PowerPoint’s Third Dimension

By Heather Baldwin

Imagine you’re in the middle of a sales presentation and someone asks about the technical compatibility of your product with the prospect’s current system. You have a slide about this issue toward the end of your presentation but it’s clear from all the nodding heads that people want to know about it now. Do you ask audience members to wait? Or do you take them on a high-speed ride through your slides until you find the right one?

If you’re giving a traditional, linear presentation, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. If you’re giving a nonlinear presentation – called a relational presentation – you can zip from whatever slide you’re on to any of the tens of thousands of slides in your system with one or two clicks. The result is a more interactive, free-flowing presentation that feels more like a conversation with the audience than a formal pitch.

“Communication is a back and forth process, but linear presentations break down that dynamic. The next slide dictates what you have to say,” points out Robert Lane, president of Tucson-based Aspire Communications. Relational presentations, on the other hand, let presenters move in any direction at any time. That’s not to say there’s no linear component to it – certainly you can start your presentation with a lineup of slides and a plan to progress through them in order. By using the information architecture of a relational presentation, however, you have the freedom to divert at any time down unplanned paths in response to audience needs.

The short explanation of how it works is that the presenter opens a slide that Lane calls a cover slide. That cover slide is linked to a slideshow, which in turn is linked to a second slideshow and so on. “What I do is connect all these slideshows together in a hierarchical way. I use the cover slide to open a main slide that acts as a switchboard with that slideshow opening other slideshows that open other slideshows which open other slideshows and so on,” Lane explains. “Once you open that one slideshow, you have unlimited access to however many slideshows you have. The idea is that your network continues to grow as you grow.” When you’ve got your information organized correctly, your presentation has the flexibility to move in any direction at any time.

For example, Lane says that during almost every one of his presentations audience members raise at least 1 of about 12 common objections. “These objections are normal and quite predictable in scope, but I don’t know which ones are coming when!” he says. Knowing the objections might be raised, he hides icons that link every slide to an objections section. Whenever an objection arises, these links allows him to say: You know, that’s a great point. Let me show you something you might want to think about. He then can instantly show a slide that addresses the objection raised. “I can address concerns quickly and provide listeners customized, visual information for better understanding,” he says.

AS another example, say you’re sitting with a prospect who’s telling you about how his or her company is working on Project X with Bob to figure out how to solve a certain problem. Because every slide in a relational presentation links to a resources slide with a whole library of material, including photos, video and more, you could, with two clicks, say to the prospect: Oh, let me show you what we’re doing in that area – and then pull up a slide that shows how you solved that challenge for someone else.

To use a relational presentation, Lane recommends salespeople prepare slide showing a linear overview, but begin the presentation by saying something such as: Here’s my initial spiel. What I want to know is where you want to go. You tell me how you’d like me to proceed. Show audience members the overview slide with a list of topics you can address and let them tell you which issues are most important to them. Then use the links associated with each topic to delve into the topics your audience selects. This approach puts the audience in the driver’s seat, which in turn will make you a star.

For more information and to see a short video on relational presentations, visit www.aspirecommunications.com.