4 Tips to Open an Executive Presentation

Presenting to executives is different than most presentations. That’s because executives live in a different time zone – the future.

Here’s a great video clip from the movie The Dilemma, demonstrating an effective opening for an executive presentation. Watch the video then see my comments below and then watch the video again to make sure the learning sticks.

1. Get their attention – fast!
Execs value brevity. They RESPECT speakers who get to the point in the first 60 seconds. Don’t waste time with lengthy openings, thanking them for the opportunity to speak, backing into your presentation gradually. In this video, the speaker gets to the point in 10 seconds, uses pictures to compare electric cars to cute little bunnies and kittens. Now the execs are paying attention!

2. Be casual and entertaining, Hoss.
Most speakers are a bit nervous talking to execs. Nervous speakers leads to uncomfortable audiences. But execs NEED to see confidence before they’ll make big investment decisions. Also, they are so used to people cowering and giving plain vanilla presentations that they CRAVE a bit of entertainment. In this video, look at how the speaker uses humor and swagger to gain the audience’s trust.

3. Talk about opportunities, not pains.
Most importantly, realize that execs live in the future, thinking about how they’ll launch new products and defend premium margins. Execs are less interested in just solving today’s pain points. So speak their language – opportunity! In this video, the speaker introduces the revolutionary idea of adding the throbbing, growling sound of a muscle car to an electric car – a game changer!

4. Don’t talk features/benefits until AFTER you’ve sold the vision.
Salespeople often start talking about their product’s features and benefits too soon. If the exec isn’t bought into the strategic vision, then they’ll be focused on costs and how you’re different than the competitors. So DO NOT talk features/benefits until they are nodding at the vision. In this video, notice that the engineer doesn’t start talking about the product until after the first speaker has everyone in the room nodding at the vision. Go to 1:28 in the video; you DON’T want to start your executive presentation this way.

Even though this scene was written by a Hollywood screenwriter, I was impressed how it contains all the elements of an effective opening, compacted into under 2 minutes.

Watch the video again to see all these principles in action. Then plan your next executive presentation to grab the audience’s attention fast, put them at ease and paint a vision for how you’ll help their company succeed in the future. Leave the features and benefits discussion for last.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Add Punch to Your Sales Presentation with the Reverse Testimonial

We often use testimonials in sales presentations. But rather than enhance our credibility, they can feel fake and have no impact at all.

For instance, an overly positive testimonial is more likely to cause the audience’s lip to curl in contempt. They know you have cherry-picked this cheery and “canned” testimonial and so it has all the force of an infomercial.

One solution I recommend in my workshops is to try the reverse testimonial. Have your customer express a concern you know your audience has and you need to overcome to close the sale. Then add the testimonial.

For instance, if you know customers are concerned your company is a smaller firm, you might try a testimonial that acknowledges that concern but then offers a reassurance from a current customer. Like this.

Try the reverse testimonial to add more punch to your sales presentations.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

 

What to Say When the Audience Disagrees with You

Have you ever had an audience member disagree with you while you were presenting?

I have. I was conducting a workshop at Microsoft with about 15 students, reviewing the research on bullet points. Someone in the audience raised their hand, sputtering “I have to interrupt. If I showed a slide of bullet points, I’d get kicked out of the room.” All audience eyes were on me. What would I say?

What would YOU say?

 

Don’t get into a confrontation. Instead, follow this three-step process.

1. Get Excited! First, respond in a positive tone “I’m glad you brought that up!” (bonus points if you use their name – “I’m glad you raised that point, Carol!”). The confronter is expecting an argument so you disarm them when you respond positively. Others in the audience become tense when a confrontation appears to be brewing but will relax when you show you’re still in control.

2. Ask if others feel the same way. Use this phrase “Let’s talk about that! What do others think?” Now, you’ve directed the conversation away from the confrontational speaker and opened it to everyone in the room.

3. React to the entire audience. You can maneuver out of hostile waters, based on how the audience reacts. There are three possible reactions: dead silence, disagreement with the confronter, agreement with the confronter.

If there is dead silence, the confronter now senses they are alone in their opinion. Say “This might be more specific to your situation. I’d be glad to talk about it with you at the next break.”

If people disagree with that speaker, you can build momentum to reinforce your point and to quiet the dissenter. Gather 2-3 supportive comments, then restate your position and supporting research.

If others agree with the confronter, you need to stop and listen to their concerns. Maybe they misunderstood you and you can clarify your point. Maybe they have valid concerns! You aren’t convincing anyone if you keep going, so consider this a blessing that you’ve uncovered an objection. Hit the ‘b’ button on the PowerPoint (to black out the screen) and step into the audience to facilitate a discussion. Say seriously, “Let’s talk about that” then take comments from the audience. Keep directing the conversation to the most reasonable voices in the room.

In my situation at the Microsoft workshop, I put on a big smile and said “I’m glad you brought that up. Let’s talk about that!” then I strode into the audience and said “What do the rest of you think?”

There was stunned silence, then someone offered haltingly, “I don’t think it’s so bad”. Another opined “It’s better than some slides, where they have like 20 bullet points in 12-point font.” Someone else offered “I don’t think anyone would kick you out of the room. I’ve seen some pretty horrible slides but no-one has ever been kicked out. Sometimes, they should have been.”

There was some laughter in the room. The air seemed to go out of the confronter’s voice as she sullenly maintained “Well, I would never show a slide like that.”

I restated the research and said “Ultimately, you have to decide what you’re most comfortable with. But I wanted you to be armed with the facts to make that decision.” Then I resumed the workshop, having sidestepped a potentially contentious conversation.

So, keep this technique in mind the next time someone in the audience raises their voice to disagree with you.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.