Act Up at Your Next Presentation

By Heather Baldwin

Ever wonder how actors can switch their emotions on and off to meet the demands of different situations? They know a lot of tricks, and salespeople can use those same tricks to make their presentations more effective, says Ellen Kaye, coach, speaker and author of Maximize Your Presentation Skills: How to Speak, Look and Act on Your Way to the Top (Prima Lifestyles, 2002). Kaye, a former actress, recommends acting methods sales reps can use to deal with four common presentation challenges.

Challenge #1: You are presenting to someone you don’t like.
Acting method: Substitution.
Imagine the face of a wonderful friend and mentally transpose it over the face of your prospect. Say you’re presenting to Tom, who is rude, demanding and egotistical. When you look at him, visualize your good friend Mary and instead of responding from your gut to Tom’s questions and demands, respond as if you’re talking to Mary. You’ll find you react more calmly and kindly, says Kaye, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the prospect calms down in turn.

Challenge #2: You are feeling depressed or in a bad mood before an important presentation when you need to be up.
Acting method: Mood-motivating triggers
Find a piece of music that motivates you and elevates your mood, and listen to it one or two times before your presentation. Kaye’s favorite: Barbra Streisand singing Don’t Rain on My Parade. “Listen until the music is resonating in your soul and keep it in your head,” says Kaye. “When you walk into the presentation, you are that music and that emotion.” Need some ideas for mood-altering music? Kaye’s book includes a chart listing desired mood outcomes and music that can be used to achieve them.

Challenge #3: Your presentation is clearly not persuading the audience.
Acting method: Sense memory stimulation
People buy with their emotional minds, so you need to stimulate prospects’ emotional thinking. Shift from presenting facts and figures to connecting emotionally. For example, you might ask your prospects if they have children or are married, and then use that information to tie in a brief story that connects to your presentation. “This moves audience members to an emotional plane,” says Kaye. “Now they’ve got another sense working for them.”

Challenge #4: You’re at a standstill. The prospect has too many objections but you still think you’ve got the right product for him.
Acting method: High status, low status
In a relationship between a sales rep and a prospect, reps usually perceive themselves as having the lower status because they want to sell their product. To jumpstart the relationship, Kaye recommends you mentally shift yourself so you have the higher status. That might mean telling the prospect something such as: Bill, if you want to go with price and that’s your sole concern, we’re not for you. Then start packing up your things. It’s usually so disarming that the prospect will instantly reconsider his position, says Kaye. “It’s quite dramatic,” she adds, “and a great technique to use when you’re being barricaded.”

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