When I was around 23, I was given an opportunity to be part of a presentation to a prospective client. I threw myself into research and spent many hours evaluating how I could contribute. When the big day finally arrived, I was ready to consider what might actually happen in the room itself.
As the team discussed roles and responsibilities, someone kindly tried to calm my nerves by suggesting that all would be well if I spent my time looking at the potential client instead of staring nervously at my colleagues. Well, I was, and am, an earnest soul. Let’s just say that I took the advice to heart.
To this day, I’m not certain if we won the business on merit or if my determined staring had more impact on a 65 year old man than my young self could have imagined..
After a few more years in the saddle, I have a slightly better idea of what makes a winning new business presentation. A few tips:
Advance Work: You often win based on the work you do before you walk into the room. Do more than just respond to the RFP:
1. Know the competitive context of your target industry. Until you know what “character” your prospect is playing in the media, you won’t be able to demonstrate that you can tell their story to others.
2. Identify 5 reporters that have a vested interest in your target: Quietly sound them out on the program’s potential “content hooks.” Those conversations may allow you to prove your credibility and deliver meaningful intelligence in one fell swoop.
3. Find out who you are dealing with: Once you know who will be in the room (or part of the judgment process afterwards), do some due diligence. Use search engines, LinkedIn or even Unsocial (if it’s available) to learn more about your quarry. Helpful hint: Don’t stop with learning about their current position – take the time to understand their career trajectory. That’s valuable intelligence that could easily shape your presentation.
4. Develop a mental script: Some presenters are desperate to read slides instead of trying to connect with the audience. Instead, try to think of each slide as a jumping off point to express a deeper and more interesting conclusion. What are those 5 bullets really trying to communicate? If you focus on the big picture, you give your client control over the details. Trust me, they’ll ask you if they want to “go deep.”
5. Understand your own value — and role — on the team: It’s no accident that my opening story used the word “I” frequently. When you are young and inexperienced, that’s the default position. Try a different tack. Why were you invited to be a part of this team? Was it show the breadth of the firm’s media contacts? Highlight depth in a particular industry or skill-set? If you know what you are providing the team, you can focus your preparation on the areas that matter. Gentle hint for some of my exuberant friends: sometimes you can show more and talk less.
6. Hone in on their weakness: Do you know what led them to need PR counsel? Even more important, have you “read between the lines” to determine what their unstated needs are? Work hard to determine those blind spots, then make sure to develop a program that shows how you would address them.
Those are just a few ideas to maximize your preparation for a presentation. What’s the first thing you do to get ready for a big pitch?
Oh, and make sure to check back here on Monday (12/13) for part II on this topic, which looks at “5 Ways to Maximize your Next PR New Business Presentation.”
Elizabeth Sosnow develops and oversees implementation of strategy for large clients in financial and professional services, with a particular emphasis on the legal, insurance, marketing services and consulting industries. She leads BlissPR’s Digital activities, including blogger outreach, influencer engagement, SEO benchmarking, email strategy and social network analytics. She is also the incoming Chair of the Digital Practice for Worldcom’s Board of Directors in the Americas region. Reach her on Twitter via @elizabethsosnow.
- 10 Tips for Generating New Prospects (mpdailyfix.com)
- How to Avoid Using PowerPoint in 5 Easy Steps (successful-blog.com)
- Client Presentation Tips for Designers (freelanceswitch.com)