Sales teams hear it all the time: “Keep it short and sweet.”
With the latest reports claiming people now only have an attention span of about eight seconds – shorter than that of a goldfish – compared to our previous 12-second span, it’s understandable why salespeople think shorter is better when it comes to presentations. Pack the highlights in under 15 minutes and let the audience fill in the blanks with their follow-up questions.
But is this industry rule of thumb helping or hurting your pitch success?
While you do have a narrow window to capture an audience’s attention, assuming shorter is better means you could be skipping critical information for no reason. The last thing you want to do is have an audience’s attention and then cut yourself off just as you get to the meat of your message. Here are a few keys to finding the sweet spot between brevity and effective communication.
Time it for your audience. Anticipating what the audience needs to know is crucial. If you are presenting to a group of C-level executives, keep it concise. They are busy people, their time is extremely valuable and they almost always just want the gist of what you are saying. A group of mid-level managers or employees, also known as the people who will actually have actionable items following your presentation, will likely want more details. Don’t go overboard, but leave them with action items and directions for next steps.
Talk with them, not at them. The demand for engaging, interactive content is rising nearly everywhere, including sales presentations. It’s not enough to flip through a slideshow and show results. Decision makers should be brought into the presentation process, asked questions and prompted for feedback. Don’t go too heavy on stats; after a presentation only 5 percent remember statistics, but 63 percent remember stories (Source: Chip & Dan Heath, Made To Stick). Well-rounded presentations hold an audience’s focus by keeping them involved, not by talking at them.
Don’t be afraid to delete. Opting for a lengthy presentation doesn’t mean holding on to extraneous content. Condensing a long presentation can be an art; you don’t want to cut out the important points. Rather than cutting slides for time, remove what doesn’t enhance your key message. For example, instead of cutting case studies or examples completely, use one really strong one as opposed to three. As you prepare, review each individual slide and ask yourself if it supports your bottom line.
These guidelines will, of course, vary by industry and it’s up to you to know and gauge your audience. But rather than jumping to short and sweet, consider if a short presentation is more effective than going in-depth or if you’re simply cutting things for time. No matter what you decide, make it a memorable experience that leaves them inspired and you’ll see more successful sales because of it.
Ben Rigsby is co-founder and chief creative officer of ECOS, a cloud-based digital presentation platform that’s helping bridge the gap between sales and marketing.