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Putting Together a Powerpoint Presentation

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Powerpoint can be either a fantastic way to convey information or a fast way to put participants to sleep in their chairs. The results depend largely on how well the presenter followed these basic Powerpoint rules.

1. Don't crowd your slides

Each Powerpoint slide should convey just one or two ideas. Don't try cramming a slide with half a dozen bullet points, a blurry diagram, and a motivational quote. Instead, break these concepts out into several slides. The less cluttered and complex a slide is, the easier it is for the audience to absorb.

2. Use images effectively

If your presentation consists of you reading the slides word for word, then you could just as well skip the presentation and hand out a paper version. Instead of putting every word you speak on the slides themselves, use relevant images and give a verbal explanation. Images include both photos and diagrams (charts, etc.).

3. Gauge reactions

Keep an eye on your listeners' body language as you speak and use it to pace your presentation. For example, if they look confused or skeptical after you've presented a major point, stop and ask if anyone has any questions – that gives you a chance to immediately clarify or defuse any objections. By dealing with these issues as you go, you can keep the audience focused on your next point instead of mulling over the last one.

4. Use stories

Incorporate at least one story into your presentation. It could be a testimonial, a story from one of your previous sales appointments, or something that you heard casually from a customer. Stories draw audiences in because they make listeners image themselves in the same situation as the subject. A good story is a much more effective sales tool than a simple list of benefits.

5. Present to hearts, not heads

Emotion is far more convincing than logic. If you offer logical reasons why a prospect should buy your product, he's likely to come up with equally logical reasons why he shouldn't. But if you evoke an emotional response you are more likely to bypass his inner skeptic.

6. Customize

Well before your presentation, do a little research on your prospect and work it into the presentation. This can be as simple as snapping a photo of their office building and slapping it onto the first slide, or as complex as pulling data from their last annual report and tying it to how your product can work for them.

7. Prepare for disaster

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Be ready for the possibility that there won't be an outlet in the room, your power supply will die on you, your laptop will die on you, the projector will die on you, etc. Bring paper copies of your slides – enough copies that you can produce one for each listener. Then if everything goes wrong, you can still give your presentation and the audience can follow along.

8. Know what to say

Bring a script that lays out your whole presentation word-for-word and includes responses to common questions and objections. Any time you hear a new objection or get a question you can't answer, write it down immediately (you did bring several pens and a notepad, right?) and add it to the script once you get back to the office.

9. Be genuine

Don't include anything in your presentation that you don't personally believe. If you're mouthing company rhetoric, it will show in your posture and tone of voice and can kill your sale on the spot. On the other hand, your sincerity can be more convincing than the specific words you choose.

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