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Presentation Skills
How to Be a Star Presenter
By Carol Burke, Regional VP, Communispond, Inc.

Every salesperson has to be a skilled presenter -- and not only for the obvious reason.

Every salesperson has to be a skilled presenter -- and not only for the obvious reason. Yes, good presentation skills will make you more effective during your interactions with customers. Equally important, these skills also will help you get the support of the internal resources you need to create effective solutions for customers. You'll be better able to showcase your accomplishments to management, get acceptance for your ideas for increasing the sales force's effectiveness, and demonstrate your ability to motivate others, an essential requirement for enlisting internal help or for promotion to a sales management position.

Here are some techniques that you can use to present more effectively. Though they're learned most effectively when modeled by instructors who also give personal feedback on the participants' video-based practice sessions, they can be applied successfully after you review them carefully here.

The true value of these skills is that they can be applied in non-business situations as well as when you're selling. They'll make you a stronger chairperson at community group meetings, more persuasive at in local community events, or as a go-to person when there's a need for a toast at a celebration.

For any successful presentation, it's important to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, who's in the audience and their mindset. Plan your presentation so that you begin with an attention-grabber -- perhaps a provocative question, real or hypothetical -- and end with a call to action that meets your objective.

Show your enthusiasm for what you're saying, with lively language, varying vocal pitch and volume, facial expressions, and arm and body movement. If you don't show that you're fired up, you won't excite others.

Speak just a little louder than you ordinarily do. Vary your pacing; if the next word or phrase is important, pause before saying it and let a change of tone reflect its importance. A presentation that stays at one level will sound timid or strident, depending on its level. When you're not using your hands, keep them comfortably at your side. Avoid rushing through the presentation or saying "ah," "um" or "you know," which are the calling cards of untrained presenters.

Reading a prepared speech isn't nearly as effective as presenting without using one. Keep practicing until you can with speak without the script.

You'll connect personally with the audience and conquer jitters at the same time if you use "eye-brain control". Look at one person in the audience for as long as it takes to say a phrase, take a breath, turn to another person to say an idea or a phrase, take a breath, etc. Don't scan the audience because your brain will have too much to process and cause anxiety. Breathing comfortably is essential for feeling comfortable.

Make certain that the visuals you use aren't cluttered up with too much content. At Communispond we teach the 4x4 rule, which says that there should be no more than four bullets per visual and no more than four words per bullet. When planning your visuals, you may want to choose live-action flip charts combined with your use of technology. The movement will help keep the audience engaged. You'll also lessen the risk of a technology glitch, if you have the flip charts as an alternative. Above all, never present in a darkened room. You wouldn't be able to demonstrate your enthusiasm nearly as well.

Anticipate questions that you'll be asked during the Q&A and prepare answers for them. If you're asked a question during a dialogue with an individual, draw out the concerns behind the question so you can answer it more effectively. If you're speaking to a group, it's important to maintain order during the Q&A. Signal that you expect members of the audience to raise their hands when asking a question. Acknowledge one individual at a time. If the question wasn't heard by everyone, repeat it in a more concise form.

After you answer it, turn away from the questioner or you'll get a follow-up question you may not welcome. If a question is antagonistic, rephrase it in neutral terms.

Want to really hone your skills and become a star speaker? Seek opportunities to present, as you'll get better with each presentation. For example, you can talk about selling as a career at your local high school. Keep speaking and seek larger audiences. Soon you'll be sought after as a speaker.

Carol Burke is Regional Vice President, Central Region, for Communispond, Inc. the communications skills training company. Communispond has trained over 500,000 managers at more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies. Its sales training programs include Socratic Selling, Business Negotiating Skills, Sales Presentation Skills, Coaching for Improved Sales Performance, Hiring the Right Salesperson, and Selling on Paper. 800-529-5925

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