Presentations and the art of listening

When I first entered the marketing and advertising industry, my CEO at the time said that presentations need to be dialogues rather than monologues and I’ve never forgotten this piece of valuable advice.

I used to dread making presentations and it is very easy to get yourself into a bit of a state when your presentation is looming. You can lose sleep by worrying about how you will be received, but always remember, you are the expert and that the audience is there to listen to you as what you have to say will be of value. Don’t get into the mind-set that you’ve come to do a presentation and try and avoid the natural instinct to just get it done as soon as possible come what may! The danger is that your presentation will be a monologue with no real human content; just your single-minded gabble!

When you pitch or do a presentation, there is a theory that the “sales” element should be 75% listening and 25% talking. With this in mind, why not open with a question to quickly engage your audience and get their input.

For example, you could start with “Good morning. I have got a considerable amount of interesting material with me to go through, but perhaps I could focus on any specific needs or areas you’d like me to address.” Quite often prospects are only to happy to have an audience for their problems and, as they talk, you could re order your pitch to target them even better.

I also came across some statistics recently about the percentages involved when delivering a presentation.

40% of people hear through their eyes (i.e. what they can see and the impression you make)
20% respond from their ears
40% react from their feelings

To me this indicates that words are simply not enough to win you the business or to make that great impression you want to make. Your appearance and your manner can have a huge effect. You know your market so dress accordingly. Similarly, with regards to your manner, you must be confident and positive, but also be professional. I know of one really good presenter who tends to swear a lot which doesn’t always go down well! If you are using equipment, use it as an aid not a prop.

Finally, don’t be complacent or arrogant. You are the visitor, the guest, the invitee so never forget this. Also, you should know your subject matter inside out and if you don’t you shouldn’t be there in the first place!


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