Try this – Put a black dot in the middle of a whiteboard and ask people what they see. The most common response is “A black dot.” That’s an interesting response considering that 99.99% of what they are looking at is whiteboard, not black dot.

Sitting in a preparation meeting for a big presentation often feels like the focus is on the black dot instead of on the whiteboard.

The whiteboard in the pitch is not us, not our PowerPoint, not our samples or demonstrations. That’s black dot. The whiteboard is the audience- all the focus needs to be on the whiteboard. What I teach companies in their presentations to an audience includes the following:

  1. Breakdown the audience – I hear too often when I ask about the key meeting, “Who’s coming from their side?” The answer “Our champion, and the technical person we have been talking too and 2-3 other people.” You need to know who is coming, name/title/role/length of service. You can’t prepare adequately for the presentation if you are preparing for the company rather than preparing for the people, one by one.
  2. Pick 1 point per person – Each person who is coming will remember only one, (maybe two…but no more), points that you make. If you just present and don’t design the point you are making for each of the people individually, you are hoping that they “get it.” Focus on the point and then deliver it to that person in the meeting.
  3. Pull through the threads – In previous phone calls, emails and meetings there has been a lot of communication. As you are presenting, pull through the language and points that your prospect has made along the way. Include language like, “In our last meeting John, one of your key issues was redundancy and that is why we are emphasizing our unique approach to that issue in this presentation today.” Hit those points hard and pull through previous communication into the meeting specifically.
  4. Name names – Companies don’t buy from companies, people buy from people. As in the example above, I use the person’s name specifically in as many points as I possibly can. I want the presentation to feel tailored as well as register with the prospects that we have listened to them and this has informed our approach.
  5. Build your presentation for a conversation – Simple rule: No more than 2 slides in a row without interaction. Your presentation, whether you use a presentation tool like Keynote(tm) or PowerPoint(tm) or not, needs to include intentional interaction as often as possible to keep your team connected to the audience and draw out the secondary issues to be  addressed.
  6. Do your Murder Board – In one of my earlier blogs I talked about preparing for a presentation using a Murder Board approach. This approach means focusing on all of the questions you are afraid they might ask and then getting your answers down cold just in case they do. This is a “must do” for every preparation activity.

The big shift in all of this is, being in the heads of your audience, not in your head. “Change your point of view, you change your success.”

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