Ten Presentation Rules for Sales People to Improve Engagement


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I spent Yesterday with the Duarte organization in Mountain View, CA. in a one day Resonate story development Workshop.

This was an excellent workshop that helped me identify the core elements of my story. I came away from it with the basis for a story that will resonate with a much broader audience, that I expect will improve my engagement and the outcome of meetings.

Getting your ideas to Resonate with the Audience

I have been using ideas from Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate for about a year, but the workshop brought my story to life. The techniques learned will change the way I present myself and my services in future. I am applying my brain in idle moments around how these ideas can be applied to any communication, not just presentations.

My Story Map created in the Resonate Workshop

story map

10 Rules for More Engaging Sales Presentations

The course was presented by Michael Pacchione and it was about story; we created our own story step by step as the day progressed, but we talked a lot about presentations, because presentations without a story are boring.

The first rule for this eclectic but important list of ten presentation rules for salespeople is Nancy Duarte’s Golden Rule.

  1. Never give a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through yourself. Such good advice, most presentations are boring because they lack story, or the sales person, product or the company is the hero of the story instead of the buyer. Presentations turn into an ordeal when they fail to engage the customer’s imagination and emotion, usually because they are all about you and your stuff.
  2. If salespeople spend the time prior to a meeting researching the client’s company, instead of customizing their presentation, they will sell more. This is a new rule that I am promoting based on feedback from Laura Olsen on a blog post comment from http://www.tinyurl.com/leave-the-laptop-behind
  3. If a salesperson gives a Powerpoint presentation on the first meeting, they won’t get a second one.
  4. Bullets Kill – One idea per slide and no bullets, Edward Tufte
  5. Simple hand drawn images and a story work way better thanswitch complex PowerPoint geometry with bullets, boxes and drop shadows. This image is from Dan Heath’s Switch presentation. It took 10 minutes to draw on my touch mouse.

  6. Guy Kawasaki rule.
    Maximum 10 slides, Maximum 20 minutes, Minimum 30 point text.
  7. Seth Godin’s 5 rules
    1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
    2. No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
    3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions. (Prezi users take note)
    4. Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
    5. Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.

8. Create a STAR Moment. This is another one from Nancy Duarte. A STAR moment is and acronym for Something They’ll Always Remember. This takes a bit of thought and may need props and preparation, but if you want to differentiate and you are in a beauty pageant where everyone looks just like you, it might be worth doing. Here is an example of a STAR Moment in the Jamie Oliver Ted video…it’s a great talk and the STAR moment is about 13 minutes in.

9. You are the presentation, the client wants to know what you know and how you can help them, the medium is secondary. Know what you want the outcome of the meeting to be, know who’s going to be there and their issues/interest areas prior to the meeting.

According to extensive researchchallenger selling conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, published in The Challenger Sale, 53% of the contribution to customer loyalty comes from the sales experience itself….not from your presentation.

10. Do not present when a conversation is possible – unless you are specifically asked by the client to present and you know what the outcome of a successful presentation will be.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson has been at the forefront of developing sales and marketing tools that create clarity in messaging value for 30 years. As a consultant he is now engaged in helping sales, marketing and enablement teams to get clear about value creation. Clarity attracts inbound leads, clarity converts visitors into leads and leads into customers, clarity builds mindshare, clarity engages customers, clarity differentiates value, clarity helps onboard new hires clarity helps raise funds, clarity + execution win markets.


  1. . . . . or is it SIAR (Something I’ll Always Remember). The greatest risk is that if these points are widely circulated and adopted, presentations will become even more formulaic and less memorable than they already are.

    Happily, that’s unlikely to happen, and bad presentation habits such as twirling text animations will continue. Still, people gain great rewards by breaking convention in creative ways. Get wild and crazy! Go with seven words on a slide. Or EIGHT!

    . . . Or, none at all! The most memorable presentations I’ve heard have all had the common characteristic of being fully extemporaneous.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think you nailed the issue here. If salespeople owned their value creation message, they wouldn’t need to lean on a Powerpoint presentation. Message ownership creates the confidence to speak extemporaneously.

    Per rule 10 don’t present when a conversation is possible.

    Have a great week!


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