Rehearse Spontaneity

By Heather Baldwin

Do you avoid rehearsing your sales presentation because you want things to sound spontaneous when you’re in front of the decision makers? If so, it’s time to rethink your approach to presentations, says Peter Guiliano, founder and chairman of Executive Communications Group in Englewood, NJ. It may sound counterintuitive, says Guiliano, but practice is what enables a presenter to sound fresh, organized and unrehearsed. Failure to rehearse will simply make you appear unprepared.

Think about it, says Guiliano. “When Broadway musicals rehearse, what do they practice? They practice the parts that have lost their spontaneity and their pizzazz. They rehearse the spontaneity back in.” It works exactly the same way in sales presentations – rehearse the presentation and answers to probable questions that will arise, and it’s a snap to make those answers sound intelligent and off-the-cuff.

Not convinced? Consider the case of one of Guiliano’s clients, a high-tech telecom company presenting to a group of about 35 engineers in an effort to win a major contract. The engineers at the client company wanted someone from the original design team to be present at the presentation and the telecom group tapped “a guy who lived in math” to accompany the presentation team, says Guiliano. “His presentation skills were zero. Even with coaching, he was utterly hopeless.” Still, in working with the presentation team, “we recognized a place where a question was going to come up that this guy would have to answer,” he recalls. “I spent two days working with him on delivering a one-paragraph answer to the question. When the question came up during the presentation, the guy rose to his feet with a smile and delivered his answer with a punch, exactly as we had rehearsed.”

The result: “That one paragraph was enough to cement his credibility,” says Guiliano. “He made those 35 engineers so comfortable that the company won the contract.” Without any rehearsal, however, the results likely would have been far different. So practice everything from the intro to the Q&A, says Guiliano, and you’ll be amazed just how spontaneous things sound when it really counts.