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Slide stupidity: That’s not you at the laptop, or is it?

In a hotel lobby, I passed a seller and a buyer involved in a sales presentation.

The seller was deeply engrossed in “making the sale.” He was intensely looking at his laptop computer as he methodically clicked through his PowerPoint presentation.

The thing that struck me was that the prospective buyer was not paying attention. Actually, he seemed to be staring off into space, completely detached from the presentation.

Noticing this, I went over to these two strangers and said to the seller, “What are you doing? This guy’s not paying attention to you.”

Then I turned to the prospect and said, “Are you buying or not?” The prospect, somewhat startled, said, “Yeah, I am.”

I said, “Great! Finish this transaction right this minute,” then I walked away grinning.

This encounter reminded me of the old sales joke: “Don’t buy yet. I’m not finished with my presentation.” Now, although this scenario is amusing, if you use PowerPoint during a sales presentation, you — yes, you — have been in the same situation.

Most sales PowerPoint presentations that I see are somewhere between boring and pathetic. Oh, they can provide the message, but in the least engaging way possible: we do this…we do that…we, we, we, we. Unfortunately, most sales presentations are presented in terms of the product, the company and the salesperson. They are not presented in terms of the only person that matters — the person making the purchase.

I’d say the most regrettable thing about sales PowerPoint presentations is that they are NOT prepared by the salesperson. They are usually prepared by the PowerPoint “expert.” Maybe it’s the “expert” in the graphics department or the “expert” in the marketing department, but almost never by the “expert” in the sales department.

Now the poor salesperson (that would be you) is forced to use something that could hamper the sale. Well, enough about my rant. Here’s the solution: In order to create a PowerPoint presentation that is engaging and compelling, this list includes the 19.5 elements to look for, look out for, include and exclude:

1. Don’t even think about using stupid clip art that any 12-year-old could find. Makes you look like a rank amateur. Use your own clip art, or use none.

2. Add an unexpected, personal, FUNNY photograph.

3. Make a verbal point and reinforce it with a slide, not the other way around.

4. Don’t EVER say, “This one’s a little hard to read.” SLIDES ARE FREE. Make two of them.

5. Don’t have your slides spin around or have moving text — total waste of time.

6. Don’t put more than one point on a slide.

7. Count the laughs. At least one for every five slides. (If there’s at least one laugh every five slides, you can count on one other thing: money.)

8. Use a white background. The fancy ones are distracting and serve no purpose.

9. Include a logo. I put a bug-size logo in the lower right corner of every slide. I have no idea why, but no one has ever said anything to me. And I figure if it’s good enough for MTV, it’s good enough for me.

10. Use the font IMPACT. Set the master screen for 44pt and shadow the type.

11. Emphasize words by blowing them up a few point sizes. Make them a different color. I use red.

12. If you’re laboring over one slide that you are trying to “make work,” delete it. It was probably a weak point.

13. Use slides that tell a story, rather than relate a fact. Stories are the most powerful part of the sale. Here’s the rule: Facts and figures are forgotten, stories are remembered and retold.

14. Are your slides engaging? There are two kinds of slides: engaging and distracting. Review each slide and ask yourself, “How engaging is this slide?” If it’s not engaging, why are you using it?

15. Are your slides asking questions or making statements? Questions will promote conversation and engage.

16. How many of the claims that you make in your sales presentation, by PowerPoint or verbally, are backed up with proof? Which brings me to my final point…

16.5. Incorporate video testimonial clips throughout your slide presentation to back up and prove that your claims are real and transferable — real, transferable and acceptable to the customer.

By now you’re probably totally disheartened about your PowerPoint presentation because I’ve exposed it for the powerless “point” it is. But take heart. Your competition’s slide presentation is equally pathetic.

Here is the secret solution: Convert the time you’re wasting by watching TV reruns and use it to develop your own PowerPoint presentation that is 100% in terms of the customer’s needs and desires. Your PowerPoint presentation should engage the prospective customer by asking questions and promoting dialogue, include a little humor to keep the sales presentation alive, and support every fact and claim with testimonials.

And oh, by the way, there’s one question that you better make certain appears toward the end of your PowerPoint presentation: a question that asks for the sale.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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