What follows is a true story. No names are used to protect the guilty.
The salesperson was preparing for his big presentation. He had 107 slides in the deck, covering everything from the founding of the company to the executive leadership team to all of their service offerings, logos of clients, can studies, and references. When asked how intended to get through 107 slides in 90 minutes, he suggested that his presentation was complete, and he could manage the time. When his senior leader asked how he was going to invite the people sitting in the meeting to engage with his team about the right solution, the salesperson insisted the slides would answer every question.
There were four people from the client’s side in attendance, and seven people from the salesperson’s team. All sat patiently while the salesperson plowed through the presentation, touching every one of the 107 slides in 85 minutes. There were no questions, no people from his team spoke. It was a monologue and a pitch, nothing else.
When the salesperson finished, he asked the client contacts, “Do you have any questions?” With five minutes remaining, the leader on the client’s side, ensuring his point both heard and felt, replied, “We have a lot of questions, but I am afraid you are out of time.” There were five minutes left on the clock, but the client intentionally deprived the salesperson of those few precious minutes. It was clear to everyone in the room that the client was not going to select the salesperson’s company as their new partner.
A presentation doesn’t require that the person presenting speaks without interruption. Nor does it preclude engaging the people who are deciding what kind of partner you might make from asking questions throughout the presentation. How can you expect someone who isn’t involved and connected to a conversation to prefer to work with someone who talks uninterrupted for 90 minutes?
Dialogue is better than a monologue. Engagement is better than disinterest or offense. If you want to increase client engagement in a presentation, ask questions, take questions, and change your intentions.