Sight vs. Sound (Issue 678)

In which we wonder, how much should we focus on the physical elements of our sales presentations?

I love a cappella music, college and professional.  During a recent performance, we saw two college ensembles perform.  One of them, for the most part,  stood in the traditional semi circle and sang beautifully and powerfully.  Extraordinary musical execution.  The other, less developed musically,  had incorporated dance moves into many of their numbers.

Which do you think was the most memorable of the two? Which do you think we talked about more afterwards?

If you guessed “dance moves,” you’d be right.

[OK, interesting, but not helpful, most of us don’t dance during our sales presentations.]

Alright, then … Try this one out.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that  “People consistently report that sound is the most important source of information in evaluating performance in music. However… People reliably select the actual winners of live music competitions based on silent video recordings [while] neither musical novices nor professional musicians were able to identify the winners based on sound recordings or recordings with both video and sound…”

That means: “What people saw competitors do during their performances – what they did physically while performing – was more important  in their decisions than what people heard even when they said  that what they heard would be most important.”

OK.  Now we have some science behind it, and imagine this:

Three sales people from different firms are competing for the same contract. Their presentations will be assessed and recommendations made to management by a small committee.  The committee has chosen buying criteria involving things like the content of the sellers’ offerings, fit for purpose, and other elements.  Largely ‘technical’ criteria… sort of like ‘sound’ or “technical musicianship” in a musical performance.

I’m just wondering… If we were reviewing the three sales representatives’  presentations and predicting the winner based on silent video recordings, could we do it?

Well…maybe…  sales presentations can be more complex than sonatas.

And, it gives one pause …. While we know that ‘good visuals’ in our slides are important – pictures,  not too many words, font large enough to read…. What percentage of our presentation prep time do we spend on “getting the slides right” vs.  preparing for our “performance” –what we do physically while we’re in the room?   [I’m guessing 90% on ‘getting the slides right’!]

And, if observers are swayed more by what they see us do than by what they hear us say, might we want to shift the balance of preparation time more in favor of our physical performance?

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