January 2

5 Fake Facts Killing your Sales Presentation


Do you believe that we only use 10% of our brains?  If so, you’ve bought into a fake fact. While some fake facts are harmless, others like, “The flu vaccination can give you the flu” can produce devastating consequences.

I’ve run across several fake facts about sales presentations over the years:  New techniques hailed as “the latest, greatest idea.” Old wives’ tales passed down from generation to generation. Blindly followed, some of these “facts” can create real damage to your credibility and even derail your entire presentation.

5 Fake Facts Killing your Sales Presentation

1:  Follow the 18-minute Ted Talk Rule.

The 18-minute rule was based on one neuroscience study and Ted Talk curator Chris Anderson’s opinion that 18-minutes is “short enough to hold people’s attention…and precise enough to be taken seriously.”

Sorry, but there is nothing magical about 18-minutes.  Even presentation guru Carmine Gallo (who once suggested all business pitches should follow the 18-minute rule) has done an about face.  Here’s why salespeople should ignore this fake fact:

  • Yes, research shows that attention naturally wanes after 10 minutes. However you can maintain your audience’s attention for much longer if you break it up at least every 10 minutes (I recommend more frequently) with questions, videos, or polls.
  • The scope and goal of sales presentations is more complex and results-oriented than your average Ted Talk. Ted Talks typically focus on a single idea and attempt merely to entertain or build awareness with an audience. Salespeople however, may be presenting complex solutions to multiple stakeholders.  And
  • snack size candyrather than trying to build awareness, their goal is to change behavior.  That often requires more than 18-minutes.

Note:  Use this “Snack-Size” model to manage audience attention in your presentation.

2:  Save the Best for Last.

Many salespeople follow a presentation structure that slowly builds up to the end result.  But that structure is out of alignment with how people like to get their information today.  Gong.io analyzed 67,000+ SAAS demos and concluded that showing the customer the end result first was a more successful approach than holding it back until the end.

When you save the best for last, you risk:

  • Lowered attention spans later in the presentation
  • Executives have left the room
  • Remaining customers are on information overload
  • You find you’ve run out of time

3:  Presentations should follow the 10-20-30 Rule.

Guy Kawasaki stated that presentations should use 10 slides or less, be no longer than 20 minutes, and use at least 30-point type.  But in my experience, bad presentations can have three slides or 103 slides.  I’ve seen horrible 10-minute presentations and fantastic 60-minute presentations.

The success of a presentation is ultimately not dependent on the number of slides or minutes used.  What is the quality of those slides?  Are you telling a compelling story with the time you have? Are you addressing the customer’s needs and interests?  These factors and others play a much bigger role in whether your presentation will hit the mark with your audience than how many slides you have.

4: Never read from your slides. 

Of course, it is never acceptable to read every slide to your audience or to use your slides as a crutch.  But when presenters take this advice to the extreme and ignore their slides completely, leaving it to their audience to sort out what’s important or not, they inadvertently create confusion and invite tune out.

Times when it’s OK to read from your slide:

  • Short quotes, statistics or key messages. Your audience will be reading it anyway, so go ahead and read it with them.
  • Anything in 30+ point type. When something is literally SCREAMING for attention on the screen and you fail to call it out, your audience will wonder why.

5:  Always save Q&A for the end.

When you save Q&A for the end of your presentation you relinquish control of how your presentation ends.  What if you get a question you can’t answer or one that incites negative discussion? What if an audience member keeps the rest of the group hostage with a barrage of questions? No matter how good your presentation was, your audience’s experience will be colored by this negative ending. Take control back by carving out a finite amount of time for questions before you close.

Keep Fake Facts from killing your sales presentation by eliminating these 5 today.




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