a deep slow breath to help calm you. Roll your
shoulders because tension in your shoulders could easily be transferred to your
throat. You could slightly change your body stance because tension might have
been setting in without you being aware.
When you start speaking again, speak slower. That also
relaxes your throat and makes your voice sound deeper and hence more confident.