North American Association of Sales Engineers

North American Association of Sales Engineers

European Association of Sales Engineers

Showing slides today? So What?

By Chris White

We’ve all heard the term Death by PowerPoint.  We’ve all sat through presentations that drone on and on – viewing countless slides that seem to add little value to the conversation.  In fact, how many times have you heard someone open a sales meeting with “allow me to run through a few slides before we begin”?  BEFORE we begin?  So, these are just meaningless slides that you’re going to torture us with so you can check some corporate box, and THEN we’re going to get into the heart of the conversation?

What about you?  Let’s be honest.  Have you ever had slides in the presentation you were delivering because you were told they HAD to be included in any presentation?  By corporate?  By marketing?  By your boss?  Of course you have.  WE ALL HAVE!

How did it go when you had to present slides that weren’t necessary your own?  More importantly what was the feeling you had while you were delivering them?  Probably not great.  You were probably thinking to yourself “let me just get through these slides as quickly as possible, so we can get into the real conversation”.  Sound familiar?  Consider this.  If you were uncomfortable imagine how your audience felt – how much more unpleasant and distasteful it was for them!

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all been given slides and told that they were part of the corporate messaging that HAS to be delivered.  So how do we handle this?  How do we follow corporate guidance and not become that person who is rushing through corporate slides just to get through them?

MAKE THEM YOUR OWN!  What do I mean by that?  Am l saying change the slides?  Not necessarily. (Although I’ve never been shy about adding some animation here and there or cleaning up some of the words or even dressing up the slides to make a finer point.  But I digress.)  What I’m really talking about here is know your message and make it your own.

On every slide, make sure you understand the key point that is trying to be made be sure to phrase it in a way that is natural and comfortable to you – so long as you don’t violate or contradict the corporate messaging. 

Be sure you can pass what I call the “So What?” test.  Ask yourself, what’s the “So what?” on every slide.  In other words, know the key point intending to be made on every slide and BE SURE to make it. 

On EVERY slide?

YES.  On EVERY slide.  There should not be a SINGLE slide in your deck that doesn’t have a point.  There should not be a single slide in the deck that you don’t completely and fully understand – at least at a fundamental level.  Please do not show slides that you don’t understand.  Please don’t show slides for which you cannot pass the ‘So WHAT?’ test.  Do not try to fake it.  When you do, it’s as obvious to your audience as the day is long. 

OK.  You’ve convinced me.  I’m not going to be that person who just runs through the corporate slides because that’s what I’ve been told.  But what now?  Because that’s the situation I find myself in right now.  I’ve got a slide deck I’ve been told I need to use, and I don’t feel comfortable with (or worse, agree with) the message.

Get help.  That’s what your sales enablement team is there for.  It’s what marketing is there for.  If they’re not available, take it to your manager.  Have the difficult conversation if necessary – especially if you legitimately have a problem with some of the slides.  Yes, you could just remove them from your presentation, but that might get you in trouble with the boss – or worse, might get your boss in trouble with corporate.  I’m certainly not suggesting that.  But somehow you need to figure out a way to make them your own.  Come up with at least ONE POINT that you can make on every slide – even if it takes less than 10 seconds to deliver that point – and move on.  Whatever the case, please do not put your customer through a presentation that you’re either uncomfortable with or ill-prepared to deliver.

You might be asking yourself do I need to do this EVERY time in EVERY meeting?  My answer is pretty much YES!  If you are speaking to a group – whether it’s a prospect you are meeting for the first time, a long-time customer or an audience at a cont or webinar – EVERY one of your slides should have a purpose and be an important part of the message – EVERY time.  And you should know what that is on every slide, or it should be left out.  Your audience shouldn’t have to sit through one single meaningless slide.

Remember.  Slides are tools.  Designed to help you tell a story, or steer a conversation, or articulate a valve proposition.  They are a means to an end.  They are NOT to be used as a crutch.  They should not be a mandatory box to check.  

Know your slides.  Make them your own.  And remember in most cases, less is more.

Final thought…  During the pandemic, in which almost all sales presentations are being done over web meetings, it is THAT MUCH MORE IMPORTANT that our slides are concise and on point.  Brevity is king when delivering a message in a remote meeting.  We need to work that much harder to keep our audience engaged.  Expert tip: increase animation in your online presentations to make them more visually engaging.

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