Today’s the day.
You run through your mental checklist:
- Hand outs
- Business cards
- Sell sheets
You’re dressed to the nines in your best suit and new pair of shoes. It’s hard enough keeping your sweat glands calm when presenting to one person, but today, you’ll have a whole room full. As the beads begin mounting their attack on your forehead, you step into the conference room.
A quick scan of the room tells you that every stuffed shirt is present.
‘Take a breath; act nonchalant; they all put their pants on one leg at a time, just like me. Maybe I should picture them in their underwear?’ The mental cheerleading does little to slow your heart rate to anything near acceptable.
But you know you’re even more prepared than in your last 3 presentations. Your lack of sales meant something was missing. But this time you’ve covered everything in the greatest possible detail. You’ve done the legwork and made sure to include each and every point that expounds on the features of your product, its necessity to this group, statistics, market research, and price points that make sense.
42 slides of irrefutable facts.
What could possibly go wrong?
See, I hear you already. You’re groaning as you read this because you’re thinking back to at least one, if not multiple times, that you were in that sales person’s audience. And you’re not remembering an altogether pleasant experience.
There’s a reason why you’re plagued with boredom during certain power point presentations and why you promptly forget all the bullet points and statistics slathered across each slide.
Or more specifically, the biological make up of your brain and its intricate inner workings.
You see, our brains have areas for processing information and areas that trigger our senses and emotions. A power point, or any other presentation that simply spews stats and figures, will engage only the language processing areas of our brain. Our brain will merely turn those words into meaning, but nothing else. Without our senses and emotions being engaged, there is nothing to attach that meaning in our memory, and we simply forget.
And that’s why so many sales pitches are met with glazed-over eyes and numb responses. The listeners aren’t asking questions because they aren’t feeling or visualizing or applying any of what’s said to their own personal experience.
If your audience cannot identify with a specific problem, relating to it on a personal level, feeling it, experiencing it, they aren’t engaged. And that means it doesn’t matter what solutions to the problems you present. They are already stuck in language processing centers of their brain and no amount of information you present will have the impact you’re looking for.
And it certainly won’t make the sale.
The Power of Story
Have heart; all is not lost. The simplest way to engage your audience comes to you naturally every day.
You don’t go home and tell your spouse about your day in bulleted list fashion, do you? You don’t teach your children right from wrong by citing state regulations, prison statistics, and using the “because I said so” method, right? (At least I hope not!) You don’t talk to your neighbor, grocery store clerk, mechanic, or newspaper boy in stats and figures because it’s not natural.
We are, inherently, story tellers.
We are human, emotional beings and we connect with each other on human, emotional levels.
You’ll hear me say this all the time because it boggles my mind to think that we have somehow decided that the best way to encourage someone to trust us and buy our product and services is by shoving a bunch of statistical data down their throats.
Instead, tell them a story. Tell them one that very specifically identifies their problem. Let them picture themselves in the world you’re creating with your story. Maybe the story shows the pain of the problem, or maybe the story paints images of life after the problem is solved. Either way, when your audience relates to the story they begin to feel the story.
And that’s where the sensory areas of our brains begin lighting up. They light up as though we are actually experiencing what’s described. Senses are teased and we can almost smell and taste and hear the sounds. Emotions awaken as anger builds, or fear prickles our spines, or we burst out in laughter.
When sensory and language processing centers of our brain work in unison, we attach to the message on a deeper level and we will most certainly remember it and be much more compelled to act on it.
Power Point presentations can still be very effective, don’t get me wrong. Just reconsider how you use them. Start with a story, maybe even one that seemingly has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Say you’re pitching a piece of software that makes the production line run more efficiently, but your presentation starts out with a story of a man who suffered a heart attack only a year ago, but is now on a tropical vacation with his family. The audience can’t imagine how in the world the two are related and so you’ve engaged them immediately merely through the dissonance of the subject matter. (Maybe you’ll swing it back around to show that his stress levels in dealing with a highly inefficient line lead to his heart attack; the bonus his boss gave him after the huge jump in profits from the new software he had installed is what paid for his family vacation.) That is a story that most people can see themselves starring in and now they are listening, processing, and feeling.
And you’re on your way to a sale!
Check out this infographic showing how writing affects the brain. What is your experience with story-telling to get the sale?