Wednesday, 1 October 2014


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Well that was an interesting thing to watch last week, from the Manchester labour conference, the Milliband 'off-the cuff' speech. Its omissions made more interesting by the fact that the full text he should have presented, was passed to the press anyway.

I need to qualify at this point, that I distrust politicians of all shades, unless they really care and appear to be uncorrupted by the influence, power and free dinners that those positions bring. On the eve of an important election, that blunder looked to me like the Kinnock one or the William Hague with a backwards baseball cap incident, from so many years ago. I'd say Millibean has blown it there for his money shot of majority to be PM in May 2015. We all lose our keys from time to time, but for goodness sake, don't lose key lines when you are meant to be delivering the 'money-shot', particularly big ones.

I do a lot of work now helping people with presentations. I sit through plenty and it always amazes me, how little preparation goes into many of them. Tackling them 'off the cuff' like Milliband attempted, only works if you are so well rehearsed and confident beforehand. When the likes of John Bishop or Stephen K Amos do tours of that type of (appearing) spontaneous material, they have rehearsed and drilled themselves with it for weeks before. If I were a systems supplier pitching for a £600K+ gig, I would put some considerable effort into knowing who was going to be in the room, their roles, the organisation I was pitching to, as well as knowing my application & test system inside and out.

Borrowing an analogy from a brilliant mate from housing (you know who you are buddy), who I don't see nearly enough of, A sales presentation particularly is like chatting up someone in a nightclub. They should see (& smell) you looking at your best, your lines polished. They don't want to know about your failings and bad habits, they will work out that you leave the toilet seat up, once they move you in. they will know you well enough by then hopefully, that will no longer matter.

With competing applications providing high scoring features barely separated by a Rizla+ paper, every differentiator counts. Presentations and how they are executed really count.

Research and understand your audience, whoever they are, and fashion any visual aids around what they need to know, not what reminds the presenters what to say. Replace death by Powerpoint with dizzyness by Prezi ( ). On second thoughts, don't make it that dizzy! If Milliband had used Prezi, he would have had the works 'Big Gaping Deficit' and 'Immigration' on his big Prezi canvas, so would have been sure to have returned to those, after covering the details of everyone on Hampstead Heath, he met while walking his dog (or whatever...).

Unlike Milliband, have some bullet points on cards, a lectern or written on your hand. Once distracted, this device will enable you to pick up your previously rehearsed thread, just where the questioner took you off. Have a sip of water if you need to compose yourself. That buys you 5 seconds to get back on track. Know your materials inside out. That way you can skip some slides if time becomes short, or extra time becomes available.

Manage your time. Can you get your message over in 5, 10, 20, 40 minutes? If you have 60 minutes, practice 15, 30, 45 & 60 minute versions of your presentation. Be prepared to have to tailor it to where your audience wants to take you. However, stay in charge. remember you have limited time, get all of your messages across, or you have failed. Know before you start, what message you want your audience to take away.

As we know, technology can be rubbish. If your internet link, display card or hard-drive fails, have you a printed backup version of your slides? This will allow you to continue without a laptop if needed.

When presenting, do you look the part?

If a supplier were selling me something, I would expect them to be hungry for my business and know their product inside out. This is as good as it generally gets. If the sales presentation is shabby, how on earth is that going to sway buyers or stakeholders? It's the same if I am buying a whole housing management system or a tub of perfect hummous.

If the presenter is disinterested or looks like they would rather not be there, in that tight ill-fitting corporate top/shirt, the staff behind them, are generally expected to be worse. Like in the disco, with a few drinks inside you and some D-ream playing, this could be the best its ever going to be.

Related Post: How well do you and your staff work as a team?


You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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