“10 Bad Mistakes I Watched People Make In A Sales Presentation”

Having had a productive day yesterday at the excellent Fresh Business Thinking Exhibition, I now have time to reflect on what I learnt. And am still chuckling.

I was on a stand promoting the services of the good people from Right Angle Consultants. Previously Right Angle had invited me to write a chapter on how business leaders promote their businesses through leadership presence. The book itself is called “Breaking The Barriers To Business Growth”. It should be available at the beginning of the New Year.

The exhibition took place in Old Billingsgate (and oh what a great addition to exhibiting space is this Victorian temple to the fish trade!). In a lull, I had time to look around. Over the way there was a presentation going on. There were two middle aged men in crumpled suits conducting it. Intermittently, I caught what one of them was talking about. It was about maximising sales. Almost all the seats were filled.

What was making me chuckle? Well…..I’ll give you a list:

  1. Both presenters stationed themselves behind the podium. They were hiding. They didn’t venture out using the walk-around mic – thus putting a barrier between themselves and their audience.
  2. Both were reading from their laptops – they hadn’t bothered to learn their presentation so they could give their audience eye contact.
  3. They both filled their PowerPoint screen with lots of text. One felt he had had to cram so much information on the screen, I am pretty sure that those at the back of the room and even at the front would have been hard pressed to read it.
  4. Neither man gave their audience time to read what was on the screen. They proceeded to talk assuming that the audience could read the slide at the same time.
  5. I was startled when one of the presenters explained the difference between features and benefits. Why, startled? Well, the tone of voice he used was patronising. I watched as his audience started shifting around and many crossed their arms across their chests. Even if they didn’t know (and I imagine that most knew very well), they would have been annoyed by the tone.
  6. The other sounded bored. It was particularly comic when he talked of how sales people turn their prospects off by their lack of enthusiasm.
  7. Neither had left time for Questions and Answers at the end.
  8. Neither looked as though they wanted to engage their audience. They were far more anxious to impress them with their knowledge. Not the same thing at all.
  9. They overran their time by 5 minutes. Always a no-no for organisers everywhere!
  10. After the presentation, they talked to each other, not members of the audience.

Bless them, they failed to realise the point of a presentation. A presentation is a theatrical event. Amongst other things, it’s there to:

▪   entertain

▪   engage

▪   inform

All three need to be in place to gain influence. The presenter has a dialogue with their audience – one side is verbal, the other non-verbal. To present, you need to adapt what you say according to how your audience is responding. Which means that it’s vital that you learn your content so you can modify it. In any sales presentation, your audience is deciding whether they know, like and trust you to do business with you. And they aren’t doing business with your PowerPoint slides!

Needless to say, the audience at the show rushed off to other and more interesting presentations – of which at Fresh Business Thinking, there were many to choose from.


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
This entry was posted in Four Stages To Influential Leadership, Giving Influential Presentations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “10 Bad Mistakes I Watched People Make In A Sales Presentation”

  1. Ewan Menzies says:

    Great article Sarah! How often I see many of these mistakes! I hope this article has helped a few people; i certainly found it a good refresher.

  2. anrah says:

    Many thanks, Ewan for your kind comments. You’re right – these are not usual. So I hope that it’s been of value to readers.

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