You don't have to be on a road show to take advantage of Jerry Weissman's advice. Here are five of his rules for great presentations.
Focus on what matters.
Weissman's favorite acronym is WIIFY — What's In It For You? Translation: focus on what's relevant to your audience. "Bad presenters don't just forget who the audience is," he warns, "they commit the first sin of bad selling — they pitch the features and not the benefits."
Converse, don't perform.
"Most people approach presentations as something unnatural — a performance," Weissman says. That's wrong. Weissman videotapes his clients to identify their phony rhetoric and gestures.
Plain talk is the best talk.
Most business audiences are full of overstretched people with zero tolerance for complexity. "In a single day, an institutional investor may see a biotech company, an Internet startup, and a microbrewery," Weissman says. His advice: analogize. A medical-products CEO described his company's transdermal patch as a truck delivering cargo across an international border.
Let me rephrase that!
It's an age-old device that still works: answering a tough question by rephrasing the question. An analyst growls: "Why do you charge so damn much?" You say, "How did we arrive at our pricing?" Then answer your own question. "The idea is to strip away the emotion and go straight to the issue," Weissman says.
The pause that refreshes.
Forget the old lessons about delivery. Scanning the room makes you look shifty; staring at a fixed space makes people uncomfortable. Weissman advocates a technique he calls "phrasing and pausing": take a single piece of information, make eye contact with one individual, deliver the phrase, then pause to watch the audience absorb your point.
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.