Browse Category: business pitches

Keeping cool when technology lets you down

Technology is not a faithful friend – What do you do when technology lets you down

Technology is the lazy presenter’s crutch. Good presenters are able to survive and win even when technology goes AWOL. When I was A Conservative Party Association Chairman I attended a National Convention meeting of the great, the good and the pompous at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool. Stephen Gilbert, who now works in No. 10 and who probably hasn’t had a holiday since May 5 2010, was set to give a presentation in huge theatre to an audience of around 1000 “senior party activists” – an audience not famous for being forgiving or understanding.

He was presenting data, polling, statistics and strategy. Powerpoint was poised to help and underpin his presentation. I was quite far back in this huge room full of harumph-ready impatience so I couldn’t see whether the guilty piece of technology was the projector or the laptop. But something failed, the title slide disappeared and Stephen was in the middle of the stage in front of an audience of 1000 diverging opinions. He was armed with a handful of papers.

He didn’t skip a (visible) beat. He didn’t lean over the laptop and mutter. He didn’t apologise for the problem or make a joke about technology. Hardly appearing to ever refer to his notes he started his presentation with just his voice and what was in his head.  He spoke fluently and at length to the audience – brushing off the technology betrayal with impressive nonchalance. After the presentation everybody was speaking about what he wanted them to speak about – the technology failure was forgotten. Perfect result.

How did his presentation survive the technology failure?

I have never spoken to him about it. But he survived and won because he knew his stuff backwards. Most presenters would have crashed and burned – and then blamed or tried to kill the IT guy instead of blaming themselves for lack of preparation.

Stephen knew his message, the data, the strategy, the polls. You could almost argue that he was more fluent without the Powerpoint as some visual aids confuse rather than aid.

This video is quite fun – it is a Fox News weather man living the advice of “just keep going and don’t panic when things go wrong.”

P.S. I wrote for @CityAM on which visual aids you could, or should, use in speeches and presentation. You can read the article here.

How to be more persuasive in a pitch

Pitching to a group of people is not easy, being persuasive is even harder. Knowledge and belief in the product or service that you are offering only gets you so far, being able to persuade and win over an audience is essential.

Here are some tips on how to be more persuasive in a pitch:

  1. Be clear-cut

Focus is key when being persuasive. Know your message well and keep on track. Sounding unsure or timid will give off the wrong impression. If you can’t explain your message in a 20 minute meeting that it is unlikely you will be able to explain it in 2 hours.

  1. Solve a problem

Start your pitch or presentation by outlining a problem, maybe use surprising figures or unexpected images. Then build up to explain how this problem can be solved. By explaining what benefit you can bring or what problem can be solved your argument will gain context and purpose.

  1. Looks matter

Consider what the first thing your audience will see when you start your pitch or presentation. Think what impression you want to give off. Dressing the part will make you seem more confident, therefore more likely to be persuasive.

  1. Understand your audience

Do your research; which elements of your pitch will appeal to the audience the most? Pitching is never a copy and paste technique that you can use over and over again on different audiences – you need to tailor your pitch to your audience. Maybe your audience are financially minded, then you should emphasis the cost saving benefits of what you are proposing.

  1. Prepare for negativity

You cannot expect all of your audience to be on your side and willing to agree with you, no product or service is that perfect. Respond with negative feedback with honesty, do not try and make your product sound like there are no drawbacks, this will be very transparent. Instead demonstrate how you have considered every aspect of what you are offering and try to explain how the positives outweigh the negatives.

 

Image courtesy of photoraidz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

business development

Business development – 6 Rainmaking secrets

Rainmaking has nothing to do with changing the weather – it can stay this hot forever as far as I am concerned. It was the very first blogpost I wrote and I think it is still valid – although I no longer use a Blackberry as I have been a fully paid up member of the dark side since I first saw an iPhone!

Business development, or sales or being a finder* is the easiest key to being immune from redundancy and staying on the path to promotion – not the lonely path but the tarmacadam one – the well lit one, with butlers offering champagne, while applauding superiors smile on you and nod approvingly and colleagues snarl and get left behind, version. So here it is. Enjoy…

6 Rainmaking secrets

1. The easiest way to get what you want (i.e. a client’s money and being known as the King or Queen of rainmaking) is to give your clients what they want – or need. Whose money is it anyway?? It’s all about the clients – their company, their problems, their fears, their needs, their threats and their wants. Research your audience, personalise your pitch by using relevant case studies and only use admissible and appropriate language and jargon. Only talk about yourself and your company, when relating how your qualifications, experience and abilities can help them get what or where they want.business development

2. Find out what they want – where they are and where they want to be. Listen aggressively and ask questions. Pay attention to what they say – ask questions to gain more detail or to check that you have really received what they have broadcast, summarise back to them your understanding of their situation, take notes, use their names. Prescription without diagnosis is pants!

3. Treat people like people. People buy from people they like and trust, especially with the declining trust in that corporate logo on your business card!!! Don’t rush in and knock people over – assess and respect the speed and mood of your audience. Be in the room, employ attentive eye contact, and switch off your Blackberry! Focus on being a human who can help. Long-term loyalty is built up by real long term commitment – relationships count, especially in a credit crunch. (Pitch productivity success rates are great for managers, rubbish for pitch teams – focus on gaining or retaining happy trusting clients one at a time – the numbers and the ratios will look after themselves.) The risk/reward ratios of the client are what you should be focusing on – your impact on them, their career and their organisation is much more than just the project investment or your fee structure. It is where you as a professional could take them, their organisation or their career. ROI and a trusting relationship are a very strong pair.

4. Be prepared to do without PowerPoint – especially in small pitches over a coffee or at lunch. This is a good rule as it should stop you from depending on, and using, the same presentation for everyone and merely changing the name and logo on slide 1. Simple graphs and big pictures are much better than crammed details in small font. There is a difference between presenting findings of work already commissioned (educating) – which may well warrant 50 + slides – and pitching for business which should be far more concise. (See – I even hated PowerPoint then!)

5. Competence is compelling. Memorable stories and case studies add credibility. They help you sell the pie and gravy and make you avoid listing mere ingredients. If your USP is global reach (and global reach is decisively relevant to them!) talk about how your global reach helped a client – anonymous but specific. The matching of you competence and its relevance to the client is crucial. (I know I still witted on about storytelling as being essential form of communication – it always has been and always will be – so you may as well adopt it now.)

6. Be prepared for probing questions

Questions and objections indicate either that more reassurance or proof is required from your side, or that they are thinking of giving you the work but need to understand the mechanics of going forward. Remember, most people will have to defend or justify their decisions to others so make sure you equip them with the answers they need – as long as they are valid, of course. Avoid the embarrassment, professional shame and reputational damage of being a hapless, cringe worthy, incompetent victim like those seen so often on Dragon’s Den. To do this you must have identified the MKTAT Questions (Must Know The Answer To) AND THEIR ANSWERS especially in terms of process details and duration, price and price justifications, mechanics and personal knowledge of relevant case studies and how to take it further.

* Lawyers speak of finder, minder grinder: grinders – someone who is never seen, does the work, a back room resource – usually junior; minders – effectively a key account manager and finders – usually partners or those that become partners – the people who bring in the business. Apparently you have to be good at two of those jobs to survive and flourish. If you are a good finder becoming Partner is almost inevitable.

really bad PowerPoint

How to make really really bad PowerPoint presentations.

I hate PowerPoint. Or more exactly I detest the over reliance of so many presenters on PowerPoint. People who use PowerPoint as a crutch, who start their presentation prep by opening their laptops rather than getting out pen and paper.

We can’t all afford to hire Nancy Duarte and her team but we don’t have to bore people to death with really bad PowerPoint presentations.

How to avoid making a really bad Powerpoint Presentation

  1. Powerpoint bulletpoints! enough said (and yes I KNOW this is a numbered list – irony?)
  2. your Powerpoint fonts are hard to read
  3. your Powerpoint slide colours are awful
  4. awful Powerpoint slides – get good pictures!
  5. your slides have too much data
  6. your messaging is unclear
  7. do you want to persuade or inform?
  8. ….

The PowerPoint sin-list goes on and on – things you really should not do in a PowerPoint presentation – but if you insist should at least be done better. I could bore you for hours about this but this guy does it far better than I could so watch and enjoy! It’s a few years old but just as good and as valid as ever!

 

 

rainmaker

Building Rainmaking Relationships

6 secrets for Rainmakers

1. The easiest way to get what you want (i.e. a client’s money and being known as the King or Queen of rainmaking) is to give your clients what they want – or need. Whose money is it anyway?? It’s all about the clients – their company, their problems, their fears, their needs, their threats and their wants. Research your audience, personalise your pitch by using relevant case studies and only use admissible and appropriate language and jargon. Only talk about yourself and your company, when relating how your qualifications, experience and abilities can help them get what or where they want.

2. Find out what they want – where they are and where they want to be. Listen aggressively and ask questions. Pay attention to what they say – ask questions to gain more detail or to check that you have really received what they have broadcast, summarise back to them your understanding of their situation, take notes, use their names. Prescription without diagnosis is pants!

3. Treat people like people. People buy from people they like and trust, especially with the declining trust in that corporate logo on your business card!!! Don’t rush in and knock people over – assess and respect the speed and mood of your audience. Be in the room, employ attentive eye contact, and switch off your Blackberry! Focus on being a human who can help. Long-term loyalty is built up by real long term commitment – relationships count, especially in a credit crunch. (Pitch productivity success rates are great for managers, rubbish for pitch teams – focus on gaining or retaining happy trusting clients one at a time – the numbers and the ratios will look after themselves.) The risk/reward ratios of the client are what you should be focusing on – your impact on them, their career and their organisation is much more than just the project investment or your fee structure. It is where you as a professional could take them, their organisation or their career. ROI and a trusting relationship are a very strong pair.

4. Be prepared to do without PowerPoint – especially in small pitches over a coffee or at lunch. This is a good rule as it should stop you from depending on, and using, the same presentation for everyone and merely changing the name and logo on slide 1. Simple graphs and big pictures are much better than crammed details in small font. There is a difference between presenting findings of work already commissioned (educating) – which may well warrant 50 + slides – and pitching for business which should be far more concise.

5. Competence is compelling. Memorable stories and case studies add credibility. They help you sell the pie and gravy and make you avoid listing mere ingredients. If your USP is global reach (and global reach is decisively relevant to them!) talk about how your global reach helped a client – anonymous but specific. The matching of you competence and its relevance to the client is crucial.

6. Be prepared for probing questions

Questions and objections indicate either that more reassurance or proof is required from your side, or that they are thinking of giving you the work but need to understand the mechanics of going forward. Remember, most people will have to defend or justify their decisions to others so make sure you equip them with the answers they need – as long as they are valid, of course. Avoid the embarrassment, professional shame and reputational damage of being a hapless, cringe worthy, incompetent victim like those seen so often on Dragon’s Den. To do this you must have identified the MKTAT Questions (Must Know The Answer To) AND THEIR ANSWERS especially in terms of process details and duration, price and price justifications, mechanics and personal knowledge of relevant case studies and how to take it further.


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