Try this: Put a black dot in the middle of a whiteboard and ask a group of people what they see. The most common response is “a black dot.” That’s an interesting response considering that 99.99% of what they are looking at is a whiteboard, not black dot.

Preparing for a big sales presentation often turns into squinting at the black dot instead looking at the whole whiteboard.

Your pitch isn’t about your PowerPoint, your samples, or your demo. Those are black dots. It’s about stepping back and considering your audience. That’s where all of your focus should be.

Here are six ways to make sure your presentation speaks to your audience:

1. Break down the audience. When I ask about sales people about who’s coming to a key meeting, I hear all too often something like, “Our champion, and the technical person we have been talking to, and 2-3 other people.” That’s not good enough. You need to know who is coming by name/title/role/length of service. You can’t prepare adequately for the presentation if you are preparing for the company rather than preparing for the people, one by one.

2. Pick one point per person. Each person who is coming will remember only one (maybe two…but no more) points that you make. If you just present and don’t design the point you are making for each of the people individually, you are hoping that they just “get it.” Focus on the point and then deliver it to that person in the meeting.

3. Pull in previous conversational threads. As you are presenting, use the language and points that your prospect has made in previous calls and emails. Include language like, “In our last meeting John, one of your key issues was redundancy and that is why we are emphasizing our unique approach to that issue in this presentation today.”

4. Name names. Companies don’t buy from companies, people buy from people. As in the example above, I use the person’s name specifically in as many points as I possibly can. I want the presentation to register with the prospects and show that we have listened to them and tailored our approach accordingly.

5. Build your presentation for a conversation. Simple rule: No more than 2 slides in a row without interaction. Your presentation — whether you use a presentation tool like Keynote or PowerPoint or not — needs to include intentional interaction as often as possible to keep your team connected to the audience and draw out the secondary issues to be  addressed.

6. Master your Murder Board. In one of my posts below, I wrote about preparing for a presentation using a Murder Board approach. This means focusing on all of the questions you are afraid they might ask and then getting your answers down cold just in case they do. This is a “must do” for every preparation activity.

This blog posted originally for CBS’s BNet November 23, 2010.  For more of Tom Searcy’s blogs, visit BNet.

Photo courtesy of flickr Voka – Kamer van Koophandel Limburg cc

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