Five Presentation Tips From Shark Tank

My favorite show on TV is Shark Tank. If you haven’t ever seen it – it is a reality TV show where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their business/product ideas to millionaire and billionaire investors – inviting them to invest in their companies with their own money. These investors include Mark Cuban (Owner of the Dallas Mavericks), Daymond John (Creator of FUBU) and others.

I am an entrepreneur at heart. I love seeing innovative ideas and people who are creating something from scratch. I love the sacrifice and the passion. I love the negotiations and the valuation process of a pitch.

But the thing that I love the most about Shark Tank is what we can learn about giving presentations from the entrepreneur’s presentations.

When I was in High School I competed in an entrepreneurship competition against 10,000 other kids. In the competition we had to conceive of a business, write a business plan and then present it to judges who were acting as venture capitalists, trying to convince them to invest in our business. It was a high school, non-TV version of Shark Tank. Over the course of several months and many pitches to judges – I ended up taking second in the competition.

Then at age 21, I started a business in direct sales with my brother Scott. Over the last 10 years I have presented (pitched) our products and opportunity to tens of thousands of people and we have built a very successful business. (Our business does over $20 million in annual revenue)

So what is my point in sharing this background? I know what it feels like to be in the tank – to give the pitch. And now as the author of The Power of Storytelling, I work with sales professionals, speakers, executives and politicians to help them hone their presentation skills.

There are Five Presentation Tips From Shark Tank that I want to share that will help you take your presentations to the next level. They are:

1. Personalize Your Presentation
2. People Buy You
3. Know Your Numbers
4. Samples Sell
5. Tell A Good Story

The first take-away from Shark Tank is to personalize your presentation. The entrepreneurs who are most successful are the ones who go into the presentation having already done their homework. They have researched the sharks and know specific information that allows them to personalize the presentation to those receiving it. This may sound like a basic concept but it is a common mistake that most presenters make. They don’t do their research before and they don’t tailor their presentation to who is in front of them.

We live in a world of personalization. Think about it. Our world today is customized to individual needs/wants. When you go to Starbucks you can get your coffee anyway that you want it. (I’d like to have a Venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot, decaf, no foam, extra hot, Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with light whip and extra syrup…Please.”)

Here are a few other things you can customize:
 Your shoes at
 Your car (mustang) at
 Your clothing at
 Your computer

So do you think a canned presentation is going to move your prospect forward in a customized world?

I would suggest that you take a look at The Mackay 66.
This is a questionnaire that was developed by my good friend Harvey Mackay. Harvey is the bestselling author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.. It is an incredibly thorough questionnaire that is designed for a sales person to learn all they can about the prospect before meeting with them. I don’t think you need to know everything on the Mackay 66 – but it wouldn’t hurt you if you did.

Once you do your research – you are in a position to personalize. When you personalize a presentation you change the wording, approach and examples so that it speaks to your audience. Many of the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank will tie their product or idea to the personal interests of the Sharks or they will reference past investments the Sharks have made and point out the similar opportunities. These little pieces of personalization go a long ways because they show that you did your research, that you want to connect and work with them, and that you aren’t just like everyone else.

Here are 7 Simple Ways You Can Personalize Your Presentation:
1. Change the title of your presentation to fit your audience
2. Use first names of audience members to draw them into the presentation
3. Add the audience name or logo onto your slides
4. Use an example or metaphor that the prospect will relate to
5. Use insider language that shows the audience you speak their language
6. Vividly describe the audience’s problem so they know you understand
7. Reveal the mutual enemy (put yourself as a partner in us vs the world)

Tip #1 from Shark Tank – Personalize Every Presentation.
-Remember, as a presenter – it is all about the audience.

The second tip from Shark Tank is that People Buy You.

There is a familiar adage in sales and marketing that says, “You are not the message, you are the messenger.”
I couldn’t disagree more.

Have you ever been to a used car lot and been hounded by a slimy, annoying used car salesman? You can’t tell me that the salesman doesn’t affect the sale.
This principle is true across the board.
-The students buy the teacher first.
-The audience buys the presenter first.
-The shark buys the entrepreneur first.

So let’s change the adage – “You are the first message people buy and you are the messenger.”

On Shark Tank you will often hear the sharks say, “I love you and I would love to do business with you…” What are they saying? They are saying that they have bought into the entrepreneur, which is the most important part of the pitch.

I recently spoke for a company who sells products door to door. As I spoke to their sales team I emphasized this point buy personalizing. I said, “If you knocked on my door and I didn’t like you or trust you – you wouldn’t ever get a chance to tell me about your product. So the first thing we sell in any presentation is our self.”

So what do people buy? There is another familiar adage – “People do business with people they know, like and trust.” I disagree with this as well. It isn’t necessarily wrong – but it is incomplete.
The truth is people do business with people they know, like, trust and VALUE.

That is what people buy. So if we are presenting, selling, leading or teaching – we should ask the following questions:
– Do people like me?
– Do I connect well with others?
– Do people find me arrogant?
– Do people trust me?
– Do people sense that I only care about myself or do I show genuine care?
– Do others see the value I can provide?
– Am I someone people want to partner with?

As a presenter – we need to recognize that the first thing we sell is us.

Presentation Tip #2 from Shark Tank – People Buy You.

The third tip is to – Know Your Numbers.

As hopeful entrepreneurs present to the sharks they present a valuation on their business. They say, “I’m asking for $100,000 for 10% equity in my business.” – which would be a $1,000,000 valuation.

It is only logical that the sharks would want to know why the business is worth $1,000,000. So they ask about the sales (both units and revenue). They want to know what assets the company has, what margin they are operating on and what projected sales and growth will be.

Many entrepreneurs enter the Shark Tank and get shot down because they can’t answer these questions. In other words they Don’t Know Their Numbers.

As you and I give presentations, we too need to know our numbers. If we are selling a product, pitching an idea, or casting a vision – it is important that we know the important and pertinent facts and figures.

In the second post (People Buy You) we discussed the idea that people do business with people they know, like, trust and Value. To be a person of value we need to bring a knowledge base and confidence to each and every presentation.

The truth is people want to feel as if they are doing business with an expert. The great part for you and me is that expertise and knowledge is something anyone can develop.

That doesn’t mean that you have to wait until you are an expert to get started, but I will make a couple suggestions:

1. Look at your presentation from the viewpoint of the audience and see what questions come to mind. Make sure you are prepared to answer all of the perceived questions with confidence.
2. After every presentation, make note of the questions that were asked and how you handled them. After a handful of presentations, you will have a journal of every possible objection or question you will ever face.
3. Record your presentations and go back and study them. If you don’t handle certain questions well, practice and be ready the next time around.

The entrepreneurs who enter the Shark Tank and know their numbers are the entrepreneurs who breed confidence in the Sharks and because of that confidence, they get their deal and take on quality partners.

Isn’t that what we all want?

Tip # 4 – Samples Sell

As entrepreneurs enter the Shark Tank, they present a multitude of ideas. Their products range from food to clothing to movies. And one of the ways that the entrepreneurs seem to win over the sharks is by putting the product in their hands.

When you are presenting and you can sample the product, it does something magical. It makes the abstract tangible and gives the prospect an experience with the product before they even buy.

You have probably heard the saying – “The product sells itself.”

Whether that is true or not, the saying is irrelevant if you don’t give the product and opportunity to sell itself. That is why people love a test drive. They can touch it, taste it, and experience it for themselves and if they have a positive experience – they want more.

So as you present your product:

– If it is something you can eat or drink – let them taste it.
– If it is something they wear – let them try it on.
– If it is something they can watch – show a sample.
– If it is something they can try – let them take a test drive.

When you put it in their hands, you increase the likelihood that they will buy dramatically. It is no longer buying based on faith – they have experienced the product and they know.

Remember Presentation Tip #4 from Shark Tank – Samples Sell. Turn your presentation into an experience.

Tip #5 – Tell A Good Story
People love stories and great presenters are great storytellers. Their stories add context, drive emotion and make your presentation memorable. In this post I am not going to dive into all the aspect of how to tell a great story. If you want to learn the skill of storytelling – I would encourage you to pick up a copy of The Power of storytelling. This post is going to talk about why stories add value and why you should make them part of every presentation you give.

Stories that are told well do three things for you and your products. They make you relatable, emotional, and multidimensional.

Relatable: Being able to tell a story instantly connects you with the customer, whether it’s a real customer, your kid—whoever is on the other side of your story needs to connect with you. Ever wonder why we love musicians so much? The story in their song is so powerful that it moves your emotions. They sing to you, or about an experience that you can relate to. Garth Brooks sang a song called “Unanswered Prayers”—I think we can all relate to that message. And when you relate to someone, you feel that connection. People want to feel as though they connect with and understand the people and brands they do business with. The right story is that relatable connection.

Emotional: Logic may make you think, but emotions make you act. When you are able to engage the emotion of a listener, you can cause them to take action. If you want them to buy your product, adopt your ideas, or even hire you: appeal to their emotions. When was the last time you went to a movie? Every good movie has that moment or character that pulls at your emotional heartstrings. It can be a classic like Shawshank Redemption or a sports movie like Rudy. You move someone emotionally and you have them hooked.

Multidimensional: Without a story, you and your product just blend in with others. Compelling stories add context, history and relevancy to you and your products. They can make even the most mediocre things stand out and be seen in a different light. Stories add vibrancy and depth. There’s an exact science to a brand and all good brands tell a story whether directly or indirectly. Nike is a great example of this. Remember the “Be Like Mike” campaigns. In no universe could any of us play basketball like Michael Jordan just by wearing his shoes—but those commercials made you think, made you act and for just a moment when you put those shoes on, the story of this kid who was cut from his high school basketball team resonated with millions of people across America—and billions of dollars have been spent on the shoes because of the story.

Stories add value to you and your presentation. If you want to hit a home run – tell a good story.


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