Tricks of the Trade Show: Conversational Presenting

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Pitching a product at a trade show, despite being a tried-and-true method used across all industries, is nearly always exactly what it sounds like: throwing your fastest, most direct, most targeted, and most compact chunk of information at someone, and really hoping they catch it. However, that doesn’t leave much room for a discussion, which would give your prospect the opportunity to share specific pain points with you and find out how your product can uniquely shape itself to them. Which is exactly why conversational presenting — a method of selling that engages rather than overwhelms — is how today’s smartest salespeople are captivating, and keeping, new customers again and again.

Why Your Pitch Deck is Failing You 

We’ve all been presented to, and we’ve all had someone try to sell us on an idea. Most of the time, there’s a noticeable formula being used: here’s what I’m going to talk about, here’s why you should listen to me talk about it, and here’s why you should agree with me/ support my idea/ buy my product. At best, the topic will be interesting enough to excuse the very typical, very predictable arc of the message. At a trade show, surrounded by distractions and noise and free coffee? You’ve lost your audience before you even get to the second slide. 

But why? More than likely, it’s because you memorized your message. Your questions were rhetorical; a tool to get you to the next slide. Your pitch was all-inclusive and specific to no one. In short, you gave a broad, well-rehearsed lecture and moved through your prospects like groceries on a conveyor belt. It’s an efficient approach, sure — but it’s also largely ineffective. A pitch like this, with a linear storyline, stock visuals, and the obvious ring of practiced speech, lacks meaning. It lacks value. And when your prospects are both disinterested and aware that the same exact message is being shared with them and everyone around them, they’re going to start questioning how valuable their business really is to you.

How Conversational Presenting Wins on the Trade Show Floor

All of those unfortunate byproducts of sticking to standard presenting are, thankfully, avoidable with conversational presenting, which turns your one-man show into a two-way dialogue between you and your audience. Because this method invites collaboration, your listeners get to be an influential part of the discussion and help direct how it unfolds. Without the strict confines of sequential slides and a set story, your pitch can stay responsive, active, and multi-dimensional. You can make it more personal, and therefore relevant, which will naturally lead to deeper engagement and memorability.

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

recent survey of professional presenters revealed powerful, supporting evidence that approaching presentations as two-way, flexible conversations works. In fact, 69% of survey respondents said that they found it more engaging than a linear presentation; 68% believed it was more persuasive, and an impressive 72% said that it was more memorable than a traditional slide deck. 

Here’s how you can turn your existing pitch into a truly conversational presentation:

  1. Brush off your on-the-spot critical thinking skills. People can tell when you’re actually listening versus when you’re simply waiting for your turn to talk. Meaningful conversations involve listening well, processing information quickly, and responding thoughtfully. This is virtually the opposite of memorization, and it requires you to be very present (no pun intended). But the payoff is astounding — you’ll make your potential customer feel connected and heard, reinforcing that you’re truly interested in helping them achieve their goals.
  2. Find out everything you can about your prospects. Bulleted, linear lists of information are self-serving — they’re about you and your product, rather than your prospect and their needs. To keep them engaged and curious about what they’d gain by partnering with you, it’s important to know them, understand their products, discover their challenges and pain points, and learn how their company gets things done. This takes the pressure off of them to explain their business to you, allowing you to get to the heart of how you can help.
  3. Tie key concepts together — together. How your solutions and offerings connect to a prospect’s challenges should be incredibly clear, and that’s difficult to do with a linear deck. But when you’re not confined to chronological slides, you can visualize these connections, and see new possibilities and solutions. By inviting your prospect to participate in making and affirming these connections, you’ll be able to have a valuable dialogue about why your product is right for them.

Conversations — and presentations — that get remembered happen when everyone involved stays adaptable and engaged. Your pitch presentation should facilitate that, not make it impossible. By being flexible with your pitch, you’ll be able to have a unique discussion about methods, questions, values, culture, and concerns. Your prospects will walk away feeling connected instead of confused, and your conversation will stick with them long after they leave the trade show floor. 

To learn more about how you can use conversational presenting to capture and keep customers, download our ebook.

Keep on with your trade show self! Read our next post in the series: Guerilla Content Marketing

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