Top Ten Presentation Tips

by Holland-Mark | March 19, 2010

I was asked by the Client Services folks to provide some guidance on how to present more effectively to clients. Here are my “Top Ten Presentation Tips,” with an eye toward client presentation of marketing strategy and creative.

10. Have a point. Yea, sounds obvious. So what was the point of the last presentation you saw? How about the three before that? The fact is, most presentations are about as specific and conclusive as the phone book. Invariably you’re making a presentation to change what a group of people thinks, feels, or does about something specific. Before you begin you should decide what that is, then…

9. Start with structure. If your audience is at Point A when you begin, and your goal is to move them to Point B, you first need to decide on the substantive argument that will get them there, and the logical progression of that argument over the course of n slides. I use a trick for this sometimes, that has another benefit…

8. Let the audience feel their progress. The first thing I do when creating a new presentation is create a slide called “Meeting Objectives,” which reflects “The Point” referenced in #10 above. The second thing I do is create an “Agenda” slide that lists each section of the presentation I’m about to assemble, based on the logical structure I’ve defined in #9. If there are five section headers in the stack of this slide, for example (there usually are), I make five copies of this section header slide, and use it to indicate the start of each section as I make my way through the deck. This helps me organize my ideas in the process of presentation building, but at presentation time I’ve found it also gives the audience a sense of where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going. That makes people feel good, for whatever reason.

7. Tell them what you’re going to say, tell them, and tell them what you said. Speaking of which… Any first-year media buyer can tell you that frequency matters as much as reach when trying to get your message across. The audience for your presentation is no different from the audience for your advertising. A little repetition is a good thing, at least for the key ideas of your presentation. Use the “Meeting Objectives” slide to make your point right out of the gate. Return consistently to the “Agenda” slide to reinforce the progression of your argument. Conclude with an “Executive Summary” slide that reinforces your key points, and closes – one final time – with The Point. It really does take that much for an idea to sink in with people. It’s just the way people are, you and I included.

6. Entertain, Inform, Promote. In that order. This is a Guy Kawasaki thing, but it’s served me well. NEVER be the guy who gets up on stage and talks about how great his company is for 10 minutes before focusing on what the audience has come for. It’s rude, and a good way to become the presenter people want to see less of. If you want people to listen you have to draw them in, and the best way to do that is with a little… zip.

5. Start strong. A great way to do this is to start with what people really want from a speaker: A story. Not some joke, unrelated to your point. But an anecdote or even an idealized fiction that people can relate to immediately. Stories are universal, accessible, engaging. They entertain and inform simultaneously, a tough combination to beat.

4. Have good slides. Slides matter. I could go on and on about this, but instead I’ll encourage you to learn from the guy I learned from: Garr Reynolds. Read his blog. Buy his book, and commit it to memory. It’s genius, and once you have slides you’re really proud of, all that’s left is to get up there and speak to them.

3. Treat each slide like the punchline, not the joke. Speaking of speaking style… Just relax, and talk. Don’t script every word, or read off cards, or (God forbid) read your own slides. Talk to individual audience members at different points in the room. Make your points, as you would in a normal conversation with a friend. Use each to emphasize a single idea in the flow of your pitch – not to replace the voiceover, but as a cue for the audience about what they really should be taking away from whatever it is you’re saying at the time.

2. Keep it short. If you have an hour, speak for 40 minutes. If you have a half hour, speak for 20 minutes. If you have five minutes, just build your “Agenda” slide one header at a time, and spend a half a minute explaining what’s most important in each section. Then ask for questions, and address them in a way that – again – delivers on The Point. Remember… your goal is not to get through your slides. It’s to move the individuals in your audience from Point A to Point B. And it’s often easier to do that in a dialogue than it is in a monologue.

1. Practice. No matter how good you think your presentation is, practicing it live, end-to-end, will help you refine it. And no matter how experienced a presenter you are, practice will make you smoother and more relaxed come game time.

And that’s what it’s all about. Game time.

Want to see these principles in action? Here’s how the big boys do it

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