Presentations by the Numbers

By Heather Baldwin

Most sales reps would agree that great presentations are more art than science. But one presentation expert has come up with a rather scientific way of determining whether your presentation is interesting and persuasive. Anne Miller, founder of New York City-based Chiron Associates (, a sales presentation skills development company, says great presentations are all about great patterns. By analyzing the patterns in your presentation, she says, you can learn whether you’re more likely to captivate your audience or bore them to death.

Here’s how it works. First, assign a number to the different elements of your presentation. Miller suggests you assign the number 1 to every piece of information you provide; the number 2 to every example or anecdote you offer; the number 3 to every instance when you involve the audience; and the number 4 to every conclusion you draw or benefit you state. Next, tape yourself giving your sales presentation. Then sit down with pencil and paper and watch your presentation. As you watch, jot down a 1, 2, 3 or 4 each time you complete a sentence or thought. For example, if you state that your company has been in business for 50 years, write down 1 because that’s a piece of information. If you mention a feature of your product and tell a story to illustrate how one client used that feature to cut its expenses by 10%, write down 2.

At the end of the presentation take a look at all the numbers on your page. If there’s variation in the arrangement and balance of the numbers, you’ve probably got a winning presentation. If you’re heavy on one number or the numbers fall together in clusters, you’ve got some work to do. “When your pattern is robust, you can’t be boring,” says Miller. “People are boring because they’ve got too many 1s. Or if you’ve got a lot of 2s and 3s but draw no conclusions, your audience probably will be well entertained but they won’t buy from you.” The key is variety. There’s no magic, winning pattern, says Miller. Just strive for variation and balance and your presentation likely will be a success.