01 November 2005

Sell Your Ideas Better

Here's some practical advice for entrepreneurs, knowledge workers, managers and anyone interested in making a positive difference.

In "Ten Ways to Sell Your Ideas to Anyone," Adrian Savage provides simple and clear guidelines to help your presentation hit its target. Here We go:

These are the ten most common mistakes presenters make and how to correct them.

1. You didn't take time to define your audience clearly and address them personally.

Don't look at your idea and think: "Everyone's going to be interested in this!" You can't speak to everyone, only someone. And that someone is expecting personal attention.

Your audience has one question in their minds all the time: "What's in this for me?" If you don't answer it obviously, they tune out.

Broadcasting ideas widely wastes time and effort. Since you can't address anyone specifically, your arguments have to be general. This makes your proposition sound weak and unfocused.

Be clear about your audience and aim your pitch solely at them. Anyone else is a bonus.

2. You opened your presentation with the idea itself.

Sure you did. It's brilliant! You just knew everyone would be as excited by it as you are.


Always lead with the clearest, most powerful benefit to that specific group.
Which would you listen to first?

"I'm going to talk to you about some new ideas in presentation technique."

"Here's a simple way to make your audience eager to buy into your ideas."

You must get people to pay attention. Just because they're present doesn't mean they're listening. What grabs them? A sure-fire solution to a problem they know they have. Not an idea they can't see how to use yet.

3. You took too long to get to the point and gave too much detailed explanation.

People's attention span is short, especially if they aren't sure it's even worth paying attention. You either catch them fast or you don't catch them at all.

Don't work up to the key issues. Get to the point. Forget explanations until you have their interest. Once hooked, they'll listen. Until then, they won't.

4. You didn't get all your key points in quickly and people lost interest.

If you wait for the right opportunity to make an important point, your audience will assume you've said all you want and decide on your idea without waiting for more.

List your key points at the start, right after you've caught their attention with big, specific benefits. That way, they know what's coming. Keep referring to the list as you go along, to keep them on track until all the information is in.

Present your points starting with the most important. Begin with the essentials and progress to any which aren't so vital. If people get bored, they'll still have heard the most important points.

5. You were wordy, you didn't sound confident and you went off at tangents.

Brevity indicates authority. Don't waste your audience's attention on anything that isn't essential. If you ramble, how do you think they'll feel about you?

When you read through your draft, keep asking yourself: "Does this absolutely have to be included?" Less is nearly always more. Cut it to the minimum. If people have unanswered questions, give time for them at the end. Lots of questions make a presentation sound important and you can end on a high note, not the typical embarrassed wait for someone--anyone--to ask something.

[The Jenius suggests you create a 10-minute presentation as your "core" pitch. This will help you deal effectively with points 3, 4 and 5, as well as being easier to practice and adapt to shorter or longer requirements.]

6. You didn't stick to a single message.

You'll confuse people if you start adding extra messages to your presentation. You know the outcome, they don't.

Every additional message causes an earlier one to be forgotten.

What do you want the audience to hear? Say it clearly and with confidence...then shut up.

7. You didn't work on building a fan base first.

It's easier to present with fans in the audience to support you. Who wants you to succeed? Brief them in advance and encourage them to come along as supporters. Nothing convinces people as much as seeing others already convinced.

8. You didn't practice enough.

If you're not presentation perfect in practice conditions, performance stress will make you into an idiot.

If you're using technology, assume it's going to break down or mess up. Check it, then check it again. Fumbling with the presentation equipment distracts the audience and destroys credibility.

People who aren't properly prepared easily get anxious and nervous people aren't convincing.

9. You got the timing wrong.

When is your audience ready to listen? Never present until they are.

Don't schedule your presentation when they're bound to have something else on their minds. Don't hold it on Monday morning (they're dreading what they'll find on their desks) or Friday afternoon (what are you planning for the weekend?).

10. You didn't give them time to grasp your idea.

How fast can they take it in? Who else will they want to consult? Catch their attention, explain only what you have to explain, remind them of the big benefits, then sit down and let them think about it.

Never push for a decision unless you're sure it's the one you want. As long as the decision is open, you can make another attempt. Once they've decided, you have to overturn that decision. Most people who have made a decision aren't eager to revisit it.

Follow this advice and next time you'll have an audience that will be right behind you.

Ideas are a dime a thousand. Execution is the real deal, but between idea and execution you need others to buy into the idea. Separate yourself from the wanna-bes and bridge the gap between idea and execution by following these valuable tips.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

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