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All things Pharma

An Exercise in Persuasion

How can you make sure that your presentations are memorable for the right reasons? Lorraine Willis of training solutions company,ACHIIVE Ltd, offers expert advice and shows how remembering to PANIC can really help you achieve your goals.

Picture the scene:Your manager has just asked you to give a presentation about your territory sales at the regional meeting next week. On top of this you have three customer meetings booked for next week and you really need to present your product at these, but what should you say and how are you going to do it? You start to feel anxious and the first thing you do is reach for your laptop and start producing some PowerPoint slides…

“A good presentation grabs the peoples’ mind at the beginning, navigates them through all the various parts, themes and ideas, never letting go and then deposits them at the call to action.”
Jerry Weissman

It is estimated that over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are delivered globally every day – we would suggest that over 90% of them fail! They fail for a number of reasons; largely due to too little thought and planning, bearing little relevance to their audience and, coupled with poor delivery, often are more to be endured than enjoyed.

Why bother with a presentation anyway?

A presentation is an efficient and powerful way of conveying information to a group of people, far more so than trying to deliver the information to the same people individually. A presentation to a group of customers is also a good way to sell and influence that group, because a group decision is more lasting and demonstrates greater commitment than a decision taken one on one.This is especially significant in the NHS today, where more buying and formulary decisions are being taken by groups and committees.

A presentation is an exercise in persuasion. It is also about the communication of ideas and information – but it takes place in order to persuade a person or group of people/customers to adopt or revise an attitude, accept or modify an opinion, to take or refrain from taking an action or to make a decision.

Pharmaceutical industry presentations

In pharmaceutical sales, presentations largely fall into three broad categories: group selling presentations, internal company presentations and conference presentations. Each has their own specific characteristics in design and delivery, yet all adhere to the same basic principles depending on what it is you actually want to achieve. So how do you ensure your presentations have impact and succeed?

Don’t PANIC! Just remember PANIC as a mnemonic to help you plan, prepare and conduct your presentations with real impact:


Firstly, clearly define your purpose. What do you want your audience to do, think or say differently as a result of listening to your presentation? A clearly written presentation objective can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run and add clarity to your thinking and presentation. Many presenters assume they know this and save themselves the trouble and time thinking about it and writing it down. But do they really?

What is the difference in outcome of presenting to your boss and colleagues at a regional meeting compared to a group of customers at a lunchtime meeting? Obviously, very different, and only you can decide what that outcome is depending on what you have been briefed to do, the stage you are at with your customers and the current needs of your business etc.


The next thing to consider is who will comprise your audience. How many will be attending? What do they know already? For your presentation to be effective, you must highlight the common ground between you and your audience.The identification of joint concerns and motives is necessary to create a solid foundation upon which to build and deliver your presentation.

When preparing a presentation you should create an Audience Profile, which details the concerns of your audience along with information such as group size, composition and level of expertise.This information will help you determine how best to address and involve your audience. Consider what your audience wants or needs to get out of your presentation and how you can best approach the subject to deliver it to them. After all, you are giving the presentation to them, for them, in the hope that they in turn will do something for you; be it to understand your business more clearly, lend their help and support to your ideas or commit to using your product.


What do you NEED to communicate and how are you going to structure it? What are your key messages and how can you introduce and support them? The rules of simplicity apply here.To achieve an effective presentation you need to ensure that your ideas are understood, simply – in ways tailored perfectly to your audience.Whether you are answering questions on the spot, getting ideas across at a meeting, explaining complex information, selling a product or service, promoting yourself or your company, you need to follow the simple rule:

Clear speaking is clear thinking.

Remember to keep it simple and straightforward.Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you have told them – 3 clear parts.


How can you add impact? A colourful anecdote can have a considerable impact on the interest level of your audience. You can also use a range of techniques, such as metaphor, simile, imagery, analogy and symbolism, to further captivate your audience.

How you look when presenting is said to have greater impact than the combined effect of what you say and how you sound! Visual considerations include appearance and dress, posture, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and movement.You are part of the “theatre” of your presentation and everything you do and say is part of the production.

Ask yourself – are the visual aids you are using really necessary?

• Do they truly support what you are trying to achieve?
• Are your visual aids really visual? Words are rarely visual so avoid bulleted lists!
• Do they help your audience to understand and reinforce the point you are making?
• Are you at risk of “Death by PowerPoint,” using all the weird and wonderful technology that PowerPoint provides, just because…?

One idea per visual aid is a simple rule that you should stick to. It should not require effort from your audience to see your visual aids nor should your visuals require much explanation.They should always support and add to what you are saying and NOT be used to provide you with a ‘crutch’ to guide you or worse to read from through the presentation.

We learn 90% of what we know visually. About 85% of a mixed verbal/visual presentation will be recalled after three hours and as much as 66% after three days.


Just as important as preparing what you are going to say, is taking time to think about HOW you are going to say it. Descriptive words create a ‘picture’ or ‘experience’ and help your audience understand what you are saying and maintain their interest.Your voice portrays your feelings – so speak with enthusiasm and confidence. Emphasis on key words, use of your voice, changing volume, speed, tone and inflection can all make a subtle but impactful difference that gets the message across:

The quicker you talk, the more your audience feel you are skipping over things, whereas the slower and more deliberate your delivery, the greater your impact. So, vary the pace of your voice accordingly.

In natural speech your voice is modulated.This helps to interest your audience, and if they are interested, they are far more likely to actually listen to what you are saying. So, be expressive, vary your pitch.

Volume can also be used to your advantage.There is nothing worse than a booming voice, or straining to hear a quiet or timid speaker.
Project your voice to the back of the audience, but save your highest volume to emphasise the most important points.

The pause is probably one of the most powerful methods of effective communication.When used deliberately, it can add emphasis and importance to what you are saying. Preparing and Using Notes Experienced presenters prepare their presentations in detail and then reduce the material into notes.This eliminates the need to memorise your presentation word for word and leaves you are free to talk in a natural way.

Practice and rehearsal is the best method of improving your presentation performance.The time that you invest in practicing will always pay off. How do you know that your presentation will take 30 minutes unless you have practised your delivery and fine-tuned it to make sure?

So there really is no need to panic! Follow the simple PANIC rules, and whatever your presentation, be it a summary of your sales territory at the next regional meeting or a persuasive selling message to a group of customers, you will achieve the desired outcome every time.

Lorraine Willis is Managing Director of ACHIIVE Ltd – a bright, fresh, forward-thinking company that specialises in tailored training solutions that bring about behavioural change through inspiration and motivation. Lorraine’s team fully understands the challenges involved in equipping sales forces with the skills they need to succeed.

They focus their learning and development solutions on practical, relevant learning with impact to help people achieve more, because they feel inspired and motivated to do so. For more information or to contact either Lorraine or a member of the experienced team at ACHIIVE, please call  01962 793 131  01962 793 131 or visit www.achiive.co.uk.

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