Master Your Message Blog

In Presentations, You Come Second

ladypresentingI had a meeting with a client the other day to talk about an upcoming presentation. It was to be an hour-long “lunch and learn” for an energy industry, fortune 500, company. The objective was to get to the next meeting. By that, I mean that this was an introductory meeting about what my client could do to help this multinational corporation mitigate risk in their industry.

At the beginning of our discussion, my client suggested starting with a few slides about them and what they do. Then they were going to go into an explanation of their software and the problems it solved.

So here’s the problem with that: At the beginning of your presentation, nobody cares about you. Sorry, but that’s the truth. They care about themselves and their problem, or concerns.

It’s not about you, it’s about what you can do!

There’s a well-known tenet in training that stipulates that to teach something knew, you start with what your audience knows and build on that. And what do they know? They know they have a problem.

Start with their problem. Make sure they understand it (or that you fully understand it—sometimes in a presentation, this is where you can get it fully clarified). Get buy-in as to the gravity of the situation.

Then talk about you. Tell them how you’ve solved similar problems for other clients in their industry. Stick to the elements of your story that pertain to the problem at hand. You want to end up being the obvious solution to their problem. After all, if you can solve similar problems for their competitors, you can probably do the same thing for them.

You always want to appear as the solution. So the problem has to come first.

Stories are great here. Tell a story of what you’ve done and what the outcome was. Make sure they understand that while they may have a different problem (everyone thinks they have a different problem … sigh), the similarities are such that you’re the best person (or company) to solve it.

Now, remember, this is just the introduction, so keep it short. You can always make this a point in the body of your presentation and expound upon it later.

Then go on to the agenda. Briefly tell them what you’re going to tell them in the next 40 minutes, or so. These will be the key points of your presentation – why you’re the best solution – the benefits you bring to the table. 

There really isn’t any magic in being persuasive. Most of the time, it’s lining up the elements of your argument in a very logical manner.

Now, I wouldn’t go in “cold” to this presentation. What we also decided is that we were going to have the vice-president introduce the presenter (who, in this case, was the president). However, my first choice would be to have the client do the introduction, which wasn’t an option in this particular case. It’s always better to have a third party introduce you, especially a recognized authority within the client group. It’s the next best thing to a testimonial.

If you found this at all helpful, please leave me a comment below.

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