Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Plan a moment in your business presentation that you know you are going to enjoy – and create your ideal environment

The recent death of ad man Peter Marsh reminded me of two very useful tips for enhancing your confidence and boosting your impact in business presentations: 1) Plan a segment of your presentation that you know you are going to enjoy 2) Wherever possible, make the environment work for your presentation as much as what you say and what you show.

Together with Rod Allen at the agency Allen Brady & Marsh, Peter Marsh was the brains behind the famous R White's "secret lemonade drinker" and "gotta lotta bottle" campaign for milk. They were the kings of the catchy jingle and became known for an overtly theatrical style of presentation. This extended to creating an environment that best suited their presentations. Most famously of all they purposely turned up late for a British Rail pitch, where the client waited at a table with half-empty coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays. Just as the client was about to leave, Marsh appeared and said: "You've just seen what the public think of British Rail. Now let's see what we can do to put it right". The agency won the business.

Now, I’m not going to suggest you should wear white suits or go into song and dance routines, as Peter Marsh did. That’s all a bit 1970s anyway, but the point is that he was clearly enjoying himself as he drew on his background as an actor. There is much to be said for letting a little more of the ‘real you’ shine through – you are likely to excel and your audience will warm to you.

More specifically, having a segment that you know you are going to enjoy presenting will underpin your confidence as you move towards it, then you can bask in a bit a glory as you move on from it, towards your all-important Call to Action.

I have a number of little moments that I enjoy in my training sessions and talks. It won’t really help to quote them here out of context but they tend to be short videos, little anonomised stories from training sessions, and references from magic, movies and music.

As for creating environments that support the presentation, I can be more forthcoming. I used to work in Drinks PR and was always faced with having to launch products out of season. So for a summer drink I was announcing in February I hired a theatre backdrop of an English garden on a summer’s day and brought my outdoor furniture into the boardroom. Similarly, when selling a promotion for an after-dinner drink, I divided the long boardroom table into two. When the moment came, I darkened the room, lit some candles and invited my audience to move to the other end of the table – which was set for dinner. In neither situation did the audience have to imagine the scenario I was proposing – they were already living it.

Furthermore, they enjoyed the experience and I enjoyed creating it – to successful conclusions on both occasions.

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