How to create a winning presentation in 5 simple steps

We believe the process of creating a winning presentation is very simple in principle.

That still means it takes hard work to get it right, but the ideas are simple.

Step 1. Analyse the audience

This is the most crucial step, and if you fail to do this, you are likely to fail. Ask yourself: What do they want me to do?

There are 2 mindsets in those looking to buy something from you. They may be motivated by optimism. They are excited about the prospect of their shiny new purchase and they want to find someone who shares that optimism. Or, they may be motivated by pessimism. Recent experience may have taught them that procuring things is a tough process where getting what you want is a battle. People like you promise the earth, then wait till it’s too late to tell you you can’t have what you want.

Often the client is a mixture of these two but if you don’t think hard about this you wont get what you say right. Usually you have to serve both masters. Without enthusiasm for the project you shouldn’t bother to turn up. But your enthusiasm will usually be combined with a clear-eyed assessment of the challenges, and a demonstration of your confidence you can overcome them, because of your experience.

Step 2. Decide what they want you to say

Note, this is not what you want to say, but what they want you to say.

Grist principle: It’s not about you.

If they are motivated by optimism they they want you to say you share their excitement. You can guarantee to deliver what they want as a minimum, but you know what? We can make it even better.

If they are motivated by pessimism they want you to say you are confident you can deliver what they want, and you can show them lots of evidence that your confidence is based on real experience.

Step 3. Create a structure

We all love structure, a shape, a sense we know where we are and where we’re going. So break up your time into chunks with he correct weight given to each chunk depending in how important it is to the client – see Step 2

If you have 30 minutes design something 25 minutes long. If you stick to that you will never have the stress of over-running. (Proof you are incompetent and can’t follow simple instructions – now that wasn’t what we were trying to achieve was it?) If you have an hour aim for 40 minutes, because after 30 they’re getting bored of your voice. They will never say that but they are so GET ON WITH IT and get off as soon as you can,

Step 4. Write

Fill your structure with everything you decided they wanted you to say in Step 2 – but make sure you make every sentence about them. How do you do that?

Example: We think we are the right people to build this building because we have built 3 very similar buildings in similar locations.

So you say: “We have built 3 almost identical buildings in almost identical locations. Give us the job.”

Here’s what you should say. “The great news for you is you want someone with the experience of this type of building, and this type of area, and we have 3 recent projects which had many similarities. These three projects had the same type of construction as your design, and were in areas where we faced similar issues to those in this area. So that means we have learned the lessons, and that’s why we are so confident that with us your project will go smoothly and deliver on time and on budget.”

The difference between the two, apart from length, is the first requires the client to draw their own conclusions. The second makes this conclusions explicit.

Grist principle: You must say it.

Don’t leave it them to do the brain work to come to the conclusion you want – do out for them.

Step 5. Rehearse

Sensible people rehearse. Idiots don’t. And Terry Wogan. He didn’t rehearse because he was a genius at being Terry Wogan. Hands up everyone who is a genius? No? Nor me. SO REHEARSE!

Not once, not twice but 3, 4, 5 times. You will get better and better and you will get more relaxed. Rehearsal moves the content into the unconscious parts of our brains. So you don’t have to think what you are going to say, you just know what you are going to say. That means you have cognitive capacity to spare, you can watch the audience and respond to how they react.

We love reducing things to a single sentence, so:

A winning presentation demonstrates with enthusiasm and confidence, how we will deliver exactly what they want, based on our evidence that we have the skills to exceed their ambitions. And it finishes under the time allocated.


So that was the easy bit – next its Q&A, and that’s where it get hard.