There is nothing worse than feeling like a presentation you spent countless hours on is falling flat in a meeting with a client. You know the material better than anyone, but the information in your supporting slides muddies the message you try to convey. I experienced both the highs and the lows of presenting to various clients and from those instances I learned that the following items are key in creating a positive, lasting impression and staving off the dreaded feeling that all of your hard work was in vain.
- Develop your “story”
Whenever we start preparing for an upcoming meeting, the team sits down together collectively to discuss our topics and objectives. We create an outline that makes sure that there is a natural progression from one topic to another. Each sections should be guided by the questions “What is my hypothesis? What are the results and what do they mean?” And finally, “What are the next steps?” The order may change as you develop your content, but be mindful that you are creating a clear path so that your presentation doesn’t feel tangential.
- Know 100 show only 1 (Be concise)
Once you have your initial outline, you can start developing your hypothesis for each objective. It’s easy in this stage to get caught up in showing everything that has gone into your final recommendation/take away. So here we implement the rule, “Know 100 but show only 1” meaning that you should have an understanding of the objective from every angle possible but show only the “1” key element you want the client to focus on. This way they don’t get caught up in or overwhelmed by unnecessary content.
- Creativity in numbers
Having established what you want to say, it’s important to display the information in a way that is easily digestible. A lot of the work that we do involves countless rows and columns of data. In some cases it’s important for the client to see all of the metrics, but it’s also important for them to feel engaged. Plopping an excel chart into a slide is probably not the most effective way of holding their attention. Try to feature the most important piece of data in a graph and have a supporting chart underneath. Having one slide after another full of numbers is monotonous so try to be creative – use variances or indexes to whittle down the amount of data, throw a little smart art in there! This also applies to ideas and concepts. A visual can go a long way in helping to model a point. Google image search is always a helpful tool.
- Format, Format, Format
Sometimes the devil is in the details. Make sure that you are being uniform with your formatting. Items should be aligned and centered, fonts should be consistent in type and color. All pages should have numbers (obvious I know, but this is something that is often missing). Consistency from slide to slide is important. Small tweaks go a long way in creating a clean supportive presentation document.
No matter the kind of presentation you are giving (pitching to a new client or holding a review with an existing one) applying these guidelines will help focus the content of your deck so that it’s a support to you rather than a hindrance.