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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,

Sometimes when making a presentation to a prospective client, you might notice signs of your audience disengaging - fidgeting, no longer paying attention, or checking their phone. Often their reactions are a result of their fight or flight response, which engages in situations where someone feels uncomfortable, confused, or overwhelmed. Although your audience might not physically flee, they are mentally leaving the room.

Once a prospect's fight or flight reaction kicks in, salvaging your presentation becomes challenging, if not impossible. The best approach is to structure your presentation so you don't trigger that response from your audience.

Five things to avoid when structuring and delivering presentations:

  • Presenting too much information: Too many details, examples, or concepts is confusing and causes stress. Your audience needs to be empowered to focus on one meaningful concept relevant to his or her situation. Use only a few facts or examples, and move on to a second concept only after the prospect is 100 percent comfortable with the first.

  • Presenting too little information or being vague: There must be enough information for the prospect to connect the dots and make sense of the big picture. Make sure you have concrete points to support your main concept, and clearly outline the connections between them. Otherwise your audience might be confused or doubt your expertise. Establishing trust is difficult.

  • Not framing your presentation in the proper context: Even with the right amount of information, a presentation can be confusing or ineffective if it's not framed in a context-relevant manner specific to your
    audience. The framework must be meaningful to your prospect's situation - his or her goals, challenges, needs, etc. If you don't answer the "What's in it for me?" perspective for your possible clients quickly, they will become anxious and stop paying attention.

  • Pushing too hard: Even if it's caused by your enthusiasm or a last-ditch desperation to make a sale, being pushy will always trigger the fight or flight response. Both the primitive, subconscious brain and the logical thought process respond by wondering "If this is good for me, why is he pushing so hard?"

  • Not getting to the point quickly: Presentations that drag on or wander without direction, even if they have relevant information framed in the proper context, create tension in your audience. The easiest way for the prospect to relieve that tension is to eliminate its source - by mentally disengaging from you and your presentation.

It might take extra effort to structure your presentation accordingly, but the outcomes of keeping your prospects engaged will be rewarding.


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