Make a successful presentation, don’t get them… BOARD TO DEAF

Presentations to Management and Board are usually about raising money for a project.

What follows also applies to presentations to banks and other sources of capital.

Do you always get the investment you need? Have your presentations been successful?

Your audience will probably already have seen a lot of paperwork about the project. This is a mistake. When the bait is heavier than the intended catch you do not land a fish. Half your audience won’t have read it and will try to do so while you are speaking, so they won’t listen to you. The others have read it and possibly misunderstood it. Whether they have done so or not they will have made up their minds; your presentation is redundant.

Pre-reading on the project you are about to present should consist of one paragraph with, perhaps, a photograph or artists impression. Anything more is distracting. What you are giving them at this stage is a headline, a teaser, a seducer. It is there to titillate the appetites of those whose funds you seek. It must be about them, not about you, not about the project. Think about their position, their attitudes, not yours.

Begin with a question. Questions engage, statements do the opposite. Design your question to make your audience think. Anyone who has watched Dragon’s Den or another Start-up Hopefuls Programme knows that investors are turned off by having the project fired at them as if by a Kalashnikov automatic rifle. They want a say in what they are investing in. The Betty Crocker Cake Mix was only successful when housewives had to add an egg. They wanted to be partners in the baking.

You will have a list of points you feel you must make if your case is to be well presented. Make it as short as possible and be flexible. If it isn’t relevant, chuck it out. Making a case to build a massive winery in the Barossa Valley to a board in UK I concentrated on the concept, the skills, the returns but completely forgot that the board – and the ethos of the business – was largely Methodist. The only issue they had was a Methodist organisation producing alcohol. The Arabian Investment Authority who finally provided the funds had no such qualms and suggested I build a distillery at the same time.

Watch your audience for signs of disbelief, restlessness and boredom. Engage those who are showing such signs. Don’t plough relentlessly on. I once saw a client looking distracted while listening to a presentation in an advertising agency I worked for. On being asked if something was wrong, he said the really only wanted to see the advertising, not hear the rationale behind it. I took two minutes to re-jig the whole thing and showed him all our creative work. He was delighted and increased the budget on the spot.

Your colleagues will be interested in the returns, of course, but they will be much more intrigued by the products or services you are proposing. To the extent that it is possible, let them touch, handle, feel what is on offer. Listen to their excruciatingly boring anecdotes demonstrating their knowledge of the subject. When they are talking they are buying, when you are talking there is only a 50% chance that they are.

Finally, remember that your baby isn’t initially their baby. It is your job to make it so. If they leave your presentation thinking they have had a great idea, you have won.

Not only that, one day you will probably become CEO.