Here are three places during presentations where it’s especially important to set good boundaries.
1. Taking Questions
You must set boundaries around questions, but first you should ask yourself whether you’re taking any questions at all.
In most cases, I don’t recommend taking questions during introductory sales presentations. However, some people are experts at turning questions into sales opportunities, so they would be the exception.
The problem is, if you don’t know how to use questions to gracefully seed your offerings, answering questions can relieve the tension in the room, and nothing will kill your sales faster.
If you do decide to take questions during your presentations, keep these points in mind.
o Manage your time. Nothing kills your timeline worse than getting on a roll with questions. You have to manage your time. Also, build in more time than you think you will need. If you think ten minutes will be enough, give yourself fifteen.
o Frame the questions. Unless you set up guidelines, people are just going to follow the lead of whatever is going on in the room. When I’m in a teaching scenario, versus a sales scenario, if I open it up to questions, I always make sure to frame the type of questions they should ask.
For instance, I might say, “I can see there are some questions. I’m a little bit ahead of my timeline here. I can take some quick, clarifying questions.” Notice that I don’t say, “What questions do you all have?” I limit the scope.
o If limiting the scope doesn’t work. If you frame the questions and someone still asks something unrelated, try saying, “That’s a great question, but it’s outside the scope of what I’m covering here, and I have so much to give you. Write it down so we can catch that a little bit later.” Or, “That’s outside the scope of what we cover in this class. We do, however, cover that in depth in our XYZ program. I’ll tell you more about how to access that a little later today.”
2. Dealing with “Blurters”
If you decide that you aren’t going to answer questions, you may have to set boundaries with “blurters.” That may sound derogatory, but I can say that because I am one. It takes a lot to control myself!
Part of what happens with us “blurters” is that we think of something that seems really important, and we feel that if we don’t interrupt and ask, we’re going to forget. That may be okay with our friends occasionally, but in a room where someone is leading, it’s distracting, not just for the presenter but for the other participants.
You have to find your own graceful way to let the blurters know that what they’re doing doesn’t work for you, them or anybody else. Just be careful; you don’t want to embarrass someone. Rather than calling them out, you can say to the room, “I love how involved you are with this presentation. But I have so much to give, I can’t take any questions or comments. Just stay with me. I’m going somewhere with all of this.”
3. If You Do Partner Sharing Exercises
Many of us were trained that when we see a lot of questions bubbling up, it’s a good time to do a “turn-to-your-partner” type of sharing. There are times to do that, but also times when you definitely should not.
I’ve written before about how there has to be a level of tension built up in the room, enough so that people see how much they need what you’re offering. The beauty and the problem with paired sharing is that it relieves tension.
o DON’T during sales presentations. During a presentation, partner sharing will kill your sales conversion. Participants will feel so good because the tension is gone that they won’t feel the same need to run to the back of the room to get what they had known moments before was absolutely necessary.
o DO during longer trainings. During a two-day training, releasing tension with partner sharing is great; otherwise, they might burst, or worse yet, get so full that they can’t receive any more. So, you fill them up and then give them a chance to release. Then you fill them up some more. Just don’t do it before you’re heading into an upsell. That’s when you need the tension to be there.
The Bottom Line
Boundaries are part of the design of your presentation. They’re your cozy container. And the great thing about cozy containers is that once you make them, you are then free to fly within them, and be your authentic self.