Tag Archives: presentating and pitch skills

Don’t listen to Steve Jobs.

For years I have been haunted by Steve Jobs, the presenter.  He was an exquisite presenter, with a great style, presence and charisma.  We can all learn things from how he worked.

But for years, I had to combat those clients who read enough of Jobs’ presentation philosophy to be dangerous.  Jobs preferred graphics over words in his slides.  Clients tried to do the same thing, but they had two problems; they didn’t have the confidence to reduce the word count on the slides for fear they might miss something.  And, they used stock art and stock photos.  Some of the graphics were good.  Most were gratuitous and had little to do with the point of the narrative.

Jobs didn’t have to use stock photos for his slides.  He had a huge art department that spent months creating the perfect slide to convey the point Jobs was making.  Most of us don’t have such an art department, or budget, at our disposal.

So, while everyone tried to emulate Jobs’ presentation style, they couldn’t.  But, not just because of the slides.

Jobs was famous for preparation and rehearsal.  He worked his presentation until it was close to perfect and tweaked every word to get things just right.  Many of the clients I’ve seen put in a minimum amount of time for preparation and almost nothing for rehearsal.  If you are going to copy the great man, you gotta do everything he did.

Jobs was a minimalist.  He didn’t try to cover every product and every feature and every selling point when he presented a new product.  He had one big takeaway and 2 or 3 support points.  Most clients aren’t comfortable unless they empty the closet of every selling feature they can think of.

The greatest disconnect that most clients have with Jobs’ style is the product itself.  Jobs had spectacular, mold-shattering, beautiful  products that the world had never seen before.  Imagine if you are the presenter and what you have to show is a telephone no one has ever even imagined that also plays music and becomes a pocket laptop.  That’s a really easy thing to present. You own the audience from the moment you take it out of your shirt pocket.  You don’t need lots of slides to explain it or justify it. The mere demonstration of the product does it all for you.  OK, now imagine you are presenting instead, a line of shoes that are new but very similar in every way to what’s out there in the market now.  Or, you are presenting a process for auditing financial records which is a newer version of the one you introduced last year.  It is impossible to present them the way Jobs did.  The audience just won’t respond.  You may need to justify the presentation with more content, more words on slides, more data.

I am a great admirer of how Jobs presented.  He was a genius.  I loved that his slides were sparse, that he was disciplined to stick to a few points, that he spoke to the audience and not the screen behind him.  He had a terrific, yet simple mantra: concrete/simple/emotional.

Look at the new iMac.  It’s thin and light (concrete), it’s so thin it can slide into a manila envelope (simple). Isn’t it fabulous (emotional).”

There are lots of things we can learn from him (Read: Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo).  But, applying all of his techniques to each person’s presentation is never going to work.

Learn from the master, then make it fit your style and product.

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How Q&A Can Win a Pitch

Every presentation and pitch ends with a Q&A session. It is an incredibly important part of the overall presentation and it should not be left to chance.

There are two elements of the Q&A that make it so important:

It breaks the format of the pitch. Your presentation has gone along a certain path with you and your team talking and, for the most part,  the prospect listening. Now the tables have turned. That change in format will cause the prospect to tune in anew to what you have to say. He or she is no longer lulled into the predictable rhythm of your presentation. 

I haven’t seen research on it, but I suspect that overall, prospect attention is very high during Q&A, surpassed only when you opened the presentation.

Attention drops during the middle section of most presentations, which is why you’ll often hear questions from prospects on things you discussed in the pitch but that they didn’t hear. When a prospect asks a question about something you covered previously, there’s no need to remind everyone that you already covered it. Simply, answer the question.

Many presentations assume that the Q&A will come at the end of the pitch.  Don’t do that.  You don’t want the pitch to just peter out after all the questions have been asked. Put your Q&A before the close; this way your prospects’ questions have been answered and their attention is peaked before you deliver your close, thank everyone, and ask for the business.  I suggest you say something like “before we close the meeting, are there any questions you would like to ask.”

Make sure your prospect knows they can ask questions at any time; a presentation I attended recently started with the group leader saying they would take no questions until the end. It killed the connection between presenter and audience.  

Taking questions as they arise says you are confident in what you are presenting.  Somewhere in the beginning of your presentation tell the audience that there will be a Q&A session near the end, but they should feel free to ask questions at any time.

A couple other guidelines:

  • Not everyone on your team has to answer every question. Don’t encourage piling on with additional answers.
  • Get out of the habit of starting every answer with “that’s a good question”. Just answer the damn question.
  • You might have a question for them based on what they’ve been asking.  Now is the time to ask it.

Finally, at some point during a Q&A, you will be asked a question you don’t know the answer to.  Look at this as an opportunity. Be 100% honest and say you don’t know the answer, BUT, you will find the answer and get back to them before the end of the day.  This now gives you permission to call the prospect to discuss your pitch further.

Any further questions?

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