The value of rehearsed spontaneity for business is underestimated. While we can often remember being impressed in a meeting – think of that lightbulb moment when a client’s unexpected question is flawlessly answered – we don’t always recognise the preparation that goes into it. There are, however, ways for marketing and sales professionals to harness that spontaneity. While it may sound like an oxymoron, there are even ways to prepare for it. Ultimately, in this article, I’ll show you how to use a couple of simple techniques to create “wow” moments that hide the preparation behind them, and make presentations unforgettable.

The Next Generation Of Presentations

The first challenge when you are pitching is getting your audience to actually engage with you. The technique of conversational presenting opens this door by putting the onus on the audience to guide the presentation. At first, this may sound risky – but with correct preparation, conversational presenting will level-up your presentation and create an interactive, engaging and stimulating session.

To start, ask your audience what they would like to discuss and move forward from there. The technique is similar to those used in the creative fields – for example, conversational presenting takes a similar approach to the Meisner school of acting. The idea in theatre is that the actor is thinking less about himself. Instead, he responds to the surrounding actors and environment, becoming less self-conscious and bringing spontaneity to the performance in a way that creates a rich emotional impact. This method of acting and reacting can be incredibly powerful for modern marketers.

Where conversational presenting gets more complex is not just working with those reactions, but knowing when to stop. Pauses and silence can be incredibly powerful. They can be used to create space and in turn that will increase tension. Put simply, the use of a pause can ensure greater impact of your message. For many, it can be hard to leave an audience in silence – particularly in front of large crowds or in high-pressure situations. However, think of this as using bold text: used sparingly, it can help drive home the most important points. It must be used in moderation, though, when overused it loses that strength and risks making your presentation appear disjointed.

Bringing The Right Tools To The Right Project

Open canvas-style presentations, in which you can move around freely rather than simply forward or backward, lend themselves directly to a spontaneous, conversational form of presenting. Think about how you can incorporate tools that boost flexibility.

A recent study by Harvard researchers found that audiences recognise a ‘true and specific benefit’ of ‘zooming user interfaces (ZUI) over slideware’. A ZUI can be imagined as a large image or canvas that you can ‘zoom’ into and pull back from to show context as desired. The researchers assessed ZUI-style presentations as being more engaging, persuasive, effective, and organised than a traditional slide deck.

Spontaneity For The Unspontaneous

Now, even if you use the best presentation tools and your audience is open to participation, preparation remains essential. The majority of sales and marketing professionals will be prepared for almost any questions thrown at them. However, no one can anticipate everything. Writing down as many potential questions as possible and building them out into the most powerful answers you can offer will help you prepare. Immediately after any pitch, write down any question that threw you off. This way you can build up an encyclopedia of responses over time.

Finally, once you have the basis of the content of your response, you can build in rhetorical devices. Think back to the pauses and strategically place them for maximum impact. Another quick example is the “rule of three”. Simple repetition can drive memory retainment. To use it, revise your written points and boil them down to the top messages you want to get across. You can then weave these into as many of sections as possible.

Ultimately, the mistake for many is thinking that spontaneity only comes naturally and cannot be learned. In reality, it is equal parts preparation and thinking on your feet. Marketers don’t need years of training or acting classes. To achieve supercharged spontaneity, you don’t need years of acting classes – you simply need to try new techniques and tools. Embrace rehearsed spontaneity, drive engagement and win pitches.