Presentation skills are among the most important assets in a consultant’s communication toolkit.
Whether it’s pitching for new business, brainstorming ideas with a client, or reviewing project results, consultants working across all sorts of industries are always presenting something to someone.
Most consultative presentations are to a single client or team, though some require public speaking.
This could be delivering a speech on behalf of a client or promoting your personal brand via a conference keynote. Either way, public speaking forces you to up your game.
Regardless of the audience, venue, or topic, a consultant must be an engaging and memorable presenter, because no one wants to sit through a boring and dull presentation. And no one hires a forgettable presenter.
Arguably, a consultant’s most critical asset is the pitch. The next time you’re trying to close a deal, consider these tips to really drive through your message home.
Preparation is the key to success
Being unprepared reflects poorly on you. It is disrespectful to your audience and implies that you think your time is more important than theirs.
Additionally, a hastily prepared and unpracticed pitch makes you look unprofessional and like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Also, it is often disjointed and doesn’t build to a close.
The best way to avoid this is to take the time to create an inspired pitch presentation, practice like crazy and be ready for every curveball that’s thrown at you.
The best pitches are compelling stories.
They begin provocatively, include intrigue and insight that persuade a potential client they can’t live without you, and end with a strong close that leads to a signed contract.
To develop your pitch presentation, first storyboard your narrative and decide what visual elements are required. If you need visual elements created from scratch, start that process ASAP.
Second, define the data you need to embellish your pitch and do the necessary research to acquire this data. This data should not be ancillary but rather embedded within the narrative.
For example, competitive positioning shouldn’t be an appendix but a central part of your argument. Detail how you’re different from you competitors and how this difference helps solve your client’s pain points
Don’t forget the close. Closing is often an off-screen process, but a good pitch should tee it up.
After you’ve developed your pitch, rehearse it out loud in front of a mock audience of friends and colleagues. Give them a list of anticipated questions and practice the post-presentation Q&A. Tell them to be a tough audience and ask you the hard questions. It’s always better to be ready for the worst.
Leave sufficient time in your preparation process to incorporate feedback and tweak your presentation. And then practice the newly tweaked version.
Before you present, make sure that your online presence, such as your website and social media pages, all look polished and have consistent messaging. A socially active client will Google you either before or after your pitch. Or both. If you want to impress them, it’s important that you present online as well as you do in person.
If you’re pitching a new client, forego the long-winded introduction and instead begin with a provocative statement or statistic that will lure them in.
Provide them with real examples of where you’ve helped other companies. Give every opening statement a sense of urgency and explain why you or your company is perfect for the job.
Be passionate and back it up with hard numbers, they’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand.
Don’t sell. Start a conversation.
Some of the most effective pitches are interactive.
Rather than a canned speech, the pitch presentation prompts conversation by posing questions rather than stating answers. To encourage additional interaction, ask the client to interrupt with inquiries and questions throughout the pitch.
But don’t delude yourself that interactive means less practice. Counterintuitively, a conversational style usually requires more practice rather than less.
Keep it simple and nail the close
Don’t weigh yourself down with details. When you’re pitching a new client, choose two or three specific things that you can do for them and delve into those.
One of these should be your value proposition. Be sure you tell them exactly how you’re going to make their lives easier.
At some point in the pitch, drop in memorable anecdote of how you helped someone in the past. The more quirky and remarkable, the more likely that you will be securing them as a happy new client.
Within the final minutes of your pitch, tee up the close. Clarify contractual details. If necessary, introduce an additional hook.
Maybe you give the client some added value by offering an hour-long strategy session at a reduced cost. Remember, an engaging presentation only opens the opportunity door. It’s the close that seals the deal.
Drew Banks is the Head of International at Prezi, the cloud-based presentation software that helps you connect powerfully with your audience. An independent survey based on user reviews, conducted by G2 Crowd found that Prezi is highly ranked alongside PowerPoint and Google Slides.