Whether you’re pitching your butt off or just presenting your new campaign launch strategy to a client who’s been with you since the beginning, you need to bring your A-game. So we have come up with a couple of things to consider when planning your next presentation.
Assemble the team
A fairly simple place to start for sure, but you need to ask the tough questions. Not just who needs to be there but who can actually pull this off? Who adds value to the presentation? That doesn’t mean just looking sharp and talking pretty, though you’re gonna need some eye candy and smooth talkers in the mix as well. I'm talking about who’s going to do the work? They need to be in on this from the beginning for not only for context but they must meet the client so they know moving forward who’s on the other end of the line. If you’ve got the room think about looping in people who are good in a crowd, comic relief, young faces who remind us when we weren’t crotchety old farts and human encyclopedias, all have their upsides as participants. Gather your squad and start preparing.
It’s easy to go into first-date mode when presenting, especially to a new client, but remember, they’re not investing their business in your presentations, they’re investing in you. It’s you they are going to be dealing with and that means they’re going to have to want to work with you. Then need to like the team personally as well as professionally, but that doesn’t mean you should be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Don’t set aside manners or professionalism and start droning on about your college years and how you were almost cast as the Joey character in the pilot of Friends. Be honest and charming. Shake hands, ask questions and listen to the answers, but definitely, don’t hide the warts. That’s what makes you special.
Cover your bases
Now it’s time to chop up the workload and start eating that elephant. There’s a ton to cover, and your CEO can't do everything herself. Timelines, budget, account management, Creative, legal. It’s all going to be covered so figure out who’s doing what and make sure that the people who will be in the presentation are doing most of the work. Get a game plan that includes a hit-list and deliverables before everyone splits up to get started, and make sure you check in with each group throughout the process. You don’t want to show up at the first internal regroup with any surprises, unless they’re cupcakes, them I’d say go ahead and bring them. You’re gonna need something to eat once you start the next step.
Don’t skip the rehearsal
Run-throughs are your friends. As soon as you begin to pull together the content of your presentation, sit in a room with the team and go over what you’re going to say while you’re figuring it out. These real-time sessions are invaluable to how the team understands the material. This is where people can add input, voice concerns, and hear what each other are saying so no one says the same things or wildly different things. Treat this like a table read, and practice organically conveying the information. Then bring in a third party. You need a hole poker and that’s their job. See if they understand what you’re saying and explain it back to you. What don’t they understand? This is where you will see the last nit-picky issues in the presentation. Get comfortable with the presentation then stop rehearsing. Over-prepping can be taxing mentally and lead to stiff or nervous presenters. Trust that you know it and move on.
Everyone in the pool
Chekov's gun is a fundamental principle of theater which states “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off.”
That is to say, only have elements in your story that are relevant. If they are unnecessary, they should be removed. And so goes with presentations. Everyone in the room has a role. You made the trip for a reason. The good cop. The Bad cop. Comic relief. Eye candy. Whatever it is, know your role and get involved. There’s just no room for wallflowers. Rehearsals are your crucible. They will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of your presentation. If in you rehearsals someone is extraneous, cut them. Deadweight is just that. They’ll drag you down. You need closers, not posers.