The work is rarely won just from doing a great presentation. There is often a firm favourite before the presentation starts as a result of how well they have impressed up to now, in terms of their initial response and the content and style of their pitch document. However it is possible to lose the work by having a poor presentation and it is possible to win the work from a firm that has equally impressed up to now.
Your prime focus needs to be on:
- Getting and holding the client’s attention
- Making sure they can follow your argument and making your message memorable
- Continuing to build credibility, trust and rapport with the client
- Being persuasive – you will deliver!
You can do this by thinking carefully about what you say and how you say it. Try to avoid talking at the client. Make it interactive. You can achieve this by asking them questions during the presentation.
1. What You Say
Don’t just regurgitate the contents of the pitch document. Assume they have read this (even though they may not have remembered much of its content!). Instead, find other ways of getting your message across. Consider providing some case studies covering how you have helped other clients in similar situations. Provide evidence, not just words!
Forget the myth of the flowing orator who unprepared can expound with clarity and brilliance. The best speakers are those who prepare themselves well. It can help to organise the material into three or four main headings. Divide into sub-sections where it is helpful.
- Putting over Information
It is important to give the audience a sense of direction, so it is useful to ‘signpost’ your subject clearly and make it clear when you are moving on to the next subject. If you don’t do this you run the risk of the audience expending too much of their energy considering where you are in your presentation rather than listening to your pearls of wisdom.
- Beginning and Ending
Introductions and conclusions need special care. The first needs to get the attention of the audience and promise them interest and benefit. The introduction should be relevant. Be careful with humour – it often betrays nervousness. The conclusion should reinforce what you have said and make your key points memorable. You should not introduce any new ideas in the conclusion. Your ending will be remembered more than any other part of the presentation, so it should be strong and positive.
Anticipating questions is essential. If you put yourself in the client’s shoes, you should find it easy to think of the questions they will ask. Alternatively, draw up a list of the questions you most dread and find the words and phrases that work best. It can be helpful to have questions dealt by one of the team first and have the Chair ‘tidy up’ the answer if necessary. Another useful tactic is to buy some thinking time by asking the client to explain more about their concerns behind the questions. If the question really beats you, it is best not to try to cover it up. Say you need to give it more thought and get back to them.
If there are quite a few people attending, work out how to handle introductions. Shaking hands is a good thing to try to do, but can be embarrassing and tedious if too many people are involved. Ideally, check out the room beforehand to get the seating right and the technology set up. You do not always look your best when setting up a PowerPoint presentation and getting your notes organised.
- Use Your Voice
First and foremost, be audible. You should also vary your voice in terms of volume and pitch. To emphasise certain points, go louder or softer. Vary the length of your sentences. Also, sound enthusiastic! Avoid trying to impress by using inflated phrases or obscure technical jargon. You will build better rapport if you speak like a human being and avoid any language barriers. Try to find some powerful verbs and adjectives to make your points more vivid and memorable. Analogies can also be useful.
- Eye Contact
The best way to look credible and build rapport is by having eye-to-eye contact with your audience. But don’t focus on one individual for too long. It can be intimidating.
- Visual Aids
Visual aids can help make your message more memorable, in part because the audience not only hears the words but they can see key words as well. However some visual aids, such as PowerPoint presentations, can also be a distraction and can act as a barrier between you and the audience. Presentations on screen can be more useful in larger meetings.
- Looking Like a Team
The way you perform as a group says a lot to the client as to how well you will work as a team. It can help to display the right ‘body language’, such as:
- Having whoever is speaking on your side sitting slightly forward of the others
- Having those who are not speaking, occasionally looking at the fellow team member who is speaking and nodding agreement with what they are saying.