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Key elements of a powerful presentation

18th November 2010


If you are giving a talk and your audience is showing signs of boredom (Yawning? Looking at the clock? Studying their iPhones?), then you obviously need to work on your presentation technique. It is no good coming up with a brilliant campaign or strategy if you fail to communicate its charms to your clients. 

Steve Strickland, head of creativity at PR consultancy Weber Shandwick believes that a great presentation has three essential elements: belief, chemistry and the document itself. Talking about belief he says: “Teams need to be convinced that they are selling the best-ever creative work their organisation has produced – and if they don’t, they should rework their thinking“. To help communicate this great work means visualising what the ideas look like to consumers, the journalist on the end of the phone and the internal stakeholders. As Strickland says, “We live in a Jerry Maguire world but, unfortunately, we run the risk of ‘you lost me at hello‘. So, we need to make sure that no matter what we are selling, we are ‘showing them the money’, presentationally speaking of course!”

When it comes to chemistry, Strickland says that clients want a team they can feel a part of, a team that they can join: “It is about the Christmas lunch and celebratory beers, and we must keep that in mind when we are presenting our team. I would always encourage people to dress as you are (with a bit more spit and polish than a Friday morning) rather than dressing in suits that make you itch. PR is about creativity first and foremost and people understand that those who work in the industry aren’t a suit wearing bunch, so why pretend?”

Finally, it is about the document itself. Strickland says that he is surprised by the negative attitude towards PowerPoint: “Yes, it has been around for a while and yes, it can look very boring, but for me, if the content and story is right, the medium of presentation doesn’t matter. I despise gimmicks and I feel the same way about props and gifts; if they add to the story, brilliant, but if they don’t, don’t waste the time or the money.”

Seven top tips:

1. Know your audience

“Get to know your audience and understand what turns them on so that you can find a way to engage them.” Ian Whiteling, director of specialist consumer online agency Three-Sixty.

2. Interact

“Involve the audience and somehow make the presentation about them by asking them to participate.“ Emily Luscombe, account director, Bell Pottinger Business & Brand.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare

“When you wing it, it always shows and speaks volumes about how you approach clients and work in general.” Jill Clark, director of client services at advertising agency Peebles Creative Group.

4. Tailor your content

Tell your audience what it needs to hear, rather than bombard people with details about all the work you have done. “Be mindful of what you are trying to achieve. Never, ever tell your audience everything you know.” Sam Howard, director of influence at global digital marketing firm Metia.

5. Use clear visuals

“Do not use little charts or lots of stats – hand those out – your visuals should be a punchline to reinforce what you are saying. Don't make people squint or read past you.” Madeline Gutierrez, marketing designer and consultant at 180 Degrees Design.

6. Practice makes perfect

“Practice it and do a dry run out loud. You may be surprised how much longer or shorter it takes than when only you rehearse in your head. And you will pick up on things that don't translate as well as you thought.” August Cohen, executive coach at Get Hired Stay Hired.

And finally, make ‘em laugh.  Keep it short and entertain. If your audience is asleep, they aren’t going to absorb much. So remember everything that bores you to tears in the presentations of others, and do not to repeat their mistakes.



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