You’ve probably sat in a presentation that made you long for a fire drill or a burst pipe to release you from the tedium. A boring presentation can be the result of many factors: unimaginative or irrelevant content, poor execution or lack of preparation, but often the problem starts with structure. Most salespeople still follow a presentation structure that has been around since the seventies. And while we might smile nostalgically when we see someone sporting bell bottoms or tie dye, there’s nothing for your prospect to smile about when confronted with this tired old structure.

I write a lot about how to create and deliver a presentation that engages and persuades today’s busy business audiences, so I thought it would be helpful to turn the tables, and look at the anatomy of a boring presentation through the eyes of a prospect.

The Elements of a Boring Presentation

  • The Introduction

    Audience attention is at its peak during those first few seconds of a presentation. Critical first impressions are being made and expectations are being set. What can an audience expect from a presenter who starts off talking about himself? More of the same. Besides being self-focused, few people can introduce themselves well, making this an awkward moment for both presenter and audience. Yes, you may require an introduction, for a better way that enhances your credibility instead of calling it into question, read here.

  • The Company Overview:

    Right after the presenter talks about himself in his introduction, he talks about his company. That’s right, a double-feature of “All about me!” All the research we have about today’s buyers shows that they don’t care about this information – or, they’re already familiar with it. Predictable information (company size, locale, clients, etc.) delivered in a predicable spot makes the audience ripe for distractions.

Tip: Find out how to dump the corporate selfie and still build credibility here.

  • The Agenda

    I encourage the use of an agenda, but an unimaginative bullet pointed list of topics focused on the seller’s product and delivered in excruciating detail serves little value. The problem? Attention is nearing a low point and the presenter still hasn’t delivered anything of value, addressed the prospects needs or given them a compelling reason to keep listening.

  • The Description of the Problem

    Here comes the diagnosis – a slide revealing everything that’s wrong with the company that the presenter is going to fix. Not only is this insulting to some in the audience, it’s not exactly a surprise and it’s given by every vendor that walks in the door. Where is that smartphone?

  • The Solution

    Ten to fifteen minutes into it and the presenter is finally getting to what the audience came to hear. But is anyone still listening? Attention spans are at their lowest point after ten minutes and the presenter has done nothing to stop this downward slide. In addition, this is where even good presenters get lost in a sea of features, making it difficult for the prospect to remember what matters most: how the solution will ultimately benefit them.

  • The Closing

    Tell them what you told them, right? Good advice but often taken too literally or not at all. There’s a fine balance between underlining your key message and regurgitating what you just covered. Another predictable area and an opportunity for your audience to start wondering how many minutes until they can get out the door.

  • The Reference

    References are important to many prospects, however if this is the first time in the presentation that the salesperson is introducing evidence to support his claims, guess what? He’s too late. Prospects form opinions early and use the rest of the presentation to justify their position.

  • The “Any Questions?

    If I never see a slide with a giant question mark on it again, it will be too soon. Instead of ending on a powerful note with clearly defined next steps, this ends the presentation on a whimper. As the final impression with your audience, your closing deserves as much attention as the opening.

Tip: Want to avoid the whimper close? Click here.

If you recognize any of these elements in your own presentation, don’t despair. You can start to make your presentation more in tune with today’s prospects if you follow a few simple guidelines. Get started by seeing what a persuasive and engaging structure looks like, then, get a proven formula, step-by-step instructions and examples to help you create a presentation that has prospects leaning in, instead of checking out.

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