Sales presentations are the cornerstone of many companies’ sales efforts, yet so often they aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. Thrown together at the last-minute, often your sales reps stand up in front of a sales presentation that's nothing more than a glorified page of notes. Read this article for everything you need to make the ultimate sales presentation.
We’ve been thinking about training this week, in particular the really boring training slides we’ve all come across during our corporate careers. We’ve decided to fight back and try to help participants to actually learn something. So, calling all facilitators, trainers, and training content creators, please take note of our 12 training presentation ideas!
Slides aren’t for decoration
Many presenters realise that their slides shouldn’t contain walls of text. But, unable to successfully visualise the information that they want to help convey, they replace the text with pictures that are only tangentially (or metaphorically) related to their training presentation content. The problem? These visuals don’t really help learners to understand or remember the training material.
So – don’t decorate – illustrate. Find images, diagrams, photos, graphs, or sketches that actually help learners to learn.
Animation helps explanation
Because so much PowerPoint animation is done badly, some so-called experts have had the daft idea that you shouldn’t use animation because it’s distracting. That’s like saying that you shouldn’t listen to music because Justin Bieber exists. Done well, animation is wonderful for explaining how things work – showing the parts moving around, processes in full flow, things growing and shrinking and colliding.
Think of the animations that help explain ideas in the TV news or documentaries. That’s what slides can do with the help of clever visualisation and relevant animation. (Here’s a nice example if you want some more proof.)
Bullet points don’t work. Honestly.
Text slides do have a place in training presentations. To show quotes, for agendas and timetables, or for material such as definitions where the exact wording matters, and you need the audience to just read quietly for a bit.
But in general bullet points don’t work. Your audience can read, but they can’t read and listen to you talk at the same time. So, if you want participants to listen to you, don’t compete with slides they can read more quickly than you can read out loud.
Have enough slides
A lot of presenters are scared of having too many slides. This makes sense when slides contain big blocks of text – the fewer of these the better! But, if your slides actually help bring your training to life, and illustrate your learning objectives, you need the right number – not just as few as possible. If nothing changes on screen for half an hour while you cover a huge amount of content, your learners will benefit from seeing additional slides.
Use a slide every time you think it will help you to explain the points you are making.
Use a variety of visual aids
There are plenty of visual aids that can help with a training presentation. Obviously good old-fashioned whiteboards can work well. So can videos. So can physical objects used as props.
‘Show and Tell’ at school worked as well or better than a typical training presentation. Why was that? Harness that energy and you’ll be more successful.
Pay attention to design. Your audience will.
It’s amazing how many important training presentations look like they were designed by somebody showing off the two things they learned from a copy of PowerPoint 1995 for Beginners. Ugly text. Ugly graphics. Too much text. Inconsistent layout. No white space. The sort of presentation that says “we didn’t really try” but still gets used for onboarding all new staff, or at training sessions with senior management. It’s embarrassing.
People notice design – consciously or sub-consciously. If you want to give the right impression, and if your training presentation is going to be used in a way that warrants the expense, it’s a really good idea to involve a professional presentation designer. (At the very worst, use these three hacks – every time.)
Harness the power of stories
When I studied for my MBA (years ago, partly worth it, partly not) our strategy lecturer was full of great ‘war stories’. The most memorable lesson we had involved viewing interviews with the leadership of a small fast-growing food technology company, talking about how they planned to grow. The same team had been interviewed every few months. The company was aggressive about expansion and had spent a lot of money developing its product – it was hard to know how the story would end. The lecturer kept stopping the tape, and we discussed what was happening, and what should have been happening. We really didn’t know how things would end.
I studied 100s of companies as part of my MBA. Most I’ve forgotten. I remember that that one ran out of cash and stopped trading days before a large order came in (which they couldn’t take).
The right stories – told with enough detail, and where there’s genuine uncertainty and interest about what will happen – can make your training come to life.
Given how obvious it is that training presentations that go on-and-on-and-on-and-on without any sort of change of pace can be tedious, it’s surprising how many people do them that way anyway. Is it because they haven’t got any better ideas? Or because that’s the way others do it? Perhaps.
Break up your training presentations with exercises, discussions, quizzes, videos, props, whiteboarding – anything to vary the pace and ensure variety for your audience.
Don’t use slides as handouts
There’s often an expectation that a trainer delivering a training presentation will also provide a handout. The idea is that a handout serves as a real reminder of what happened, so that participants can benefit ‘long term’ from training. The problem? If slides work as handouts they must be pretty much self-explanatory. If slides are self-explanatory, the trainer will just be ignored while trying to present them – the audience will read instead.
So, by all means provide a handout if you want to – but don’t ever just use the same slides to present and to print as a handout.
Turn your training presentation into eLearning
Using a tool such as Articulate, iSpring, or Brainshark, or indeed using PowerPoint itself, you can easily record a narrated version of your training presentation slides. In this way, your slides can work as training follow-up, or even as an alternative eLearning version of your training.
Once you’ve put in the hard work of creating effective slides, spend a bit of additional time creating a valuable resource for on-demand training on online follow-up material, by recording narration and adding interactivity.
Does interactivity sound like a dark art – it’s actually pretty simple to do in PowerPoint.
Don’t read aloud
When you do need your audience to read slides, don’t compete with them. If they are reading, they can’t listen to you. If they are listening to you, they can’t read.
If you need the audience to read something, explain what you are going to show them and why it matters, put it up on screen, and shut up while you read it to yourself. Then when you see the audience are ready, continue presenting.
Find a presentation skills coach
If you are a trainer or facilitator, you should already be reasonably comfortable with presenting, understand the need to practice, and know that you need to learn your material. If you want to take things to the next level though, find someone – a peer, a professional, or a video camera and your own insight – to critique your presentation delivery.
Eliminate verbal fillers, think about language and phrasing, and work on how you interact with your slides. It’s hard to notice when presenting, but there’s always room for improvement.Leave a comment
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Choosing a presentation design agency is a lot harder than buying a product. With presentation design services, you don’t know what you’re going to get until the project is nearly finished. What you get from the studio isn’t the exact same thing as what any other company ends up with. So how do you choose the right business presentation design firm for your presentation work?
Presentation Zen was published ten years ago. Al Gore won his Oscar for a film based on a presentation in 2006. Amazon sell more than 38,000 books with ‘presentation’ in the title, and more than 7,500 with ‘PowerPoint’. Which all sort or raises the question Why are so many presentations still crap? All those books, decks, all that advice – Is it even making a difference?
I did not think it was possible for an external team to get our message so quickly and accurately. You got our messages better than we did, and delivered presentations that were slick and really effective.Guy Shepherd Bouygues