Sales Club Presents: How to give a compelling presentation

November 8th, 2017

by Michael Pelosi, Founder & President HKUST MBA Sales Club

The Sales Club Executive team conducted a poll with all the members of the HKUST MBA Sales Club to get a better understanding of the types of skills they would like to develop. After analyzing all the results, presentation skills were a clear winner so we decided to co-host a dinner with the Hong Kong chapter of the Toastmasters Club. Our guest speaker was Aaron Leung, President of Victoria Toastmasters Club (Hong Kong's oldest Toastmasters Club). 

In total, 24 Sales Club members joined the dinner. We conducted the workshop in a private room at Mr and Mrs Fox in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong.  

It was a glorious evening filled with great food, wine, and insights. Aaron from Toastmasters provided an interactive session, including putting one of the students on the spot asking him to sell a glass of a water to the group...most of us were sold! Congrats to Charles Lim for having the confidence to spontaneously pitch us H2O and do it successfully! Video below: 

The group learned a lot from the session, most of which we've summarized below. Here are the top 3 tips on how to deliver a more compelling presentation:

1. Know your audience: Anytime you're doing a presentation, always make sure to customize the content based on your audience. A sales pitch to investors will look a lot different than if it were to friends or potential customers. In addition, if it's a smaller audience, try to learn more about them on a individual level. If one person in the room has a particular affinity for increasing market share, make sure to mention how your solution will increase market share. Important to note, this doesn't mean every time you meet with someone new you completely change the content, it simply means you should think about tweaking the presentation to emphasize elements that your audience will be most interested in. 

2. Body language and Tone: Albert Mehrabian, one of the godfathers of verbal and nonverbal message impact, found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal (words only), 38 percent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection, and other sounds), and 55 percent nonverbal (body language). If you know your content inside and out, but are either off in tone (too quite, yelling, etc.) or are displaying the wrong body language (overly animated, too stiff, etc.), you are NOT delivering a good presentation. On the contrary, if your content is a little rusty, but you deliver it in a confident tone with the proper level of assertive body language, you can still deliver a GREAT presentation. In practical terms, what this means is that you need to make sure you spend time practicing all three mediums, not just content. Spend at least an equal amount of time on your physical delivery and tone. Soliciting feedback from friends and colleagues is a great place to start.

3. Facts Tell, Stories Sell: Jerome Seymour Bruner, who was an American psychologist and human cognitive psychology and learning theory legend, conducted research that suggests we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. If you think about this intuitively it makes sense. If you think back to a powerful presentation you've seen, either by a colleague, classmate, or professor, chances are what you remember most is an inspiring, interesting, or humorous story or anecdote, not a particular fact. Why is this the case? Well there a few reasons. First and foremost stories create context which helps us normalize what were hearing, enabling us to think of how we could apply it in our everyday lives. This makes the content more memorable. In addition, stories elicit emotions, which naturally make use pay closer attention to what were hearing or seeing.

The ultimate cocktail is a mixture of the two. If you weave relevant data throughout a compelling story, it will capture you audiences attention while making sure that the important facts are getting through.