The key to doing well in a presentation is all in the preparation. If you prepare well, edit like crazy, and really get your story down pat — down well enough to pass the elevator test — then you really can tell "your story" well in any situation. A friend of mine, Jim in Singapore, sent me an email this week sharing a good example of what can happen if you really work hard to know "your pitch" or "your story."
Here's an excerpt from my friend's message:
Dear Garr...got this new prospect and have been trying to get in front of the guy for months. Finally get the word he'll see me next week. Great news, now what's my point? I know he is a super short attention span guy so I used the beyond bullet points 5 minute template and agonize over the content and graphics. I want this guy to have a Tom Peters "wow" moment.
Well we get to the office and begin with the usual small talk that starts a meeting and suddenly I realize we've gone over the points of the presentation in our conversation and he has agreed to move forward. Then looks at his watch and says great to see you thanks for coming in. As we walk out of the building the two guys that work for me say hey you never even pulled out the presentation and he still bought the deal – that was great!
Meanwhile I'm in a complete funk: "What about all my pretty pictures?" "He never even saw my presentation. What a waste of time putting the whole thing together!"
Later that night I told my wife the story and told her how disappointed I was and she looked at me kind of funny and said, "but you accomplished what you wanted to accomplish and have a new client." Then the light went on. Presentation preparation is about organizing thoughts and focusing the story telling so its all clear to your audience. I was able to articulate the points because I had worked those through in the preparation of the presentation. Even the graphics had made me think the presentation through and became a part of the presentation even though the audience never saw them.
Beyond Bullet Points is hard work to really get it but it is really paying off.
An excellent point Jim makes here. If you prepare well, the preparation process itself should help you really know your story. Kind of like in college when we filled out all those 4x5 cards with exam notes...and then never really looked at them since the process itself of writing, organizing and editing really helped us get the material down and internalize it. If we prepare a slide presentation well, we should be able to still tell our story if the projector breaks 5 minutes before the presentation....or if the client says "the heck with the slides, just give it to me straight."
Love to hear from you if you have an example of ditching your slides in favor of a conversation, whether planned or not.