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The PowerPoint pitch

Image courtesy of Flickr user quinn.anya

(MoneyWatch) For those sales people who didn't get enough of presentations during the day, there was a television opportunity to watch others struggle on Sunday night. From the network that brought us "Mad Men," a show about Madison Avenue selling in the 1960s, came "The Pitch": A weekly reality show that pits rival advertising agencies making sales presentation to win over clients.

If you watched this season of the multi-Emmy-award winning "Mad Men" on AMC, then you no doubt saw a heavy rotation of commercials for "The Pitch." Unfortunately, "The Pitch" lacked the outlandish presenters like "Mad Men" lead Don Draper, but instead offered ordinary agency people struggling to land the likes of the Waste Management re-branding campaign for trash cans.

Sad to say, "The Pitch" was short on drama queen stars (not a real housewife from Beverly Hills or a Kim Kardashian in the bunch). While the lead-in show "Mad Men" attracted more than two million viewers, only about 286,000 stuck around for "The Pitch." If you missed the show this year, it might not be around for you to catch a season two.

Are you losing viewers when you make your sales pitches? Perhaps you are committing homicide by PowerPoint.

PowerPoints are used a lot, and misused most of the time. You know the inward, but deeply felt, groan you make when you find that you have to sit through 50 slides in an hour presentation? Well, everyone else feels that way, too.

Sometimes we magnify our bad presentation by also including a brochure with all the slides presented there. So why do we put our audiences through that? Are we unprepared or insecure? Do we think our audiences are so dull they won't "get it" unless we give it to them in two or three different forms?

When in doubt, don't pitch with PowerPoint. If you use must a PowerPoint presentation with your prospect, use it very sparingly and very carefully.

If you always use PowerPoint, the following things will happen:

-- Your prospect will develop the fear that you don't know your subject matter thoroughly enough to talk about it without a visual aid. Too many people use a PowerPoint presentation as if it were their own note pad. They put everything in so they're sure they don't forget anything. That's not an ideal way to alleviate your prospect's fears.

-- You'll be putting an unnecessary barrier between your prospect and you. When prospects turn to look at a screen or read something along with you, you've distracted them away from you and your solution. It may be hard to get them concentrating on those again.

-- You'll be focusing on a screen instead of on your prospect. One of your biggest jobs is to create a feeling of confidence between you and your prospect. Don't spend too much time focused on a neutral third party, the screen. Concentrate on your prospect.

However, sometimes a PowerPoint presentation can be very effective and helpful, particularly in your first meeting with a prospect. Always make your decision about whether or not to use a PowerPoint presentation in terms of the purpose statement and the outcomes statement on your meeting agenda. The purpose statement is usually about information -- gaining it from your prospect, giving it to your prospect, clarifying it for either or both of you, or discovering it together. The outcomes statement is about the next steps to be taken together in your process.

Ask yourself: Will a PowerPoint presentation make the pitch easier for me to dispel fears the prospects might have or to utilize better eyes or voice? If yes, go for it. If no, pitch the PowerPoint idea in the rebranded trashcan.

Image courtesy of Flickr user quinn.anya