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Never Trust A PowerPoint Expert

What makes someone a PowerPoint expert?

Nothing. Mostly it is self-proclamation. Millions of presentations are created and given each year in PowerPoint, but how many are effective? How many have a clear goal that is translated well into a cohesive and effective presentation? It is not clear if we will ever get these numbers.

Usually when someone proclaims to be a PowerPoint expert it means you now have more work to do to fix the presentation before it is presented to the client. Case in point: In the final step of an RFP process, we were to give a presentation sharing our value proposition with the potential client. The presentation was blocked for a two-hour time window with time for a question and answer session. The “PowerPoint Expert” went straight to building the deck of 67 action-unpacked slides. Many of the slides had text in full sentences and were to be read word-for-word. The expert-created slides made me want to slide under the table. What is worse, in an attempt to include more charts and drawings, smart graphics were used. It is important to point out that smart graphics are only as smart as the person putting them together. They not only differentiated from our color scheme but they modified the graphics in such as way that that they were corrupt. In the end I was the one doing as much as I could to clean them up before presentation day. We did not secure that work.

The PowerPoint may not have completely been to blame for not winning the work but it plays a more significant role than one may realize. The key thing to remember is this is your first deliverable for a new client. It delivers your brand’s image and value.

There are tons of articles on best practices on how best to create a presentation. Similarly, there are at least twice as many articles and media on what not to do in creating a PowerPoint presentation. That is not the goal of this article. The goal is to recognize the importance of PowerPoint as a medium of story. In The Art of The Pitch, Peter Coughter does it better than anyone in explaining on how best to give a presentation. One key point that sticks out is not to start out going straight to the deck to put the slides together. Think about what you want to audience to take away first. Know specifically what they are interested in and then figure out the best way to convey it. Sometimes, you may not even need a PowerPoint.

What presentation formatting nightmares have you seen? What would you do differently?

Here is a funny-but-true video to better illustrate these points by comedian Don McMillan called Life After Death by PowerPoint. Watch it here.

Original article published on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17626

How Sharp is Your Axe?

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abraham_lincolnAbraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Reading that tells us that preparing for the ‘big moment’ is two thirds of the battle. So many people focus only on the moment without sharpening their axe. Look at this in terms of presenting to a potential client. If you go into the presentation room the day of the meeting and you have not done your homework you have already lost your chance of winning. If this were a test you would only be able to get a 33% as a top score if you nailed it. Looking at it in this manner you start to realize that homework is what is most important.

The homework starts with background research. Background research is key in developing the idea behind a great advertising campaign. Great ideas are hard enough to develop on their own, but without background research? Forget it. Your point will not translate well and the idea will be lost in a sea of other bad ideas. So what do you do? Start sharpening that axe. Find out everything you can about the demographic you are trying to reach. Learn how the market has reacted to new product launches. Delve into books of key industry-specific decision makers. Find out who went to prom with your competitor’s CEO. Do whatever you have to do. Take that full two-thirds of the time to make that axe so sharp that you could shave with it. Then, and only then, are you ready to fully develop the idea.

Once your homework is done and you have your idea formed, it’s time to prepare for the pitch. Preparing the pitch is almost more important than developing the idea. Lot of great ideas are lost in poor presentation. In The Art of The Pitch by Peter Coughter, he says “Don’t focus on the deck, focus on the story.” Think about how many times you have presented something. What is the first thing you do? You open a PowerPoint and start filling it out. You make sure you have enough material for a full hour presentation. This is exactly what the Coughter says should be the last thing that happens. Create your notes first and then make a stunning presentation after. You should not think of it like you are trying to fill up the time. Tell your story. Get your point across. Then give them time back. Just because a presentation is long does not make it good.

How does a presentation become stunning and how does this pertain to doing your homework? Easy; it needs to be well-rehearsed. Do not rely on practicing what you are going to say on the drive over or, dare I say, not practice at all. Your final homework before a presenting an idea is practicing and even presenting it to a few colleagues or friends first. If you are worried about leaking the idea, videotape yourself and watch it back. Whatever you do, practice. You will change things. You will make it flow better. You will win more often.

After the homework you are effectively positioned for the pitch. This can be applied not only to a pitch but to many other things in life, such as making home improvements, a change of jobs, or even a softball game. In each way, for the best results you must practice, learn, grow, and have your homework done before you dive into it head first. If Lincoln did it 150 years ago you can too. Redirecting focus on you, I ask, “How sharp is your axe?”

Article originally published on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=16783