Laws of Powerful Presentations

By Heather Baldwin

Sales presentations are all about persuasion – persuading a client to buy a product, upgrade a service or simply choose you to move to the next round in the competition for a major contract. So if you want to improve your powers of persuasion, who better to learn from than the professionals who have made persuasion an art form: trial lawyers. Claudyne Wilder, founder of Boston-based Wilder Presentations, suggests presenters take to heart a few of the tips recently offered to trial lawyers by the National Law Journal:.

1. Develop the other side’s best case. Before you do anything, think about all the possible objections that could be raised about your product or service. Look at what you have to offer from the perspective of the competition – where are your product’s weaknesses? Where are your competitor’s strengths? Be prepared to address every objection and concern, and figure out ways to turn your weak spots into winning advantages.

2. Find an emotional hook. Think about great trials in the movies – the victorious lawyer always is the one who makes a real emotional impact on the jury. As successful trial lawyers and presenters know, juries and audiences are comprised of human beings, and humans aren’t persuaded simply by facts. Emotions play a powerful role in convincing us to take action. So appeal to your audience’s emotions – through stories, examples and anecdotes – and your case will be far stronger than if you relied only on facts.

3. Be gentle with the witnesses. Substitute “doubting audience member” for “witness” and you’ve got an important rule for presenting. When a customer raises objections or disagrees with your statements, don’t go on the offensive. Have a ready answer, but present it calmly and rationally. “Even if you plan to show that the person is wrong, do it gently,” says Wilder. “Everyone will see through what the person is saying if you present a convincing case.”

4. Excise all jargon from testimony. Jargon only tends to confuse and alienate audience members, so try to stick to plain language in your presentations unless you’re 100 percent certain that everyone in the room understands every term you’ll be using. Otherwise, you risk diluting your message.