Think before You Ink

By Heather Baldwin

Are you putting your presentations together backward? If you’re firing up PowerPoint to make slides as you outline your presentation, the answer is yes. It’s a classic presenter’s mistake, according to Epson America’s Presenters Online (www.presentersonline.com): many salespeople “don’t adequately develop the presentation content before they begin to make slides.”To save time and avoid cramming too much superfluous information into your slides and your presentation, Aaron Marinari, Epson’s product manager of multimedia projectors, suggests doing five things before you even think about creating slides:

Thoroughly research your audience so you’ll know what information they need, what anecdotes would be appropriate and what questions you can ask them to enliven the presentation and ensure you’re addressing their concerns.

Establish the goal of your presentation. Is it to close a sale? Introduce a new product? Get to the next round in competing for a contract?

Brainstorm all your points. Marinari suggests writing down each idea on a “sticky” note and posting it on a wall.

Organize the points into key categories. Examine each idea and eliminate anything that’s unnecessary, redundant or doesn’t directly help you reach the goal of your presentation.

Once you’ve done all of these things, you can turn to PowerPoint, says Marinari. You’ll know what you need to say, how it relates to your overall message and why it’s important to your audience. If you put the cart before the proverbial horse (i.e. PowerPoint before organization), “you lose track of what your goal is. You’re not able to weight the presentation to reach the goal,” he cautions. “You’ll end up spending 75 percent of your time introducing the company or doing other things.”

The irony is that salespeople rush slide creation to save time. But invariably they’ll wind up with a lopsided and unconvincing presentation that they have to go back and fix anyway, says Marinari. A little organization before cranking up PowerPoint, he says, will ultimately save time and result in a stronger presentation.