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Today we have a guest post from Tom Drews. Tom is the CEO and Founder of What Works! Communications, a company that helps people to design and deliver effective virtual presentations. He is considered to be a leader in the field, and his clients include Google, Symantec, CLIF Bar, McKesson and Citrix Online. You can learn more about his programs at www.whatworks.biz.


Presenting and selling in the virtual environment is the wave of the future! It can be an incredibly effective means of communicating both your message and your value. That said, it will mean next to nothing if you can’t effectively engage them. And that is the number one challenge we face when presenting online. What follows are ten best practices for engaging your prospect when using GoToMeeting, or any comparable platform.

Know Your Platform Well

In my early days, I inadvertently kicked 150 people out of a meeting, crashed my computer, and kept an audience waiting for eight minutes while I figured out how to push the start button. Learn from my mistakes and know your platform inside and out! Practice makes perfect. Make dry runs and call support when necessary, and be sure to look for an easy-to-use solution.

Present Value Throughout

The biggest mistake I see sales people make is not presenting value. You may have the greatest product or service in the world, but it will mean next to nothing if you can’t effectively communicate your value based on your prospect’s most important needs. The very small percentage of virtual sales presentations that hold prospects’ attention are those that deliver genuine value based on the audience’s most important needs. Connect with your prospect in advance to learn more about their situation, the problems they face, the impact those problems are having on their business, and their needs.

Grab Your Audience’s Attention

Most people begin their presentations with an agenda, or by talking about themselves. This is painfully boring. We have to grab the prospect’s attention right from the start, or else we may lose them forever. Start with a provocative question, a personal story, a quote, or an interesting fact. My favorite way to start is by presenting the number one challenge that my prospect faces, and then showing how solved the same problem for another customer. Be sure to add engaging visuals, photos or graphics to help support your point.

Keep Your Slides Simple

At least 95% of the presentations I see are crammed with text. Here’s the problem with this: We are naturally designed to read what’s in front of us, and while you’re reading what’s on the screen, you’re not paying attention to what I have to say. I suggest breaking complex slides into several different slides, and adding visuals to support each point. You can also use a build, where you bring in points one by one. That way the audience isn’t reading ahead. And if you absolutely have to keep your slides busy, then at the very least use the annotation tools to help draw attention to what you want your prospect to focus on.

Add Some Hollywood

Instead of designing a dull PowerPoint® presentation, imagine yourself as the writer, director, producer and actor of your own Hollywood production. An Academy Award-winning film consists of thousands of images strung together to tell a story. Apply this approach to your virtual presentations. How can you add photos and other visuals to help you tell your story and illustrate your points? For an example of how to present Hollywood, feel free to view our recorded webinar at www.whatworks.biz under the “event” tab. For stock photos, www.istockphoto.com is my favorite resource.

Make the Most of Your Voice

When presenting online, we don’t have the luxury of connecting with eye communication, our bodies, and movement. All we really have to work with are our visuals and our voice. So we have to make the most of it. There are many elements of voice, including volume, tone, inflection, pace and articulation. Record your Web presentations, and then play it back for yourself or others so you can collect feedback and make an honest assessment of your voice. I don’t recommend using a cell phone, but I do suggest using a headset connected to a landline.

Eliminate Distractions

I have polled literally thousands of people to learn what they find most annoying when sitting in on virtual presentations, and distractions rise to the top of the list. If someone in the audience is making unnecessary noises, such as coughing, heavy breathing or burping, don’t hesitate to mute them. Be conscious of your own background noise, as well. I’ve sat in on webinars and heard people doing dishes, dogs barking and people snoring. You want your prospect to focus on you, your message, and the value that you have to offer, and that is it.

Use Annotation Tools

Most Web conferencing platforms, such as GoToMeeting, provide annotation tools, which include pens, arrows, boxes, circles, laser pointers and more. The highlighter is one of the most useful tools. It is essentially a pen that allows you to highlight text and other images. Using annotation tools throughout your presentation will help to keep your attendees engaged and focused on your most relevant content.

Interact Often

When presenting virtually, we can’t see our prospect, and they “know” that we can’t see them. So they’re free to do whatever they wish. Social Media and Email are some of the most common distractions nowadays. In order to keep our prospect from wandering, it is absolutely essential that we interact often. Most Web conferencing platforms provide interactive tools such as Polling, chat rooms and white boards, which are ideal for keeping larger audiences engaged. Interact with smaller audiences by asking questions and fielding questions throughout. My No. 1 strategy for interacting and engaging with smaller groups is to address people by their first names, and ask individuals if you’re on track and covering their most important needs.

Stand and Deliver

Wearing a cordless headset connected to a landline will allow you to have your hands free, as well as your body. If you use a remote clicker, as you would when presenting in person, you can move about the room while advancing your slides. If frees up your energy so you can be your most enthusiastic self. I’ve witnessed some of the most successful sales people walking around and gesturing enthusiastically while delivering virtual sales presentations.

In conclusion, presenting in the virtual environment can be an incredibly effective way of communicating your message and your value to your audience. Focus on your value, add some “Hollywood,” and keep them entertained. By doing so, you’ll be sure to more effectively engage your audience and leave them with a message they won’t forget! Of course, you will also shorten your sales cycle, beat the competition, and close more business.

Photo Credit: ShashiBellamkhonda

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  • http://twitter.com/thomasgetchius Tom Getchius

    Thanks for sharing these comments. I almost immediately tune out when I’m listening to a presentation and have too much text to read and hear the presenter talk about themselves for 2-3 slides. It might be worth noting that the GoToWebinar tools have a poling feature available which helps break up the monotony of listening the entire time. I’ve seen well versed content experts use this tool effectively to shift directions in a presentation and speak to content that the audience is really interested in hearing.