How To Give an Online Presentation

Last Updated Feb 23, 2011 10:56 AM EST

I recently had a fascinating conversation with Howard Stevens, the CEO of the Chally Group about how the role of the B2B sales professional is changing. He's seeing a rapid shift to inside sales, with the inside salesperson being both highly trained and very plugged in to using a variety of online tools to build and maintain customer relationship.

That got me thinking, because while I've written extensively on giving sales presentations (see, for instance, Top 20 Reasons Your Presentations Suck), I have not written much about giving them online. That's probably because, while I've given plenty of "webinars", I've not yet been in many situations where online presentations played a big role in a sales effort.

Fortunately, BNET happens to have, as a blogger, one of the top experts in this field. That's my friend Wayne Turmel, who writes the Connected Manager blog. He's just written a fantastic book on the subject "10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations". He also does consulting for firms looking to get up to speed on this kind of thing. (His website is GreatWebMeetings.com)

I asked Wayne to help me out on this, and he was kind enough to supply me with a summary of his book, specifically geared towards sales professionals. His overall philosophy is to "make the technology secondary to doing what sales people do, which is create human connections and communicate their message." Here's his advice, which I think is top-notch:


  • RULE #1: Identify your objectives and outcomes. What do you want to accomplish with this meeting? A demo isn't an outcome, getting the customer to agree to a trial or to take you to the decision maker is the objective. Is a webmeeting the best way to move the sale forward?
  • RULE #2. Learn the platform. 90% of web presentation tool users never receive any formal training or coaching before they present in front of a customer or prospect. Does that make sense? It's like learning to drive by taking your parents to the airport. It's doable but won't be fun and no one will want to do it again soon. Learn the platform so that your brain can relax and allow you to concentrate on listening to the customer and making the sale.
  • RULE #3. Create a project plan. Because of the technology and multitasking involved, it's very easy to forget a step or finish a web sales call and think "oh why didn't I say that?" At the very least make good notes to make sure you cover (and ask!) everything the customer will need to move to the next step of your sales cycle.
  • RULE #4: Work with others. If you're doing a demo for the first time, involve other people and get their feedback. Salespeople should watch each other present, you'll see what you want to incorporate yourself, and what you'd never want to inflict on an audience.
  • RULE #5. Create compelling content. This doesn't mean overload your presentation with features and benefits, it means identify the few key things that will move your customer to the next step. It's about compelling the CUSTOMER to take action, not pleasing the marketing department.
  • RULE #6. Create visuals that support your presentation. Don't overload a sales presentation with PowerPoint slides (or showing too many screens) but identify the key things you want your audience to remember. If it's important, you want to visually represent it so they'll retain it. Visuals also include annotation tools and screen sharing. Learn the possibilities of your platform and exploit them mercilessly.
  • RULE #7. Sharpen your presentation skills. This means you not only knowing your content, but maintain your credibility and the audience's interest. You won't be as good (or effective) online as you are live unless you engage your audience.
  • RULE #8. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Presenting online is like presenting any other time, except you're trying to program your DVR while you're at it. Two bad things happen when you don't rehearse: 1) unexpected things occur which can damage your credibility and 2) your brain will fixate on the technology and you'll lose connection with your audience. BTW, rehearsing does not mean flipping through your PowerPoint muttering to yourself. It means get online and practice the whole presentation with a live victim who can give you feedback.
  • RULE #9. Present and multitask effectively. This means you have to not only present the information you want to convey in a way that heightens your credibility, but you also have to be able to ask and answer the audience's questions so you move the sale forward. I don't care how slick you look, if you don't move the sale forward it wasn't effective.
  • RULE #10. Follow up and keep learning. When the presentation is over, you can collapse in a fetal position, but ask yourself: what went well (so you can do that again) and what didn't (so you never do that again). You won't be perfect the first time out, and bad habits can creep in over time. Every online presentation is a chance to get better and more comfortable.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm grateful to Wayne for sharing this information with us. Be sure to check out his Connected Manager blog and his website, OK?

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