Captivate listeners for better sales

April 1, 1997
Pharmaceutical Representative

To keep customers interested in what you're saying, you need to do something exciting and different every six minutes, according to Sue Gaulke, author of "101 Ways to Captivate a Business Audience."

To keep customers interested in what you're saying, you need to do something exciting and different every six minutes, according to Sue Gaulke, author of "101 Ways to Captivate a Business Audience" (Amacom).

Gaulke, president of Successworks, a communications training company in Hood River, OR, polled more than 1,000 business people to determine what they liked and disliked about public speakers.

"What audiences want most is to be interested," Gaulke said. Salespeople can do this by using what the author refers to as "sizzle:" stories, humor, audience participation, props and other devices that make presentations more engaging.

"Basically, if you don't provide something interesting every six minutes, people's minds will start to wander."

Speaking style

Business people also want speakers with enthusiasm, according to Gaulke's study. "Your audience wants to see on your face and in your gestures how much you believe in what you are saying," she said.

To build enthusiasm without coming across like a phony, salespeople should use more eye contact and larger gestures.

"You want to tell your customers that you are friendly, confident and a great person to do business with," she said.

Another critical component of an effective presentation is what Gaulke calls the "steak" - the content or message of your presentation. For a physician audience, the steak of your presentation should be simple and to the point, Gaulke said.

"You want your presentation to follow a logical format and have a clear message. And make sure you get to your point fairly quickly."

Damage control

What should you do if you notice your customer or audience yawning or zoning out on you?

Check the sizzle factor. Have you gone too long without using concrete stories or examples? If so, try introducing case studies or ask questions of your customer or audience.

Or you can use a prop or a visual aid to wake up your listener.

You can also take your presentation in another direction. Whenever Gaulke speaks in front of an audience, she prepares an extra half hour of optional material as a backup in case her original material bores the audience or doesn't meet their needs.

Of course, no one ever complained about getting out of a presentation early - if you can't seem to solve the problem, wrap up your presentation with a brief summary and thank your listeners for their time. PR

Gaulke conducts on-site, presentation skills training for pharmaceutical companies. For more information, call (800) 473-1969. To order Gaulke's book, call Amacom at (800) 262-9699.