Making a pitch while seated at a conference room table has a body language all its own. One of my clients listened intently as we went through each one. He practiced at the table as I went through them. A few months later he called me to say that his last few new business pitches have all been successful and he credited the conference table body language techniques as the cause.
How to Say Hello
When you enter a conference room to greet the prospect, try to avoid shaking hands over the table. Instead walk around the table to the other side and shake hands. Do the same at the end of the meeting.
Where/How to Sit
The preferred place to sit at the table is a center seat, not an end seat. However, you should always sit across and close to your client. The one exception is if the client sits at the end, you should sit on the side, but close to the client.
Assuming you are with a team of people, the most important people involved in the pitch should sit closest to the prospect. That often means that if you are the most senior person at the table, but you won’t be actively involved in the account, you should sit further away.
When it is your turn to present there are a few things to think about. If the chair you are on goes up and down, set it as high as possible. Lean in slightly. Hands above the table. Don’t sit straight up, and never lean back. Feel free to move your hands as you talk, but not as exaggerated as when you are standing. Stay in that position for the entire time of your presentation, including Q&A. The only time to sit back is when you hand off the presentation to your team mate.
When your team mate is presenting it is very important that you look interested. This may be difficult because you may have heard the pitch a million times, and you’re now relaxing after your turn. But, all of the prospects on the other side are watching and you have to look interested. Avoid pushing too far back from the table; avoid crossing your arms as you sit and listen.
If you are presenting exhibits or drawings for the prospect to look at, it’s fine to stand up at your chair and put them out, leaning in as you discuss each one.
Make Eye Contact with Everyone
Make sure that when you are presenting, or answering questions, that you make contact with everyone on the other side of the table, not just the CEO. The other people may not be able to hire you, but they can sure see to it that you are not hired. You can bet that after the meeting the CEO will call her team together and say “OK, what do we all think?” You need all of those people on your side. Do that with eye contact and smiles.
Ask for the Business
Someone on your team should be charged with summarizing the presentation at the close then asking the prospect for the business. Whoever that is needs to look them all in the eye, ask for the business, then, everyone on your side must remain silent until the prospect responds.
Congratulations. You just won a nice account.