presentations

Focus on Prospects’ Need-to-Know

All too often, presenters fall in love with the “genius” idea behind their business idea – and ignore what the prospect needs-to-know. As our ADAP formula instructs, the only way to succeed is to share What’s Important Now (WIN) from the audience’s perspective (Audience-Driven, Authentic- Presentations). Over and over again, we need to help presenters get the message, because the people who are designing the presentation are focused on their “unique” idea or making sure the presentation meets the format requirements of their institution. What a shame.

This week, I met with a former client with a distinguished career in raising money for a wide-variety of companies – from start-ups to public companies focusing on M&A. His team recently developed a unique, cost-effective, risk-minimizing financial structure for creating a fund for a new business accelerator. He brought in the draft presentation, and we spent time reviewing the concept he developed. It’s impressive for its scalability capabilities for investors and investment opportunities.

When he asked for help in developing the presentation itself and its delivery, I had to disappoint him by telling him he needed to do more homework. Nowhere in the presentation were answers to the key questions that investors have, especially those focused on early stage ventures to give them confidence that the money will be invested in companies with the right market opportunity, the right customer value proposition, and right management team to execute the plan successfully.  Of course, it was too early to list specific companies; so the investor needs to have confidence that the Fund management team has current (not just past) expertise to attract a large universe of likely candidates and the ability to select a few winners based on a unique screening process. We discussed two other similar companies who had successfully accomplished what they wanted to do: both demonstrated multi-step screening processes that allowed them to sift through 1000 candidates to pick two winners. One actually raised a $100M opportunity fund, using such an ADAP presentation.

The lesson is one we see often at Presentation Excellence where clients come to us with high-stakes deals: it’s okay to fall love with your idea, so you can authentically sell it. But if you’re not audience-driven, it will not persuade the prospect. What’s your experience? Share it!

What’s the Most Important Point?

How sad.  All too often, clients come to Presentation Excellence after they’ve been presenting a pitch to raise money and/or sell a company for months and not receive the level of interest they wanted. They blame market conditions and keep trying. Then, someone recommends discussing the presentation with us. We then review the material (in one case it was version 46!) and reach a completely different conclusion: the presentation that the external banker/consultants created is a poorly constructed data-dump of all the material available, with repetitive long-winded text.

Instead of producing a succinct, easy-to-grasp, exciting-to-follow presentation that highlights a key value proposition with a few mutually reinforcing ones that lead the buyer to the conclusion that “this is a deal you shouldn’t miss!”, they force the audience to navigate (or falling asleep on) page-after-page (or slide-after-slide) of clutter: too much text and numbers that don’t drive home a powerful conclusion. It’s not surprising that the “buyers” decide to pass or low-ball their offer.

Let me give you two recent examples:

  • As you may know, there are over 10 Million American business owners thinking about “retiring” from their business in the next few years. They enjoy their work, the income and the perks. Not having a plan for the next 7-10,000 days of their lives, selling for “too little” isn’t attractive. Therefore, they need to find a way to convince a buyer what the real value of the business can be, and make the “sales price” reasonable for her/himself. In this case, the presentation for selling the company placed a value on the company that seemed fair to the buyer and seller, until the buyer understood the tax implications and how much less money he’d actually get to take home. In the initial acceptable proposal for the seller, he achieved his goal of walking away with $7.6M on a total sales price of $18M. Then, the seller showed the buyer how a change in paying out for the sale could reduce the total price to only $15M and still allow the seller to net out the $7.6M. The conclusion: the seller is a savvy business person who could structure a deal that benefits both parties; imagine how much more his company may be doing that for its customers. Buying became a no-brainer.
  • As we all know, retail businesses are being hurt by e-commerce from companies like Amazon. So if you’re a supplier of apparel who mainly sells to retail stores, a buyer will look past current sales trends, even if fairly positive, and worry about the future. In this case, the company sells a unique woman’s product line. The initial presentation focused on the numbers – current and projected future sales; buyers reviewed it and screened the deal based on future retail trends. We were invited to re-frame the presentation to make the most important point – the uniqueness of its product line stand out. We did so in three ways. First, we used supportive data to show that the product was evergreen – would always be purchased by customers who would really want to try on the product: the market share of this product hadn’t dropped in years!  Second, we focused on the explosion of the market: the increased presence of baby boomers (e.g., the number of people over 65 will double to over 80 Million by 2050) and the increased use of this product by Millennials – the largest generation alive (another 80 million). Finally, given that all the bankers, consultants and buyers were men, and this is a woman’s unique product, we recommended that the head of the company, a woman, sandwich the presentation with an opening and closing of these two points by focusing on women’s usage patterns – as evidenced by their wives, daughters and mothers!. Stay tuned for the outcome.

So, before you produce a boring presentation that doesn’t compel the audience to buy into your proposition – identify the most important point and build your case around it. Attend our corporate and open-to-the public workshops or ask for one-on-one consulting so you, top, can close more deals!

Habits of Excellent Presenters

Reading Brendon Burchard’s most recent book, High Performance Habits, made me think about the habits developed by excellent presenters. For over two decades, we’ve served over 5000 clients who’ve presented on investment, fund-raising, marketing, sales, management and other issues. More recently, we focus on senior executives whose presentations are focused on closing large and important deals for companies involved with M&A, VC, Private Equity, etc.

Based on this experience, we see that excellent presenters develop the following five habits:

  • Competence: they immerse themselves in the material so they can build a Compelling Message. They know that “data dumps” and “long-winded wordiness” are distractions; short phrases, not full sentences, are presented; graphs, not tables full of numbers. They recognize that persuasive arguments are based on the right balance of logic and emotions.
  • Proactively Responsive: Meet the audience’s needs: When it comes to building a case, they do the necessary homework to understand the audience’s perspective: what’s their past experience on this topic? What are their current concerns (e.g., more logic or emotion)? Who else helps them make the decision? How will the setting affect their ability to process the information? Is the information succinct enough to get attention (from people whose attention spans often are limited) and have the desired impact?
  • Being Authentic: They immerse themselves in the material so they are presenting from a position of aligned values and self-confidence of the material. Demonstrate your sense of curiosity in learning the material and formatting the presentation for presentation excellence. Facilitate the audience’s development of trust in you.
  • Sharing: The goal isn’t to present “to” an audience, but to be part of a “community” in which they use their competence to share a story with the audience. The “field” includes presenter, audience, setting, context, message and possibility of a future relationship. They welcome questions, because it demonstrates that a relationship has been forged between the parties and enables the presenter to further demonstrate her/his expertise.
  • Practice: They recognize that everyone is nervous about presenting, with the only real question being how to channel it? By practicing the art of persuasive communication they harness nervous energy to make the presentation exciting, as opposed to allowing it to become a barrier between them and the audience. Handling pace, tone, body language, etc. are key to the transfer of enthusiasm – which is the ultimate goal of a presentation.

Are you an excellent presenter? Have you had the pleasure of listening to one or more? What additional habits would you include?  Please share.

The What, Why & How of Compelling Presentations

Many years ago, we developed a simple formula to help guide presenters to effective presentations: ADAP – Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. Recently, someone asked us to come up with a simple three question structure for all presentations in which there is a goal of selling an idea, product or service. Here is our What, Why and How formulation.

WHAT – What does the prospect/audience want to know about the issue at hand, which explains why he/she invited you to make the presentation? Answer the questions succinctly: e.g., upgrade the ERP system or replace it with a new one that is more efficient and effective.

WHY – Why does the prospect/audience want this particular presentation?  Today, many presentations don’t lead to an immediate decision. Instead, many players need to learn what’s relevant to their domain – facts, features, benefits – as well as supportive emotions of satisfaction and relief which support the final buying decisions. Therefore, identify the stage of the decision cycle you’re in, and what is the goal (e.g., next step you want the audience to make.  Clarity of why you are making this particular presentation and what the next step (or result) will be, allow you to formulate a compelling value proposition.

HOW – How will you expertly deliver satisfaction for the prospect/audience?? How will you create Trust between the prospect and you, to facilitate being selected? How will working with you be a superior experience compared to other candidates (and there always are some)? And, how will you make sure the presentation is so engaging that the prospect/audience wants to work with you?

Next time you make a presentation, try the What, Why and How formula. Let us know how it works!

Taking Ownership Increases Authenticity

As I’ve mentioned before, my presentation coaching covers a wide range of communications, from classic sales, marketing, investor and corporate PowerPoint presentations to handling oneself in rainmaking situations, courtroom appearances, keynote addresses and issue debating. What’s great is that almost every week, I witness another case which proves the value of our ADAP (Audience-Driven Authentic Presentations) approach to presentation excellence.

A team of debaters was working feverishly to improve their skills. This weekend, they competed in a statewide competition, and came in third. And, one of the team members won the Best Speaker Award!

At the debriefing, we reviewed what went right and what didn’t in the debates, and why Jack (the winner) felt he was awarded Best Speaker. He noted that generally his partner does the drafting of the debate cases and he then customizes them for his own use. This time, he had extra time to draft the material for the two of them. He smiled as he reflected that “I really felt this was my material, rather than David’s. I always customize his drafts to my style, but this time I truly owned all the case material. That let me make critical distinctions in the material, I normally wouldn’t have made. I guess being able to meaningfully present those nuances made me more effective that I usually am.”

In other words, truly owning the material allowed him to be fully authentic in presenting it – and the judges clearly recognized his power and skill.  What’s been your experience delivering someone else’s presentation material with content or template style with which you’re not truly comfortable? Has it effective your ability to present authentically and fully connect with the audience?  Share your experiences.

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