Q: I am a one-person-show with a great product. I've got a new prospect coming to our office for an early-morning presentation. What's the best way to ensure I make my best first impression and get the sale?

A: The fact that you are the only person involved in your presentation works in your favor. You'll have total control of what gets said and, therefore, the outcome of your presentation. Here's a helpful checklist that I've used time and again to make sure everything happens on schedule:

Room Setup
The look and feel of a room has an extraordinary effect on human behavior and attitudes, and that means it has an extraordinary effect on the way your prospect will perceive your presentation. Before you even begin to think about where to put the table and chairs, you should work your way through the following meeting-prep checklist:

  • Make sure the room you'll be using is well-lighted. A poorly lighted room will affect the internal clock of your prospect, and perhaps even cause him or her to tune out you and your message. Do not use an overhead projector or any other presentation tool that requires that you dim the lights. If the room has windows, tilt the blinds to obstruct the view. You don't want anyone daydreaming during your presentation.
  • Keep all noise during your presentation to an absolute minimum. Unplug all phones in the room and turn off any overhead speakers, cell phones and pagers. If the room you'll be using has adjacent neighbors, make sure a sales rally won't be taking place during your presentation.
  • Remove all clutter. Get rid of boxes, piles of papers and anything else that's not directly related to your presentation.
  • Arrange for refreshments. No need to go overboard here, but make sure you have on hand a nice assortment of beverages to choose from. If possible, give a coffee mug (featuring your company logo) to each attendee as well as a pen or pencil for note-taking.

The Presentation
Once you're rolling, bear these important guidelines in mind:

Do:

  • Set clear starting and ending times.
  • Use topic index cards or some other written cue cards summarizing your key points to keep you on track and ensure that you don't miss anything.
  • Consider using more than one presentation tool, such as flip charts and an overhead projector. It's more interesting and engages the audience.
  • Gain and maintain visual contact with every single member of your audience. Learn to scan the room with a sequence so you don't miss anyone.
  • Keep a pitcher of water handy for yourself.
  • Count to 10 after you ask any questions. And try this: "What questions do you have?" instead of "Are there any questions?"

Don't:

  • Read statements from your notes verbatim.
  • Talk while you are facing away from your audience.
  • Interrupt people when they are talking.
  • Continue to hold a pointer or marker after you've used it. The risk that you'll engage in a distracting nervous tic is just too high!
  • Carry change in your pockets.
  • Exceed 60 minutes without a break.

When you're done with your presentation, you have two choices to wrap it up:

  • "So, ladies and gentlemen, you've seen what I have to offer. What do you think? Shall we get your service started on the 29th of this month?"
  • "So, ladies and gentlemen, you've seen what I have to offer. You've been very generous with your time and attention, and I appreciate that. You'll need some time to think over everything you've seen and learned today. Shall we set a time on next Thursday to discuss what you want to do next?"

I prefer the second approach. It has a better chance of getting a more direct response from your prospect. Lots of luck with your presentation!

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.