Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage,” and no where is this more true in business than when you delivering a sales presentation or a product demo. Whether your stage is a computer screen or a conference room, you must own the stage – in other words, earn and hold your prospect’s attention with complete conviction and confidence – if you want to make a lasting impression or move them to take action.
As an actor I learned some simple techniques for helping to increase my presence and ability to connect with an audience that are extremely valuable as a salesperson. Here are a five in particular that can help you own the sales stage with great confidence and presence during a sales presentation, a meeting or a demonstration.
5 Ways to Own the Stage
Understand bigger is not always better
When I ask salespeople to own the stage, their first attempt is often to simply increase their volume and make bigger gestures and movements. While this may work (especially if your natural state is more subdued and you need to amp up your energy) a presentation delivered entirely at this level can make your audience feel like they are on the other end of a fire hose. Slowing down, pausing or getting quiet instead of loud when you want to make a major point or build to a dramatic climax is an extremely effective way to draw in your listener.
Move with purpose
There’s no rule that says you have to stand in one place to deliver a business presentation or demo but neither do you want to wander aimlessly around the stage. Ping ponging from one side of your space to the other is distracting and hard to follow – whether it’s you or your mouse in the case of a web presentation. But it often happens because presenters are nervous or know they should move, but are uncertain when and how. In order to support your message, movement should be intentional and connected to a purposeful thought or action, i.e., walking to the whiteboard in order to write down a key point or moving toward your prospects to acknowledge their response. Although there’s no need to pre-plan your every move, you still should have a reason associated with your movement, whether it’s internal or external.
If nervous energy is keeping you hopping around aimlessly, try some pre-presentation warm-ups to channel that energy into a focused and powerful presentation.
Use your full range
Think of your voice as floating on a scale. Are you using only middle C? Many times in business we use only a very limited range and a small percentage of what we are capable of. That can get very monotonous to an audience and make a ten minute presentation or demo seem like an hour – especially if you’re doing it virtually! Find places to add variety in your delivery. A good place to change pitch or tone is when you want to emphasize a word or make a point. “Imagine if you could save five hundred dollars every year!” Your words come alive with meaning when you use variety. Work on it throughout your day so it doesn’t feel unnatural in a presentation.
Don’t throw away your best lines
Can you imagine an actor rushing through or paraphrasing his most important monologue: “To-be-or-not-to-be-so-that’s-what-we-want-to-know…” In the same way, never rush through a presentation or demo, it makes all of your key messages sound like throw-away lines. If the client is pressed for time, focus on covering only the number of topics that you can do full justice to in that time period. If you are compelling enough, chances are they will manage to find the time, and if they really are short on time, they may be intrigued enough to reschedule to hear the rest.
Take a 7 minute stretch
The average adult’s attention starts to drift after about 5-7 minutes, so you need to do something at that point to re-engage them – no matter how compelling your presentation. There are a variety of ways to do this: Ask a question, show a short video clip, write on the whiteboard, tell a story, use a quote. Whatever you do make sure it’s at least loosely related to your topic so your audience doesn’t feel like you’re wasting their time.
Learning to own the stage and inhabit your space with complete conviction and confidence is paramount to engaging any audience and especially important for engaging today’s busy business audiences.