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Caution: Agendas may cause drowsiness

Buckle your seatbelts… I am about to say something controversial. I don’t think an agenda belongs in a sales presentation.

I am referring to that slide that is at the beginning of just about every presentation. The headline is “Agenda” and there are five or more lines starting with “introductions” and ending with “close” or “next steps” or “Q&A”. It is the slide that the person leading the team typically warms-up with – and usually spends too much time on, saying something like “first we are going to talk about this, and then we are going to talk about that, and then Robert will tell you about X and Sally will tell you about Y… and blah blah blah blah blah…

The first few critical moments of the presentation – the moments that set the climate for the entire meeting - end up being a big yawn.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big proponent of an agenda at the beginning and mid stages of the sales cycle when it is important that salespeople demonstrate credibility and their desire to understand the client. It is a very effective tool to help maintain control of the meeting. I just don’t believe that they add any value in the finals presentation. Here’s why:

1. It takes precious time away from what is most important. The typical sales presentation is 60 minutes long. You have a lot of territory to cover with the most important objective being to connect with the people in the room. An agenda does not contribute to that objective – in fact, it may even detract from it.

2. It sets you up to lose your audience’s attention. Human attention span is rapidly decreasing. Research suggests that one of the most effective techniques to hold audience attention is creating a sense of uncertainly - “where are we going next?”

3. It makes you sound like everyone else. Your competitors are likely to start the presentation the expected way – why not be different?

4. It hijacks those critical first moments…. and sucks the life out of the room. The first minutes of a meeting sets the tone for the entire meeting. Agendas are boring for everyone.

What to do instead?

Try a well-crafted opening statement like “We recognize that you have an important decision to make, and it is our job today to demonstrate to you why we are the best partner to help you to achieve your strategy. Jason will begin by first confirming our understanding of your needs and objectives.”

Do you agree, or disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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