At no time in history have we had more facts, figures and details available at our fingertips. Information overload is very real. That makes getting a good idea across to your audience tricky. It’s walking the fine line of sharing too much or sharing too little. With all the information available, the temptation is to share too much, to oversell. When that happens, the idea gets lost and so does the audience. To truly let an idea shine and have meaningful conversations that sell them, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, know the audience. The more that’s known about the individuals who will be in a meeting, the more a presentation can be tailored to their needs. If a group is already well versed in a particular topic, challenge or concern, you can spend more time addressing the solution. Conversely, there might be a need to spend a few minutes establishing a foundation of knowledge. It’s also useful knowing personalities or at least job roles. If a group is more creative, you might choose to use visual and tactile examples. Those who are more data driven will appreciate key facts or research sprinkled in the conversation.

When it comes to developing a presentation, try storyboarding it first. Get the team together and sketch out your idea and the flow of the presentation. Write down ideas for how it can be shown visually and expressed in a way that makes it exciting and interesting for the client. It’s also a good time to determine who will present what topics. Will there be just one person from the team presenting or several?

Resist the “death by PowerPoint” method of selling an idea. Presentations are great ways to initiate or guide meaningful conversations, but not to drive them or sell an idea on their own. No prospective client or customer wants to sit in a room and see slide after slide of bulleted copy, or worse, paragraphs of copy. It’s not engaging, and it will induce boredom faster than you can say “thanks but no thanks.”

Instead, presentations can be used to spark conversation and tell the story of your idea through the use of images, videos, quotes and more. While this requires a bit more work and practice on the part of the presenter, the discussions this approach initiates can yield much greater results. If there’s a concern the client won’t remember some of the finer points after the meeting, an option is to leave a printed handout with them that includes those details.

Keeping presentations concise has a much greater impact. There’s something to be said for leaving the audience wanting more — at least giving them a reason to ask questions or presenting an opportunity to meet with them again.

Get the audience excited about the idea first, then address the details of executing it. Start by sharing how you created the idea. Did you do industry research? Did you interview experts or conduct a focus group? Giving the customer an idea of where you started helps tell the story.

Take some time to consider if your idea has any weaknesses, and if it does, address it in your presentation. Does it require someone to be onsite at the client’s office? If so, what’s the solution? Better to poke holes in it yourself than to give the customer the opportunity to do so after you leave.

While not always possible, it’s good to know your competition. Unless you’re proactively bringing an idea to a customer, chances are you’re not the only company presenting ideas. The more you know about the competition, the more you’ll recognize the strengths you need to highlight and the weaknesses you need to address. For example, if yours is the only business that’s not located in close proximity to the customer, what’s your plan to address that issue?

The challenge of decreasing attention spans is widely known. That’s why techniques like microlearning, or learning in short bursts, is gaining in popularity. In the same way, presenting ideas also needs to address this challenge. When presenting ideas, try to mix things up every 10 minutes or so. That’s about the maximum length of time an audience will pay attention. Have a short pause in your presentation and interact in a different way with them. Ask them questions. Distribute a visual aid to demonstrate your idea or consider other ways to keep customers engaged.

A good idea is too valuable to be hidden in a lengthy, copy-heavy presentation. Instead, a presentation should facilitate meaningful exchanges that tell the story of an idea, instilling excitement and understanding. A presentation that successfully does this will sell an idea more often than one laden with pages of details.

BARRY LABOV, a two-time Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year and inductee into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LaBov Marketing Communications and Training in Fort Wayne. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen business books and is a regular columnist in business publications.

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