Back2Work: Presentation 101

This post is late because I had a presentation today and 99% of the rest of the world ceased to exist. It's over now. Welcome back.

Presenting is a mandatory in Advertising. If you don't like opening your mouth, speaking in front of a group and expressing a point of view then you may want to rethink your career choice.

You're always going to have to present in some shape or form. We're in the business of selling things - starting with ourselves and ending with a product or service. So whether it's presenting your skills to a hiring manager or presenting your ideas to your partner, your creative director, the account team or the client, being a good presenter is essential to your career advancement. (I know people who could take the turdiest idea and make it sound like foie gras.)

Here are some basic presentation tips to get you going.

1. Lay it out logically. Put everything together in the way people think – look at the initial problem and how what you’re doing is solving it. Have your presentation and work unfold in a way that makes sense and let each part build off the other. Don’t leave any room for someone to ask why but always keep them with a sense of “Ooh, what else?”

2. Make notes. Before you get up to talk, sit down and write. List the main points you want to say. Write down the buzz words that are relevant to the client and the campaign. Put whatever things you’re worried you may forget or mess up on. Write a guideline for how you want to go through it from beginning to end. It doesn’t have to be a script, think of it more of as an outline or a cheat sheet.

3. Speak, don’t read. BeDon’t read from your presentation – especially if it means you’ll have your back to your listeners. Paraphrase, give an overview and let them read for themselves. Also, consider just writing key phrases instead of full paragraphs – that way people can focus on what you’re saying.

4. Take them along with you. Your presentation is like a story. It has a beginning, middle and end.
Give some background – What’s going on in the client’s world? The target market’s world? Why’d you do think of this idea in particular?
Say why it's great – What makes your idea relevant and amazing? Why does it work? This is where you really sell.
Use words from the brief – Planners and clients will love you for this – it shows that you paid attention and were thinking strategically.

5. Look the part. Dress smartly.  Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Unless it's a client presentation, you don't really have to dress up dress up. But if you look good, you feel good. And if you look good, people will take you more seriously.

Note: Avoid distracting clothing or jewelry. You want them to focus on your work and nothing else.

6. Engage Them. Speak slowly and clearly. Make eye contact. Be excited about your work.  Tell a small story. Give an example.

7. Acknowledge your flub. It's ok to say you're nervous. It's ok to make a mistake - sometimes you want to say hi or maybe hello and somehow hi-lo makes its way out of your mouth. Or maybe you said agitate instead of aggregate. That's ok, correct yourself, laugh it off and keep going. If you don't make a big deal out of it, they won't.

8. Don't undersell. If you say they probably won't like it, they probably won't. Don't say you just threw this together - you sound unprepared, unprofessional and unreliable. If you don’t believe in your work, no one else will.

9. Invite advice. If there's an idea or execution you're not sure about or think needs work, ask your listeners to give suggestions. Be humble and open to criticism and changes. Just fyi, there will always be criticism and changes. And after that, there will be more criticism and more changes.

10. Give them what they ask for. And then some. Make sure you check off on the list of deliverables, and then if you have anything extra and awesome, add it at the end as sweetener.

Over all advice:
-       Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them. Repetition helps people remember and helps you stay on track.
-       Practice makes perfect. Go through it once or twice in front of a mirror or to someone else. Get used to the order, the words and the flow of it.
-       Smile.

Give yourself time if you’re not perfect. Keep working at it and it’ll get better.

Even after several years of doing presentations at work, pageants, poetry readings and one drunken night of singing on the 6 train, I still get nervous.