Though good presentations are preferable to bad presentations, it’s the bad presentations that provide the most obvious lessons. Awareness is key. Therefore, it’s important to unearth any bad presentation habits since that is all anyone will remember of you. Especially in sales, delivering presentations is an inevitable part of the job so it’s important to know what makes a good presentation, or rather, what makes a bad presentation. Below are the first three most common habits that can make or break your presentation:
DON’T start by apologizing.
Let’s say, for instance, you’re cold-calling prospects. Well, a sure-fire way to ruin your chances of converting the call into an appointment is by starting the call with “I’m sorry to bother you, but…” You’re not sorry for calling, and the prospect knows it. Also, apologizing suggests uncertainty. If you’re not confident in what you’re selling, then the prospect won’t be confident in buying what you’re selling.
DON’T use filler words/phrases.
An excessive use of filler words or phrases can be detrimental to your message. While many unconsciously interject words and phrases, such as “like,” “um,” “I mean,” “you know,” as a substitute for a pause with the intention of maintaining the listener’s attention, it actually serves as a distraction. Moreover, when overused, fillers make the speaker appear unprepared, and no one buys an expensive product like health or life insurance from someone who is unprepared. Additionally, Dr. Lance Strate, professor of communication and media studies and associate chair for undergraduate studies at Fordham University in New York, says, “There is no one reason for [the use of fillers], but nervousness is certainly one reason, which goes hand in hand with lack of confidence.” Like apologizing, fillers indicate insecurity, and prospects don’t trust someone who doesn’t believe in themselves.
While there are several filler words and phrases, one of the most infuriating fillers is “you know” because it makes the speaker seem either unknowledgeable or condescending. Punctuating a statement with “you know” insinuates that your audience understands. This phrase is also an excuse for not fully offering your audience an explanation because again you’re implying that they already understand. Keep in mind that this is health insurance; more than likely, your client does not know what you are talking about.
Note of encouragement: If “you know” is a filler phrase you find yourself saying often, you’re not alone! Even the greatest speakers fall victim to this dangerous phrase. For example, President Obama and Caroline Kennedy, who are both highly educated people in the public, political sphere, use the phrase “you know” more than you’d think. If you don’t believe me, read this excerpt from Kennedy’s interview with the Times a few years ago:
“So I think in many ways, you know, we want to have all kinds of different voices, you know, representing us, and I think what I bring to it is, you know, my experience as a mother, as a woman, as a lawyer, you know, I’ve been an education activist for the last six years here, and, you know, I’ve written seven books – two on the Constitution, two on American politics. So obviously, you know, we have different strengths and weaknesses.”
In the full 20 to 30-minute interview, Kennedy says the phrase “you know” a grand total of 142 times. Don’t let a bad habit, such as “you know,” distract your client from knowing how smart you are!
DON’T avoid eye contact.
Maintaining eye contact is a sign of trust and confidence. People want to buy something from someone they know and like. If you’re constantly looking at forms, documents, and other materials rather than engaging with your client, then your obvious discomfort will make them uncomfortable. Avoiding eye contact can also be construed as rude. If you are rushing through a sale and focused on getting the paperwork in order, then you’re not paying attention to your client. Take the time to get to know your client and make them feel comfortable before pushing a sale on them before they’re ready. Direct your attention to the client and show that you genuinely care.