How to be great at presentations

Published: Monday 15th July 2013

It’s no real surprise that most people hate presentations – both those giving them and those on the receiving end. It feels like an artificial way to share information and is far too linear. Worst of all, the slide deck becomes a barrier to hide behind between the person presenting and their audience.

Imagine if you were listening to a presentation from a care-home who wanted to convince you to put your ageing aunt into their care. What would you be interested in hearing? What would be important considerations for you and your family? It certainly wouldn’t be 10 minutes of hard-sell about the company and how great they were. Yet, that’s probably the first thing we start pitch presentations with – endless slides on the credentials of the agency. Of course, we are not suggesting that you completely abandon all of this information. But, is there a different and better way to get your point across?

The secrets of a great presentation are:
• Turn your presentation into a conversation
• Ideally not using slides
• Be really well prepared
• Understand what your “audience” is looking for

But if there is one thing to remember above all others it is – PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES. The least important thing in any presentation is what you say about you/your firm so it is not rocket science to realise then that the most important thing in any presentation is what your say about them.

Beyond that you should try to remember the following tips:

• Say what you mean in plain English (don’t use shorthand)
• Remember that it is an emotional experience for everyone in the room
• What you say matters (and what you “don’t say”) – clients are always looking for clues
• People prefer people that they trust and like
• Tailor your presentation to the style your audience prefers
• Prepare, prepare, prepare – do a time appreciation, do your research and understand your audience and your subject inside out – remember: knowledge conquers fear
• Do a pre-mortem. Think of all the things that might go wrong and how you might fix them
• Use the power of story-telling to your advantage
• Bring along the smallest number of people possible from your agency
• Rehearse

Don’t be afraid to try something new. You don’t have to use slides! You may consider using a “placemat”. This is a one-page document that is placed on the table in front of your “audience” and can be a combination of images, meeting agenda, objectives for the meeting etc. which can be agreed together with your audience in a much more collaborative way – hence ensuring a conversation is taking place from the outset.

If you would like to hear more about this technique, presentation skills in general or any other aspect of new business, then please get in touch.

Adapted from talk by Chris Matthews from SutherlandsPugh at JFDI’s Early Worm Club on 19th June 2013. The next event will take place on 7th November so please get in touch to book a place.