Here are six tips and cautions when considering the use of PowerPoint in a sales pitch to reinforce your message, and your image, in a positive way.
- Visibility is essential. If you use slides, make sure they can be seen by everybody in the meeting. Not only do audience members need clear sight lines to the screen, but the wording needs to be legible. This means care and attention must be paid to type size, font and colour. If your slide is too busy, or the writing too small, break the content into two or more sides.
- Be better than the PowerPoint in a Sales Pitch. If the person using PowerPoint is not a good presenter, the slide deck adds nothing. Good slides don’t make up for lacklustre performance. PowerPoint is intended to support and enhance, not carry the full weight of the presentation.
- Don’t read to the audience. This builds on Tip #2. The presenter should add context and perspective to the few words on the slide. Reading the slides takes energy out of the presentation. Let the audience read on its own, and use your tone, inflection and enthusiasm to add meaning and perspective.
- Do you really need it? Consider whether the presentation would be better without a slide deck. If you’re selling a relatively simple solution or you’re meeting with a small group, the most effective presentation tool can be yourself. PowerPoint can take audience members’ attention away from the presenter, distracting them from your delivery. If, however, you’re selling a complex solution, it can be helpful to show something concrete through a visual.
- Are you entering a no-slide zone? The near ubiquity of PowerPoint in business meetings has led to a backlash in some companies, which now ban its use. Reactions to PowerPoint can depend on the corporate culture, the geographic region, the industry and the specific people involved in the meeting. Not too long ago, my own team had a meeting with someone who told us specifically not to use a PowerPoint deck. It is best to ask beforehand to understand and align with customer culture and preferences.
- If and when to bring handouts of slides. The definite answer on whether or not to use handouts is this: it depends. If handouts would make a good leave-behind piece, reinforcing your message, that might be a reason to bring them. If the prospect will just hand it over to a competitor to match, then nix the paper trail. If you do decide handouts would help, think about the timing in handing them out. You don’t want the audience looking down at the paper instead of your presentation, so handing them out at the end might be a good solution. As you can see, there is no right way to handle handouts. Just be sure to think through the implications for your meeting, and base your decision on what seems appropriate in the specific situation.
The bottom line when it comes to PowerPoint in a sales pitch is determining whether a slide deck will support and clarify your message. If you can keep the interest and attention of your audience without slides, then do so. Focus on your delivery and how you can present a clear message about value through what you say and how you say it.