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SALES PRESENTATIONS

If you’ve been invited to make a presentation, chances are you’ve already

invested a good deal of time and energetic capital into getting this account by

responding to an RFP or participating in initial meetings. Now you’re looking

to close the deal. What are your best shots for succeeding?

Success lies in preparation, and this is true whether you’re a natural-born

speaker or not. Even those of you who have a gift for thinking quickly on your

feet are apt to leave out an important detail, interpretation, or explanation if you

haven’t prepared.

And what about you shy, reticent types who wish you didn’t have to stand

up and present at all? Two surefire techniques for working through nervousness

are preparation and practice.

Steffanie Lorig, executive director of Art with Heart in Seattle, recalls how she

felt. “I was terrified for the first ten presentations I made.” The audience size at her

presentations ranged from one person to a group of twenty marketing executives

who were resistant to her recommendations. “You have to really work on your

verbal skills,” she advises. “Preparing a lot helps, as well as thinking out beforehand

how you’ll respond to questions or opposition.” What’s Steffanie’s greatest challenge

now that she’s an experienced presenter? “I have to communicate my enthusiasm

while, at the same time, making sure I sell the concept,” she says.

We also recommend you review your presentation afterward to improve

future performances. Make it a part of your performance routine to pinpoint

objectively what you did well and what you didn’t do so well. This self-review

allows you to desensitize yourself to the whole performance over time. Notice

that we wrote “objectively.” We don’t want you sinking into the shame and

despair cycle here. After all, 99 percent of us feel performance anxiety at least

once in a while, so relax—you is in good company.

Follow-up self-reviews help you remember that presentation skills can be

developed and improved. Margo Chase, creative director of The Chase Design

Group in Los Angeles, told us she and her team practice this principle after

every presentation as a way to evolve in their presentation skills.

Here are some more dos and don’ts for making successful presentations.