(This blog is a 7th in a 15 part series titled ‘Definitive Guide to Making Killer Sales Presentations’. Sign-up now to be the first to receive the full-fledged guide.)
Sales are often driven by the confidence of the sales person. If a sales person has to go back to their notes/documents every now and then to make a point, the prospect might think that the salesperson is not well prepared and doesn’t know their product and its benefits well enough. It, thus, becomes important to appear confident and use helping documents as little as possible. This becomes more important when giving a presentation to a large audience as the feedback from the audience is minimal.
Repeated practice of the sales presentation not only helps in making one confident of delivering a flawless pitch on the d-day but also helps in flattening out any wrinkles in the logical flow of the presentation. And I’m not just saying it, but science has also established that repetition makes it easier to learn anything. More research here.
Steve Jobs was famous for having practiced his keynote presentation several times before the actual keynote. Mike Evangelist, an ex-Apple employee has written an entire article about his experience with Steve’s meticulous and almost clockwork-like precise behind-the-scenes preparation for the keynote.
In his words:
On the entire planning process involved to make things go as smooth as possible:
“Then came the process of the demo itself: what precise steps Steve should follow, whether the program should already be running on the computer, what sample movies to play, everything.
The big keynotes require a very large crew with separate teams for each major task. One prepares the room to seat several thousand people. Another group builds the stage with its motorised pedestals, risers, trap doors, and so forth. A third manages the stage lighting, audio and effects.
Yet another sets up and calibrates the state-of-the-art projection systems (complete with redundant backup systems), and a huge remote video truck parked outside has its own crew handling video feeds for the webcasts and playback of any video needed during the show. Then there are the people who set up all the computers used in the keynote, each with at least one backup that can be instantly brought online with the flick of a switch.”
On Steve’s attention to detail
“No detail was overlooked: for example, while rehearsing the iDVD demo, Steve found that the DVD player’s remote control didn’t work from where he wanted to stand on the stage. The crew had to make a special repeater system to make it work.”
On Steve’s preparation few days run-up to the actual keynote:
“Steve usually rehearses on the two days before a keynote. On the first day he works on the segments he feels need the most attention. The product managers and engineering managers for each new product are in the room, waiting for their turn. This group also forms Steve’s impromptu test audience: he’ll often ask for their feedback. He spends a lot of time on his slides, personally writing and designing much of the content, with a little help from Apple’s design team.”
I would strongly recommend reading the entire experience as written by Mike here.
Read about another Apple employee’s experience with Steve’s backstage preparation for the Safari release here for some more insights.
Repeat efforts of memorizing and going through your presentation just like you would do on the final day helps prepare not just your conscious memory but also your muscle memory. To be able to do this, it is extremely important to be prepared with your presentation content at least a week before the final presentation to give yourself enough time to prepare and practice.
A rather popular method to trigger memory to remember things involves taking your brain for a emotional journey of connected events.
Imagine you’re trying to sell a smartphone to an interested buyer/friend. You know that the smartphone has 3 major aspects to speak about where it beats its rivals hands down. The smartphone has the highest resolution screen of all devices in its price range, it also has the fastest processor and the longest battery life. To remember this, imagine, say a normal looking home with the front door.
As soon as you open the front door, you see a unicorn with a rainbow (representing high resolution), next you move to the second room towards your right and see a shining red Ferrari with its engines roaring (representing fast processor) and you finally move to the last room to your left to see Usain Bolt running on a treadmill (representing long battery life).
Notice any trend? You would see that tying those features of the phone to progressively strange images which trigger an emotional response would help you remember the features you need to talk about while selling the phone.
Science has illustrated a very strong connection of the memory to the emotions.The stronger the emotion, the stronger would be the memory. Infact, we would see this in our personal lives where we remember the more emotional moments more vividly than the everyday mundane moments. Read more about the connection of emotion to memory here.
Another interesting memory technique to memorize slides/flashcard-like information is called the Spaced Repetition technique. Simply put, the technique was first proposed in the book Psychology of Study by Prof C.A. Mace sometime in 1932 and allows one to learn increasing long list of topics for a very long term. It was devised as a method which not only helped a person gain more knowledge in a lesser time but also retain it for longer periods of time. It involves one to increase interval times between subsequent revisions of previously learned material in order to exploit our body’s natural spacing effect. If one gets a particular piece of information wrong in revision, you decrease the interval between subsequent revisions and increase if you start getting it right. A more refined version of this technique, called the Leitner System, was proposed by a German science journalist Sebastian Leitner. This technique involved having a set of boxes, numbered say 1 to 5. A person would put all his flashcards in box 1, memorize all of them and start the revision after day 1. The ones which he gets right will be moved to box 2, while the ones he got wrong will be put back again in box 1. This activity will be repeated after every 1 day for cards kept in box 1, every 2 days for cards kept in box 2, every 4 days for cards kept in box 3 and so on. Cards graduate to a higher box if one gets them right in the revision but go back to box 1 if they get it wrong.
There are several more types of learning methodologies apart form the above two, particularly use of Mnemonics as a learning-aid. Mnemonics make the information more “relatable”. Haven’t some of us used the short form “VIBGYOR” in order to learn the order of the rainbow colors where VIBGYOR standing for Violet, Indigo, Blue and so on…or made ABCD… into a song? Mnemonics work on the principle that they make obscure or new information more personal/relatable which has a better retention rate.
So always be well prepared and practiced because you certainly don’t want to be this guy