What do you put on the slides? What language do you use? Who presents it?  How do you make sure you’ve covered the underlying issues worrying the client?  How you present is just as important as what you present.

Creating slide copy
First make sure you’ve got the overall structure of your story together. Put the bare minimum on the slides – all eyes should be on you.  Steve Jobs was a follower of what has now become “the 10-40 rule” – no more than 40 words in the first 10 slides.  Stick with the key points.  The rest goes in your speaker notes.

Demonstrating design skills
Use imagery to support words but don’t be tempted to over-design the slides in an effort to display your skills – a little creativity goes a long way.  Save it for case studies relevant to the skills you are demonstrating.  Better still, show samples – and pass them round.  Pause and explain them – you don’t want them to engage the audience’s attention for so long that they miss your next point.

Use their language not yours
Pick up any key terms in the brief and use those in your presentation even if they are not the words you normally use.  Avoid technical jargon when explaining your solution but don’t patronise either.  You can get a good feel for the level of knowledge of the client in a pre-pitch meeting or phone call.  If you are unsure or have people in the audience who aren’t familiar with the design process, use language everyone will understand.

Make sure they get everything they need and nothing they don’t
Clients are short of time so don’t waste it.  But they also want to do a proper job or they wouldn’t have bothered with the pitch process. For example, make sure you help them understand your process. But don’t spend time telling them standard information about your agency – they should know this from selecting you for the shortlist.

Help them absorb your messages
Make sure they stay with your story.  Don’t batter them with a constant stream of words.  Allow them time to absorb important points.

Encourage questions during the presentation
Encourage two-way conversation – it’s a good way of finding out what the client’s concerns are. Be sensitive to what lies behind questions – they often arise from bad past experience.  Be flexible in what you say without allowing the story to go too far off track. If you can’t answer a question, say so – and tell them you’ll check out the facts as soon as you get back to the office. Make a note of your promise – presenting is stressful.

Give them something to remember you by
Give the client a more detailed copy of the presentation before you leave.  Don’t overload them.  Just enough to give those who were in the meeting a reminder of what you said. And those who weren’t, a cohesive story.

Pick your storytellers carefully
The client will want to meet the team who will be directly involved in the day-to-day running of their account.  They’ll be checking that team members are confident in their field, creative in their thinking, and that the chemistry is right.  Don’t be tempted to wheel in top management to add weight, or to leave the presentation with a sales person who is less than a real expert in the area of work.

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