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Have you ever noticed how some people miss the Microsoft pun on PowerPoint and use it like a Power-Bunny that keeps on going, and going, and going, and going, … pointless?

Benefits Selling is about delivering the point with conviction – you make the pitch, bring the points that deliver the benefits, and close with a compelling call to action.  Beware, for some people a PowerPoint presentation causes them to automatically tune out: it is not the medium - it is the message you deliver that causes the problem.  You see, most people in the audience can read PowerPoint slides: which makes it supremely annoying if you insist on reading each slide verbatim.    Think less text, more blank space, and use the slide as a memory cue, while the explanation in the lower half of the page can help you build the full story – again, not to read verbatim, but to keep you on track.

The best presentation is always to engage people in a directed conversation with the PowerPoint or any other prepared presentation to read later at their leisure.  The role it plays is to keep you on track with what you need to talk about, not to tell the story for you.  You can drive a meeting by having people talk to each other about what they think on the current topic so that you generate interaction.  You can stimulate dialog simply by asking the right kind of questions, and not drill your opinion into everyone’s psyche, so that you more or less force people to engage in dialog rather than to remain passive.

Sometimes PowerPoint is indispensable, as when you want to make a presentation with facts and figures that others need to know about.  The key to a good presentation is to understand two key things:

Benefits selling = deliver the reasons why the audience should be interested in the ideas you present.  

Problem solving = deliver the solutions available to your audience rather than to summarize the problems to be solved.

Determine what kinds of collateral you need to inform people of the opportunity that is being offered.  Analyze your message, and how that message should be delivered in order to be effective.  You may need different messages for different audiences and/or for different media so make sure the message is delivered and that it will be properly received by those you want to be interested

Maxing the Handout

Remember, you can supplement slides with text to deliver a more useful handout that means more to your audience than a printout of the slides.  Although PowerPoint will produce a multi-slide printout, the explanation balloons and other effects will be lost in that process.  The answer is to output all your slides as “.jpg” images that you can then import into a Word document and re-size for use as illustrations, such as this example:

In print, you take smaller images, and use circles as at right to highlight information as opposed to using the balloon, and write the appropriate description to go with the step illustrated in the image.  To create a simple layout you can use a Word table of 2 cells, and alternate using the left or right cell for a picture, and the adjacent cell to hold the summary explanation for the audience. 

The advantage of this technique is that you allow people to focus on your presentation, while the hand-out becomes an auxiliary product that reminds them of what you told them during the presentation.  You can use plain text to highlight specific points and add more detailed explanations that you verbally provide in a seminar setting when they are critically important for the audience to rehash and remember.  The difference from the standard seminar handout is that, as a formal document, you can add lasting value for a seminar participant that can translate into future networking contacts as information is shared in a format where it can add value even in print.  You may be surprised how long this lasts, when you get contacted out of the blue on something you presented as much as a decade earlier, even on a topic that started out as highly customer specific.

Explaining a Process

Using screen images to explain a process can be overwhelming unless you make a point of grounding your audience in what stage of the process is involved in what you explain.

To illustrate a process using screen pages you should incorporate the high-level process flow, which then corresponds to process screens “A” through “F” in this example.

The focus of the process description will be PowerPoint pages where you repeat simple flowcharts (as illustrated) and highlight where you are in the process.  Those pages will highlight relevant functions, features, benefits, and other focus items and thus anchor the actual screen images for “A” through “F” on which you then highlight the fields that are significant for a process purpose, as outlined in the previous example.

Contrary to what some people say, it is no problem having many slides in a PowerPoint deck (or a slide with several transitions to highlight different features).  Remember that the goal is to pace your presentation to ensure that your audience is comfortably able to grasp and absorb the information so they can remember the details.  We will show you later how to integrate presentations in a handout.

Explaining a Web Page

If you have the need to outline a process by showing what the web interface looks like it can appear fairly confusing.  Our example below is a simple time reporting interface that is not as cluttered as some, just to illustrate how you can use it as a background picture in a PowerPoint slide and emphasize your explanation:

The proper use of the balloon is to point at where you want the audience to look and to highlight what it is you want your audience to notice or to learn.  If there are 5 items, it is easy to use animation so that as you click the next balloon appears and replaces the previous one with a new emphasis on a new field on the web page.  However, you will want to avoid talking through a process in terms of screen images or you risk losing your audience – you need to set the presentation in the context of a process description.

Pacing the Presentation

You can quote parts of your slides to emphasize context or to attribute a quoted phrase if only to offer variety, but it should not replace dynamic interaction with the audience, to draw them into what you have to say.  You cannot simply read from the slide as you cannot possibly keep up with the speed at which your audience reads the information.

Your job as a presenter is to be engaging and to draw your audience in, sometimes even to make little mistakes so that your audience can speak up and contribute: that sounds corny, but it gets people to pay more attention for an opportunity to be recognized as a contributor.  If you loathe self-deprecation, simply give one example of a concept and ask the audience if they have other examples (you should have a few up your sleeve if the audience is unusually timid).  Keep it light, don’t turn it into a lecture, and remind all present that handouts will be provided so note-taking is not a priority.  If you always use an introduction (tell them what you are going to tell them), a detailed presentation, and a final summary (tell them what you just told them), you make sure all points are taken into account, yet you can rush the summary if necessary if you run out of time.

Always have a variable duration Q&A session at the end of the presentation to interact with the audience.  If you run short of time you may be able to meet up with a selected group of audience members to rehash selected topics afterwards and use this also as an opportunity to network and to establish the roots of future opportunities.

Visual Clutter

Whatever you do, rule #1 in PowerPoint is to avoid visual clutter: to cram so much into a slide that it drives your audience to distraction.  Presentation materials done wrong can throw you off track, and certainly will confuse your audience when they cannot make a connection between what they hear and what they read.  Even worse, if you verbalize what they read it becomes annoying because it sends a message that the audience may not pay attention (or even worse, that they are too dumb to read it themselves).

What can be very helpful is a “layered presentation” where a concept comes to life step-by-step with PowerPoint animation.  At each successive step you can use a balloon-type text box to emphasize the next layer of completion, and so in a number of steps you can collate the overall concept into a final message (even if that seems a bit cluttered, you didn’t ask the audience to pick the pieces apart).  Play with the concepts and use proper image transitions that support what you want to illustrate, rather than for excitement, as most people are fairly familiar with what PowerPoint can do.  Let’s look at a number of typical challenges that you should try to overcome.