Four Presentation Traps to Avoid

PresentationMike Monteiro offered “13 Ways Designers Screw Up a Client Presentation–And One Weird Trick” in a Sep-13-2014 blog post: many of these are also applicable to entrepreneurs making presentations to prospects. The whole article is worth reading, here are my top four presentation traps to avoid from his list (I have retained Monteiro’s numbering scheme).

3. Start With an Apology: Do not start the presentation with an apology or disclaimer. If you’re really not prepared for the meeting, then better to cancel it than to waste your clients’ time. (You can get away with that exactly once).

You are never as prepared as you hope to be, don’t let yourself off the hook by telling your audience how busy you have been or offer other reasons why you may be about to disappoint them. Protect yourself by scheduling dry runs as trip wires early enough so that if you are not ready you can push it out or work harder at getting ready. It’s also OK to spend time on a phone conversation or one or more emails to ask questions that will allow you to target your pitch more directly to their needs.

4. Not setting the stage properly: You have gathered all of these busy people together. They probably have other things to do. So let them know why they are in this presentation. Start the meeting by thanking them for their time.

If it’s a demo situation it’s best to start off with a brief recap (perhaps complemented by a slide) that summarizes your conversations to date with particular focus on

  • their critical business issue,
  • the key objectives or metrics at risk,
  • the specific capabilities they are looking for from your firm,
  • the likely impact on their business of adopting or deploying your solution
  • and the timeframe or driving event they are working to.

Confirm if your understanding of the situation is correct and ask if anything has changed.

5. Giving the real estate tour There is absolutely nothing more boring than a designer walking a client down the page, listing all the things they can already see. Pull up. You don’t sell a house by talking about sheetrock. You sell it by getting the buyer to picture themselves in the neighborhood.

This is not a training exercise on your offering. Peter Cohan calls this “the harbor tour” in his “Great Demo” methodology: don’t keep showing them aspects of your product in the hope they will see something they will like. Reach an agreement on their critical business issue that’s led them to have this conversation with and focus on the key capabilities they are looking for you to provide. You get at most three chances at this in a meeting. If the first three capabilities or outcomes your propose to deliver to them are not compelling stop and regroup.

6. Taking notes  You’re too busy giving a presentation to take notes. You’re on stage. Ask someone else to take notes for you. And then post them for the client to review after the meeting so you can agree you heard the same thing.

It’s imperative that someone takes notes, and I disagree with Mike on this to some degree. Taking notes visibly on a white board or flip chart for key points or questions you need to back to them on underscores that you are listening. It’s not a bad idea to have the note taker recap the key issues and questions before you adjourn to allow them to identify any that were missed or to adjust priorities. Following up in writing allows them to sleep on it and provide additional insight and direction.

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