October 06, 2010
Do's and Don'ts in a Presentation

My day job involves managing a wide variety of technology for a large media company. People want to present their products and services to me all the time. Many times I get so frustrated at the presentation and presenter, that I ignore what they are saying and just want the whole thing over.

I mentioned this at a recent conference to another attendee after we watched one person after another read their slides word for word. As a result I wrote up these helpful guidelines for those that present to people like me that buy things.

Things not to do in a presentation with me

1) Don't read the slides - I can read and have skimmed your slide before you are into your second sentence. You should be explaining why you are showing me this information, not going over the information.

2) Don't tell me stats on your company - I don't care about your stock price, when you were founded, how much business your did, or who you clients are, or what deals you have on the table.

3) Don't tell me my business - I know my business. You will get something wrong or explain something that doesn't apply to me if you try to explain it. That just makes you look like you don't know what you are talking about.

4) Don't use my company's logo in your presentation. It makes me want to call our attorneys.

5) Don't run down your competition - Most likely I've bought from your competition in the past. Saying that they are terrible is basically telling me that I'm stupid for choosing them.

6) Don't tell me my challenges - You have no idea what my real challenges are. Anything you bring up is what you read on the internet.

7) Don't make me use your stupid remote desktop sharing/collaboration software that requires me to download a bunch of crap. If you can't be in the room, just send the PowerPoint, Keynote, or PDF document.

8) Don't mention Magic Quadrants/Analysts - I don't care what a bunch of overpriced analysts decided about your company while they chatted over beer at the airport. Last time I checked, research companies are filled with people booted out of operational & executive roles into the land of consultancy.

9) Don't Google me and then try to pretend like you didn't Google me. It's fine to Google me and talk about what you found, but don't lie about it.

Things to do in a presentation

1) Be clear about your goal - If you want a sale, more introductions, a demo opportunity, then say so clearly. Beating around the bush gets you nowhere.

2) Ask me what my issues are and what problems I'm trying to solve - It's astounding how few people actually take the time to ask what I'm looking for to help.

3) Explain what differentiates you from your competitors - Telling me how you have a way to help me that others don't is a positive way to eliminate your competition.

4) Use a whiteboard to draw complex ideas and hand the pen to others in a collaborative discussion.

5) If you mention that you work with one of my customers or competitors, be sure you do. We'll likely be calling them to compare notes.

6) Follow up with an email containing whatever you presented in the room and anything I asked for specifically. That does not mean attach 3 more case studies and copies of your last magazine ad.

7) Swag is great, but bring enough for my staff. As an exec, I get plenty of benefits, your tchotchkes don't mean a lot to me, but they mean much more to my team. Bringing 12 small items for my team is much better than one of two nice things for me.

8) Be honest. Don't make things up or shade the truth about features of your product or service. In the end, I will find out. Promising vaporware is a good way to never make the sale.

Posted by michael at October 06, 2010 04:55 PM


Oh. God. Yes. You had me at "don't read the slides" -- of course because that's how so many people present now people think you're not doing it write if you're not just reading word for word off the projection.

Posted by: SpaceDog [http://www.UnorthodoxY.com] on October 7, 2010 2:36 AM

Mandatory. Reading. Forwarding this to our team, who do a lot of presentations.

Thanks, Mike.

Posted by: mack [http://speaktech.com] on October 7, 2010 8:16 AM

Have now nominated you for sainthood.

Posted by: Ken Rudman [] on October 7, 2010 8:29 AM

Awesome advice.

Posted by: JayM [] on October 8, 2010 8:51 AM

Am currently seating in a meeting, going over a pretty technical presentation and... the dude is reading not only slides but a word document...
Am willing to commit murder...

Posted by: Tryphoon [http://www.tryphoon.com] on October 13, 2010 8:26 AM

And the dude was asked to not read word by word!

Posted by: Tryphoon [http://www.tryphoon.com] on October 13, 2010 8:27 AM
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