Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Presentation Tip: Prepare for questions or concerns

It would be rare for a business presentation to be given and have no questions from the audience during or after the presentation. I am not talking about keynote style presentations from the big stage, I am talking about the regular presentations we deliver in our offices and to clients. A presentation should be a conversation with the audience that includes questions being asked. In this article I want to look at how we can prepare for the questions the audience may have.

Even though you may think that your presentation will be crystal clear, don’t count on every audience member understanding everything you say. If you are presenting something that is not expected, or is controversial, you know that you will be getting questions from the audience. If you are asking for a decision, the audience will definitely be asking questions to make sure they are making the right decision. Questions are a part of every presentation and we need to plan for them.

In analyzing the audience during your planning for the presentation, take their viewpoint and think of what questions they may ask. This is sometimes difficult if you are too close to the topic of your presentation. You may need to ask a colleague to give you an outsider viewpoint. What concerns may someone raise about what you are presenting? These are also questions that can be anticipated.

Once you have a list of potential questions, develop answers for each one. Don’t make the mistake of including all the answers in your presentation. You aren’t even sure whether the questions will be asked. You may want to include the answers to the top two or three questions if you feel they will help make your message clearer. For the rest of the questions, decide whether you want to develop a backup slide to answer the question or perhaps even link to a source document if that would be the best way to answer the question.

If you decide to develop a backup slide, I suggest you make it a hidden slide and position it right after the slide in your presentation that may give rise to the question. A hidden slide is not shown in Slide Show mode unless you specifically request it, through a hyperlink or by using Ctrl+S in Slide Show mode. If the question does not get asked, you don’t have to access the hidden slide and the audience never sees it. By positioning it right after the slide that may give rise to the question, you make it easy to access if necessary during the presentation. Instead of searching for it in an Appendix at the end of your slides, you know that it is the next slide in the file. You jump to it, and can then proceed to the next slide seamlessly.

If you want to access a source file, such as a spreadsheet or document, create a hyperlink on the slide in your presentation that you think will cause the question. When you activate the hyperlink, the appropriate program will open on top of your slide show and the file will be displayed. You can have the discussion with the audience, and when you are done, simply close the program and you will continue with your slide show. If you don’t want the hyperlink to be visible, use a rectangle as the object that is hyperlinked and set the fill color and outline color to No Color. You can download a video on creating hyperlinks to source files from my Free Resources area here (it is the second video in the Other Content category) 

Questions are a good and valuable part of a presentation because they engage the audience in what you are saying. Use these ideas to plan for questions and prepare answers that demonstrate your expertise in the topic and presenting effectively.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Presentation Tip: How to use “About Us” information

In a past article I spoke about the way to structure a sales presentation and suggested that the information about your firm should come after you have demonstrated the solution to their problem. In this article I want to expand on what to do with the “About Us” information that too many presenters feel is essential to include at the start of a presentation.
The first thing I would do is challenge you on how necessary it is to include a large amount of information about you and your organization. If you are delivering a sales presentation, you have been invited to present because they know who you are and think that you can provide a solution to their problem. You don’t get the chance to do a presentation if you are a stranger.
So, based on what I just said, do I think you should have any information about your firm? Yes. But I think the information you provide must be relevant and in the right spot in the presentation. I think the worst spot to put information about your firm is right at the start, opening the presentation. The presentation needs to be about solving the problem, not all about you. At the start of the presentation the audience won’t know why the information is relevant yet, because they haven’t heard the proposed solution.
Don’t share detailed information about your firm until after you have shown that you can solve their problem. Once they have seen that you have a solution, then they are open to hearing why your firm should be the one providing the solution. But don’t start spewing forth every statistic about your company. The information you share must be relevant to providing the solution you have just outlined.
For example, don’t share how long you have been in business unless you are sharing it to illustrate that you are reliable and will be around to service the solution you are proposing. Don’t share how many people work for your company unless you are sharing how many specialists you have in the specific area that will be providing this solution. Don’t share your past client list unless you are using a case study to illustrate how you solved a similar problem for a similar organization (see this article on writing case studies). For more examples, watch this slide makeover video I did on transforming the "About Us" slide: YouTube link or Brainshark link.
When you do share information about your firm, don’t make it hard to understand. One client had an organization chart showing the top executives down to the people who would be heading up the solution team. It was so big that they used five point font for the text labels. The audience couldn’t read it at all, so it confused them more than anything.
Consider putting some of the detailed background information in a handout instead of the body of your presentation. This gives the audience reference information that they can use later if they want to. It keeps the focus of the presentation on the solution to their problem.
This approach also makes it easier for you as the presenter. One client who used this approach told me after the presentation that he felt he was better able to focus on the solution and the client. He admitted that he would not have been presenting if they didn’t know his firm, so to spend much time on the company would not be adding any new information in the presentation.
In a sales presentation, only include information about your company when it helps reinforce why your solution is the best one. Don’t include information just to brag or boast. Focus the information about your organization and it will help the audience understand why your solution is the best one for them. Apply this idea in your future sales presentations and they will be more effective.