The Other Side of the Table

  14772462116_b1a3ab2d49_o My work gives me occasion to frequently present ideas and  concepts to clients and  other audiences.

Rare is the opportunity where I am being presented to.

Which is why it was profound for me to sit on the client’s side for one day as three different agencies presented creative concepts.

For the most part, the presentations were good. From them I took several basic truths, which are listed below.

These truths should not be read as indictments of the presentations. In fact, some of what the presenters did alerted me to a few things I don’t do well.

So here are 11 basic lessons that remind me how to better communicate with that person sitting on the other side of the table.


1. Be respectful of your audience’s time.

Start and  end when you said you would. Stay focused on the task at hand . If there’s a roomful of people, it’s an expensive meeting. Time is money. Don’t waste either.

2. Care enough to know.

Don’t guess about anything that could have been ascertained with a phone call. Even though the presentation took you 100 hours to prepare, you’ll still look like you didn’t care enough if you guess.

3. Know what keeps your audience up at night.

Then use your presentation to show how you’re going to help them sleep better.

4. Make your visuals work hard.

Make sure they attract, not detract. Form and  function. Minimize time used to explain what they are.

5. Yes, the devil is in the details.

Even though you say “If you only take one thing from today’s presentation . . .”, the typo, grammatical error, and  backward picture will probably be the thing the audience actually takes from the presentation.

6. Stand . Don’t sit.

When you present, take command  of the room. It’s your show.  Be authoritative. That’s why you are there.

7. Everything communicates.

From your attire and  posture to your speaking style and  behavior towards your teammates. Decide what you want to communicate. Then do it. Sidenote: If you’re a creative and  you’re presenting to a “tucked” room, think twice about your untucked shirt. If you do go untucked, you’d better be very good.

8. No flipping.

If you use hand outs during a presentation, ask your audience not to flip ahead. You’ve crafted a story. You’ve earned the right to tell it how you want. Control the flow and  pace of it.

9. Be enthusiastic.

Smile. Exude positive energy. Inflect your voice accordingly. You are selling. And if you don’t look like you’d buy what you’re selling, chances are your audience won’t either.

10. Be concrete. Not abstract.

Concepts are very cool and  quite fun. Now, be prepared to diffuse the fears of the unknown by explaining exactly how it will work. The audience is expecting you to fill in the gaps.

11. Wrap it up well.

When you’re done with the presentation – within the allotted time (see #1) – don’t end with “That’s it.” Keep control of the dialogue. Take the opportunity to steer the discussion with an open-ended question like, “I’d like to know what you liked.” “Are there any questions I can answer?”

  Scott Biggers is Group Concept Director at The Marketing Arm.

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