Presentation skills is perhaps one of the most neglected aspects of training in advertising agencies. Ironic, since it is a business of persuading people to agree with your point of view. Depending on the agency culture, the suits get to make presentations to client either at middle or senior management level. Either way, the presentations are going to be boring.
The common approach to handling a meeting where an idea or a proposal is to be presented is to automatically open PowerPoint and start keying ins whatever comes to one’s mind. The entire process is seen as a chore and the pain comes through to the audience. Little or no thought is given to the objective of the presentation, the outline of the argument, the structuring etc.
Do not assume that every ‘presentation’ mandates a PowerPoint presentation. It could very well be a chat across the table and is likely to be equally if not more effective. Of course, this assumes that you will be articulate and forceful enough to hold attention. When people are staring at a slide on the screen, they are not exactly ‘with’ you. They could be in their own world. But if they are staring at you while you make your point you cannot afford to ‘lose’ them. Hence, being articulate and relevant is important. And if you choose the aid of PowerPoint, herewith some tips on how to make them better.
Whether it’s a seasoned advertising professional or a rookie, the common Powerpoint boo-boos I have experienced:
– writing 15 points in a slide in a conversational style (full sentences) and reading them out verbatim to the audience. Tip: as far as possible write one point per slide. Don’t write all that you know about that topic – verbalize those
– bad formatting. Lack of training in Powerpoint leads to writing bullet points in what is meant to be a blank slide in the template
– writing slides out for even the most basic of topics or points. As I said for many such Powerpoints, a single page document would suffice
– don’t know where to go: many of the juniors find it hard to kick start a presentation. Tip: simply write ALL the title slides first and then fill in the content.
– mismatch of audience and presenter: a room filled with Suits from the agency side and jean-clad audience is a recipe for disaster. It sets up distance and says ‘We are not like you’.
– focusing too much on the ‘I’: many new business presentations focus a lot on how great the agency is. Sure, you got to sell your wares but an undue emphasis on self may lead the client to ask: ‘What’s in it for me?”
Even when you don’t have a Powerpoint presentation, the principles are relevant. The trouble with such tips is that it assumes that presentations get written and then people in advertising have time to rehearse. Who has the time to rehearse when the final slide is typed on the way to the client’s meeting? Or at times, at the client meeting?! The irony of our business where ‘perception is reality’, is that the one who is articulate and makes impressive presentations is assumed to be possess superior intellect. One doesn’t need a 100-slide presentation to see why.