10 Things I’ve Learned From 1,300 Sales Presentations

You’ve got a full-blown presentation scheduled — laptop, projector, PowerPoint… the works. Here’s what to remember.

sales presentations must be rehearsed

Photo by imageegami/Adobe stock

I do about 200 formal presentations a year. Nearly seven years into this gig, I’ve done over 1,300 of them — all on unfamiliar turf. I’m always in someone else’s conference room, using someone else’s monitor or projector.

What I’ve learned:

  1. PowerPoints don’t like to be emailed. A presentation that worked beautifully when you built it will go kerflooey when sent to someone else. Slides go out of order. Animations stop animating. Links unlink.
    If someone changes one slide in a 21-slide deck and sends it back to you, test all 21 slides again.
  2. Rehearse the presentation. In full. Out loud. It sounds different coming out of your mouth than it does in your head. You need to hear how it sounds before the client does.
  3. Don’t read your slides word-for-word. Your audience can read the copy — tell them what it means.
  4. BUT… read your slides word-for-word, out loud, as part of rehearsal. Doing this in advance is the single best way to catch typos and mistakes in the written version. This is especially helpful if you’ve got a script.
  5. Get there early. It will take longer to set up than you think, and you don’t want to be frantically sorting through cables while the client looks at his watch.
  6. Trust, but verify. The people responsible for setting up the room mean well, but there’s a wide variation of skill level and sophistication.
    If someone assures you that they have an HDMI-compatible monitor and cable, it might mean that they have an HDMI-compatible monitor and cable. It might also mean that there are a whole bunch of ports on their monitor and a pile of cords, and they hope one of ’em might be what you’re looking for.
  7. Test everything before the client enters the room. Run through the slides, make sure your remote works. Play a couple of videos to ensure the sound is on and the volume is set properly.
  8. Must Haves:

    A power strip and extension cord. The outlet’s never where you want it to be.
    Your own remote laser presenter. This is the one I use.
    Fresh AAA batteries. You’ll need ’em for something.
  9. Insist on using your own computer. If you built it on your machine, run it on your machine. “Showtime” is no time to be struggling with unfamiliar equipment.
  10. BUT… you should have the entire presentation, with all videos embedded, with you on a thumb drive. If your computer crashes, you may have to use someone else’s.

Following the steps outlined above reduces — but does not eliminate — the chance of something going wrong.

And if something goes wrong anyway, roll with it. When a lung surgeon has a bad day, people may die. No matter how badly your presentation goes, everyone will still be alive when it’s over.

Question: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen happen at a presentation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.



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