Doing a presentation that sells

Aug 09, 2010

I have worked on a lot of presentations over the last 30 years— and helped sell everything from seismic retrofitting for the Golden Gate Bridge to a three-day design charette. Along the way, I have learned from some of the most successful people in this business about how to do a presentation that sells the job. Following is a compilation of some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten regarding presentations: Know your audience and keep them in the forefront of your mind at all times. What does the client want and need? Don’t forget this. Don’t assume every member of your presentation team knows it. Do your homework in advance! Research, research, research! Have the right people there. If “Susan” is someone who is going to be doing some critical work on the project, then she sure as heck ought to be there. If “Bob” is the guy with the longest previous relationship with the client, then he probably should be there too. Make the key players rearrange their schedules so they can be there if you are playing to win at this game. Help the audience get comfortable with your people. Introduce yourselves before the official presentation starts. Ask questions of those who will be watching and evaluating to show interest in them. Wear name tags that can be read from where the audience is sitting. I know it sounds corny, but it helps. Have your lead person do most of the talking. This lead could either be a principal or your PM, depending— but don’t feel obligated to have minor players all talk as much as the person who will be running the project. Talk benefits— not just features. “30 years of experience in municipal work” is a feature. “We can do it faster than anyone else because we know the people and the inner workings of the City of Cleveland” is a benefit. Don’t be so scripted that you can’t tolerate an interruption. Some presentation teams are so choreographed in their performances that a single interruption blows the whole thing. Practice— and practice with interruptions. Good graphics! Just because “Willy” understands how to use all the features of PowerPoint, that does not make him a graphic designer. Have someone who knows about design and who understands branding set up the templates for all your presentations as well as take a look at your final presentation before you make it. It is time and money well-spent! Test and retest your presentation and the hardware you’ll be using. How many times have I seen a presentation blow up before it started because of embarrassing technical difficulties? There is NO excuse! Embedded videos frequently don’t work. Remote controls frequently don’t work. Test and have a back-up for everything. Tell them why they should hire you. Don’t assume they “get” that from what all you have said/shown them. End with a short list of powerful reasons why they should hire your firm. Know that you can win the job. Don’t go there with a defeatist attitude that some other company or team already has the project “in the bag.” If you do a superior job with your presentation, you can win it. More is within your control than you may think! Go into it with the knowledge that you can win the project. So, the next time you start to prepare for a presentation, pull out this list. Do these 10 things. And tell me if they don’t help you win! Originally published 8/9/2010

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.