How to Deliver the Perfect Virtual Presentation – Part 3

Up to this point in the series, we’ve been focused on creating a framework and setting the stage for a drop-the-mic presentation. In Part 3, I want to shift to delivery. 


Here are 8 pro tips on ensuring the perfect performance. 


1. Too Little is Better than Too Much


The first step to effective delivery is not about charisma, language, or creative theatrics, it’s about the right amount of content. Nothing derails a great presentation like the panic you feel when realizing, “I’m only on slide 5 of 25 and I’m halfway through my presentation time.” Being relaxed, confident, and present starts with calibrating the number of slides with the time allotted.  


To accomplish this, here’s a simple rule to determine the perfect amount of content: plan on 5 minutes per “meaty” slide. 


Here’s what I mean. I think of slides in two buckets: 


  • “Meaty” – the critical slides that are the meat of the presentation, and 
  • Navigational – the slides designed to remind the audience where they are in the presentation. 


Navigational slides take seconds, meaty slides take an average of 5 minutes.  I have found if I just focus on the “meaty” slides and use the 5-minute rule, I will land on the right number of slides.


Also, don’t forget to cut at least 15 minutes for the likelihood of a late start or overly talkative audience. You need to build in some margin for this common occurrence. 


For example, if you have 90 minutes, count on 75. Divide by 5 and you can present 15 “meaty” slides. That may sound like a small number, but remember, your slides support your presentation; they don’t deliver the presentation. 


The number of slides doesn’t limit what you want to say or stop you from answering questions that will naturally surface if you deliver an effective presentation.  


Now to the toughest part: knowing what to cut.   


2. Filter By Proprietary 


The first question you should ask when determining what to cut is: “What do I uniquely offer?” 


In other words, what is it that only you can offer or “own”? Your competitive advantage could be how you implement your solution or a benefit that only your solution can deliver. Spend some time before every presentation and update your list. 


Be brutally honest. Assess your proprietary list from the decision-maker’s perspective. Ask yourself: “What would they say is unique and important about this list?”


Next, cull down the list by determining which proprietary benefit is relevant to the decision-maker’s problem and/or decision drivers. If it’s not, cut it (or allocate very little time on non-proprietary content). 


If necessary, find a way to demonstrate you can meet a critical decision driver in a unique way. Bottom line, they will choose you based on how you are different and better than the competition. Therefore, this should determine the content of your presentation. 


If you leave out a non-proprietary element of the solution but gain a competitive advantage by what you highlighted in your presentation, the decision maker will ask more questions.


3. Reframe Your Objective 


What’s your objective when making a presentation? Is it to win a deal, be chosen, look good, not blow it, say what you prepared to say, keep your job? Those are all legitimate desires. 


Anyone who has stood before a group of people who are judging their worth and/or determining whether they will earn a large commission check worries about all the above. It’s natural, but not helpful. 


Choose and communicate a different objective. It will help you relax, ensure you are focused on the customer, and build instant rapport with the decision-making team.    


Before a critical presentation, I’m nervous and they’re nervous. I’m nervous because I don’t want to blow the deal or let my team members down. The customer is nervous because they don’t want to blow it, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the wrong solution. If I fail, I lose a deal. If they fail, they may get fired. 


The best way to alleviate that stress – for both parties – is to call a time-out and reframe your intent. Communicate that your role is to share what you’ve learned about the best way to help similar customer’s reach a similar destination, not pitch a solution or win a deal.  


It’s radical. But once you clarify your objective is to serve, not sell, nerves settle a bit. When your sincere goal is to educate, and not just a commission, you are assured of success. Sharing what you’ve learned is easy. Closing a deal is tough. Yes, you will talk about your solution, yes you will passionately demonstrate what’s unique about your solution and prove how it will deliver desired results. But your primary goal is to educate. 


“My goal today is to share the truths we have learned about the most effective way to _____ (their objective). We’ve found that sharing our approach to solving this problem is the best way for our potential clients to evaluate our solution.” 


If you are not comfortable with declaring your motive, at a minimum, remind yourself of your Other-Centered objective before you take the stage. The gravitational pull to self is strong, but this decision will refocus you on who you serve and drive your message. 


There is a catch: it has to be sincere. Beliefs drive behavior. If you believe, you will feel a sense of calm and truly shift to a customer centric mindset. If it’s just a gimmick to appear Other-Centered, it will backfire. They will smell commission breath. 


4. Prime the Point with Their Problem


What’s the first thing you say when you transition to a critical slide or want to make a key point? Do you start by talking about your solution or your company or the point you want to make? Most do, and it’s the least effective way to draw the audience in. 


Here’s a guaranteed way to grab the listener’s attention: start by describing the decision maker’s problem, begin the sentence with “Because you…” Prime every critical point or setup of every “meaty slide” by making the decision-maker the hero of the story. 


“Because your rates have increased by an average of 22% per year over the last 5 years, and you plan to double the number of new hires, I want to walk you through a way to actually improve the benefits offered your employees while lowering the cost of healthcare.” 


If you do not have the information needed to begin with the decision-maker’s problem, use a similar customer. 


“Because most companies, on average, are seeing an increase of healthcare cost of over 22% per year….”


Not only will this approach ensure the listener pays attention, it will ignite passion and confidence. If you are just focused on what you offer without any real connection to the why – both you and the audience are a bit lost. But if you are always connected to their problem, you will own the room. 


5. Speak in Definitive Statements


As Stephen Colbert said, “People don’t buy facts, they buy certainty.” I’m certainly not suggesting you lie or manipulate the customer, but this quote does highlight a truth. If you don’t speak with certainty, or what I call definitive statements, you are less believable. 


Therefore, when it’s time to make a key point, say it definitively. Definitive means conclusive. The research is in and no debate is required. For example, think back to one of the truths shared in part one of this series: “Change happens one to one.” This truth is stated as if there’s nothing to debate. 


Statements like this one allows you to speak with authority, instilling confidence in your audience. Remember, the presentation is ultimately about one decision: should the customer trust you to lead them to a better world. If you aren’t sure of where you are going, they aren’t going to follow. Speaking in definitive statements sends a clear and powerful message, you figured this out, and KNOW how to solve their problem.   


Knowing the truth also bolsters your confidence. 


When you can narrow down what you say into a definitive truth or principle, you’ve landed on what YOU believe. And people believe what you believe.


6. Use Word Pictures


People make emotional decisions and support them with intellectual alibis. More plainly put, while logic plays a role, emotions drive decision making. To win, the decision maker not only has to understand how your solution will provide the benefit they seek, they must feel the benefit. The simplest way to accomplish this is to tell a story of how others have experienced the benefit but, when presenting virtually, the most effective way is to use Word Pictures. 


Word Pictures are analogies to simplify the complex, to help the customer picture or “see” something they don’t understand and elicit a desired emotion by drawing on a past experience. 


For example, a few months ago, I was talking to a participant in one of my workshops when he pulled out a vapor cigarette. To strike up a conversation, I said:


“So what’s up with vaping? Is it the same as smoking a cig?” As if I had just smoked a pack of cigarettes with a few European hipsters’ friends wearing skinny jeans. 

He explained it to me instantly and brilliantly: “You ever tried turkey bacon?” 

“Yeah, sure,” I answered. 

He said, “Not as good, right?”

Agreeing, I said, “Yeah, it’s kind of like bacon, but I would much rather have the real thing.” 

He just nodded. 


By focusing on what I understood (the taste of turkey bacon), I was the central character in the story. And when the listener is the hero of the story, they listen.


Secondly, he leveraged something I already understood to explain something I didn’t understand. Vapor cigs were explained to me in five words: “You ever tried turkey bacon?” I instantly remembered the feelings associated with the taste of turkey bacon – less pleasurable, blah, less satisfying, rubbery. 


Even though the only idea being sold here was negative aspects of vaping, it’s a good example of how Word Pictures can have an instant impact on our emotions. They can conjure up feelings of what life would be like with or without the benefits of what you offer. 


For example, if you sell a high end, very expensive product, you need a Word Picture to help the listener experience what quality feels like, the cost of shortcuts, or why the expensive materials used in manufacturing the product really matter. 


If you sell an intangible service, like marketing or consulting, you need Word Pictures to differentiate you from the competition or to simplify the complex. 


If you sell a product or service that, in the mind of the customer, is a commodity — or maybe what you offer is simple to understand and therefore, it all looks the same or is easy to be misjudged (e.g., insurance, medical supplies) — you need a Word Picture.


To build your library of Word Pictures, here are a few ideas to get you started:



  • Figure out and rank the most difficult but important concepts required to sell your solution. 



  • Set aside time to develop 3 to 5 Word Pictures for your most critical but complex concepts. Why so many? Some people hate sports analogies but love cars. Some hate cars and sports, but love cooking or wine or music or politics. Therefore, develop a few Word Pictures that will appeal to every type of customer. 



  • Lastly, test it. Some of the seemingly best Word Pictures fall flat when delivered live. Like all good comedians, find a few friends to test out your material and refine your analogies accordingly.


7. Engage the Audience


While all the pro tips to this point have applied to both onsite and virtual presentations, this one is far more important when delivering a remote presentation. Why? Because 92% of the time your audience is doing something else


A few days ago, a very competent seller was presenting a solution to our marketing team. During the presentation, the seller stopped to ask, “Tom, you sound a bit skeptical, what do you think about __________?” 


I told her my concerns; information I wouldn’t have shared if she hadn’t asked. Later in the meeting, she asked us all to rank our perspective of the presentation on a scale of 1 to 10 and then followed up to discover why it wasn’t a 10. 


Her objective was clear: to remove ambiguity and to keep us engaged. She understood that if she can’t read our body language, she has to work harder to dig out the truth. And if she didn’t have a clear understanding of  our concerns or if we weren’t listening, the presentation could quickly go south. 


She accomplished by utilizing two simple but important tactics. She paid as much attention to our facial expressions as she did to delivering her presentation, and she asked simple, but bold questions… And she won the opportunity. 


8. Prepare Like You Are Delivering a Keynote  


To develop your strategy, tailor your outline, define the customer’s problem/ point of view for every key point, and to flawlessly deliver your presentation (while staying tuned to the audience!) takes preparation, lots of preparation. 


For critical presentations, great presenters, regardless of experience, spend about 10x in preparation. That’s 12.5 hours spent prepping for a 75-minute presentation. Of course, that number could decrease based on complexity of the solution, the warmth and size of the audience, size of opportunity, or your experience as a presenter, but this is a good rule of thumb. 


Bottom line, I’ve observed and watched many sellers wing it and their close rate reflects it.  


I’ve been delivering presentations about the same subject for over 25 years. How long does it take me to prepare for the finals presentations? 10X. And 90% of the prep isn’t about how to articulate my solution. It’s about adjusting what I present and say to the unique client. This just takes time. 


There is no prize for second place – why risk losing an important opportunity to someone who delivers a better performance and not a better solution.   


What Next?


In summary, if you want to win more opportunities and deliver the perfect presentation, then focus on framework, setting the stage, and these tips for delivery. If you do, you will feel like a rockstar, you will earn more money, and maybe most importantly, you will serve your customers well. 


For more information on all the challenges of Virtual Selling, check out our brand new program built on ASLAN’s 25 years of Inside Sales experience.


As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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