1. Tell a story.

You do your research in categories, i.e. competition, the market... But the client will understand more quickly if you organize the information to support your overall message.

2. Present only what the client needs to make a decision.

Don't inundate the client with data just to prove you've done your homework. Put backup slides in the report you leave behind.

3. Be flexible.

Even when you've pared to the bone, the client may not need to see every slide or march along with you in order. If interest flags, move on. If he's ready for closure, do so. Adjusting in midstream proves you are responsive as well as confident.

4. Never overestimate eyesight.

If the client can't read the slide, she certainly won't get the message. Slides should support the spoken message, not be the message.

5. Don't tell what it is; show what it means.

Create conceptual visuals to illustrate major relationships; use message heads on graphs and charts; explain the graphic in terms of the story, not the axis.

6. Deliver; don't read.

The last time someone deliberately read to you, it was your mother, and she was trying to put you to sleep. A comatose client cannot be a happy client.

7. Look and listen.

Most of the content of any communication is nonverbal. Body language, facial expressions and tone of voice may reveal far more than the client's actual words. When you sense hesitancy, probe until you know what is on the client's mind and have responded. Too often we are so busy talking we take the absence of outright hostility as acceptance.

8. Act like a professional.

Your body language counts, too. Maintain an "up" posture; use open hand gestures (with elbows away from the body), look directly at the client and show him (through facial expressions, voice, energy) that you feel confident and positive.

9. Be a person.

Too many of us become abstract and machine-like when presenting. Use a conversational tone and spoken (not written) language. Smile when appropriate and let your natural sense of humor come through.

10. Plan ahead.

Consider whether one additional day of analysis is worth the potentially devastating impact of sloppy slides and uncoordinated delivery that can result from handing your partner transparencies warm from the copying machine on the way to the airport, or discussing who will play what role in the taxi on the way to the client's office.

Published May 1991 in Consultants News

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