A couple of years ago I got a high profile position at a large advertising agency, it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my life. Being in the digital business for years, it was all very new to be introduced into the advertising world. But of course, being as advertising today has gone digital, it was my opportunity to learn and grow. Probably one of my biggest challenges was having to prepare and deliver complex presentations to marketing managers and owners of well known brands, it wasn’t an easy task and I’m pretty sure I did a terrible job of my first ones.
Business presentations are not only about what you wear and how you design your Powerpoint slides, there’s a whole lot of other details, do’s and don’ts that you must always keep in mind. For example:
- I’m British therefore I’m always on time, but a lot of people rarely are. For months I worked with a girl who was always late and this caused a bad impression on our clients. You must always arrive early, even if the presentation is in your own office. Arriving early will give you time to have everything ready, test your computer, test the projector and make sure that nothing will go wrong. (Gives you time to breath and relax if you’re very nervous too!)
- A great advantage of working in advertising is that we were somewhat “allowed” to dress down or even a little quirky, that’s not the case in every business so make sure that you’re dressed to impress. At the agency we started a trend of just dressing in black, from head to toe, it was easy, simple and if we had to present as a team we looked prepared and organized.
- No matter how organized you are, something can always go wrong. Computers can freeze, you can forget your charger or something can easily happen to the presentation file. Always have a contingency plan, have someone else bring along a laptop and make sure they also have a copy of the final presentation. Unless you’re presenting as a team, I suggest you always bring someone along to help you run through the slides, keep track of time or just have your back in case you have to step out or need help.
- One thing that really bugged me during presentations were those people who did not pay attention because they were on their computers or constantly checking their phone. If you’re not comfortable enough with your client to ask them to put them away then you must lead by example. Make sure nobody on your team brings their laptops or mobile phones along, make it a requirement and your client will soon catch on.
- If you’re hosting the presentation, always make sure you offer beverages before you start, the last thing you need is someone interrupting to deliver coffee when you’re in the middle of your presentation. If it’s a long meeting, make sure you bring out cookies or snacks and keep them on the table.
- I try to be as green as I can in everything. As I work in the digital business it’s easy not to handle tons of paper at my office. Unless it’s completely necessary, try not to give out handouts to your clients. it’s not only a waste of paper but they’ll probably read them before you start and they won’t pay attention to you as you speak.
- Most people get nervous before they start a presentation and that’s when they go for silly stuff such as telling a joke or making some weird comment. Your first words mark the rest of your presentation so you have to make sure you start on the right foot. Capturing your audience’s attention does not mean telling a joke or entertaining them, it can be something witty as a relevant personal story, a startling fact, a nostalgic remark or an important statistic.
- I used to be terrible at presentations, I’d get nervous, I’d forget my words and I’d end up feeling like a idiot. You have to learn to be confident, speak up and never be boring! Smile, look at your public in the eye, talk to them, engage, move around but don’t pace! One of the guys in my team was excellent at presentations and eventually I gave him the lead of all our meetings, let go of your ego if someone can do it better than you, it will make a world of a difference and you just might have a better chance at making that sale.
- In advertising you usually have to present clients with creative ideas and this is not an easy task. Our imagination is a funny thing, it’s like when we read a book, we all imagine what we read in a completely different way. Never make your client imagine anything as it can be completely the opposite of what you had in mind. If your budget does not allow you to present your client with a finished product then use all the props you can, visual examples, similar products, video, websites, sketches, etc.
- In addition to the last point, never make your Powerpoint presentation long and boring with tons of text, it should be an aid so therefore you should only add an outline of what you’re going to say. If you write on your presentation everything you’re going to say, your clients will end up reading the slides instead of listening to you. Our advertising company was very modern and minimalist therefore we were required to keep our presentations this way, I loved that idea! Too much design, color and transitions can be very distracting, you need to make sure that the focus is on you and not on what’s on the screen.
- People will always ask you the weirdest things, make sure you know all your facts just in case you’re put on the spot. I had a client who always wanted to know the source of my facts, if I ever presented him with numbers, studies or graphs, I always made sure I included the source.
- Advertising agencies are fun places to work at, the ambiance is very relaxed and sometimes it can get a bit fun and crazy. We had this one thing that every time someone said something with double meaning we’d all howl like idiots. This was hard to control during meetings and presentations, some people would let it slip or feel too confident to say something stupid. Watch your language when it comes to meetings and presentations, not everybody knows and understands (or cares) about how fun your workplace is.
- Ah the beauty of whiteboards! Having one available during a presentation is a must, if your client at any time asks you to stop and explain something, your whiteboard can be your best friend. Remember that you need to help your clients visualize what you’re presenting, being able to write, sketch or draw an idea is a big plus. Make sure it’s always available and that all your pens actually have ink in them!
- Whether you’re selling an idea, a product or a service, sometimes it’s hard not to do it without mentioning the current company products. No matter how terrible you believe their product is, or their service, you should never ever criticize or put down anything about your client’s company or products. You never know how much thought or effort a client has put into his company, or even if the product has a special meaning to him. Always try to get your point across in a positive way.
- It’s hard to lead a long meeting without getting lost in the details. A presentation should tell a story, it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. If you just stand there and throw a bunch of facts and details, your client will have no idea what you’re getting at. Also make sure that you’re not rambling about technicalities that your client does not understand. This is where practice makes perfect, go over the presentation many times, practice in front of others and get feedback before you go off and ramble to your client.
- Some company presentations can go on for hours, in our case, if we had to present a year’s campaign for a company, we could go on for 4 hours straight presenting ideas, creativity, digital, budget, etc. Always plan rests within your presentation, this will allow your clients to stretch their legs without having to interrupt, it will also give you a chance to mingle with them and get to know them a little off topic.
- It happened to me once but only once… After presenting a client with some website ideas, a few months later I realized that he had gone forward with them with another company. Always copyright your work, if you do not have a permanent contract with your client or a signed NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), you should always make it clear that the ideas and products you are presenting are copyrighted. If your client asks you for a copy of your Powerpoint presentation, make sure you make them sign an NDA or add copyright notes and reminders on the presentation before you send it out.
- What gets your client to sign up? The wow factor! Do as best as you can to wow your client, don’t just give them what they asked for, go a step further, give them what they wanted and then some.
- After the wow factor, never post your price on your presentation… in fact, never mention price unless the client asks. This is a touchy subject, I personally would prepare a few price ideas and options and depending on the client’s reaction to the presentation, I would discuss some and others not. You rarely can tell if you’ve “wowed” your client therefore you can easily kill it by posting a 5 digit number on the last slide.
- All clients are different, some will stay and discuss the presentation and other’s will leave and take their time to look it over before making any comments. If by chance you get negative feedback on the spot, never take it personally and never be defensive. Take it all in, be professional, stay positive and discuss the options… in the end, that’s what business is all about.
- After all that work, all that preparation, you can’t let your client leave without knowing what’s next. Probably the most important part of your presentation is the “Call to action”. What are the next steps? If you know them, add them to the last slide of your presentation, both of you need to know what will come out of this meeting, be it a sale or a further discussion of certain points.
If you can manage to master all these suggestions, you can ace any business presentation. It took me a while and I learned the hard way, after a few months and lots of practice, I could easily put together massive presentations and just sit back and enjoy them.
Author: Ann Brampton