The next time you’re preparing a strategic presentation to close a deal or sell a project or an idea, think about these key principles before getting to work:
Generating audience interest in a presentation is the first thing to strive for and maybe the hardest to achieve. With the enormous number of meetings, emails and communications that are inundating us all these days, the general level of interest and anticipation before any given meeting is usually not too high.
Therefore, the first two or three minutes of your presentation are essential to securing audience interest in your subject. To achieve this, you might start, for example, with an analogy or a metaphor, something relevant to your audience that will help to focus them on your message. Audience interest is important because if you can generate interest among your audience, you’ll automatically get their attention!
Still, the biggest challenge is not to get that attention; the biggest challenge is to keep audience attention as long as possible. For this to happen, you need to structure your presentation so it has a beginning, a middle and an end, like any good, interesting story. You should also try to use the striking visuals that will best illustrate your key points.
Okay, so now let’s say you’ve managed to generate strong interest among your audience for the content of your presentation. Is that enough? No, it’s not. We’ve found that it’s no use to have the attention of your audience throughout a presentation if you can’t also trigger understanding. So you have to work hard to be sure that every member of your prospective audience will be able to follow you and engage. This means you must first understand your audience and your marketplace and, most of all, the heart of your own message and the most effective ways to convey it.
Audience attention and understanding go hand-in-hand throughout successful presentations. So in preparing your presentation, think about everything that can generate a common understanding. Even better, strive to create consensus among your listeners in support of the idea, project and/or product you’re presenting.
Persuade, Persuade, Persuade
If you’re able to successfully navigate the three steps so far, you’ll find yourself close to persuasion, the major objective of most presentations. From then on, it’s all about closing the deal. Here you need to stay on point and keep your audience focused and interested until the last word is spoken and the last image seen.