Presentation tips. The biggest mistake in presentation.

We work in bidding. Which is just a euphemism for selling. So, while many presentations are to amuse or educate or inform, ours are usually designed with only one purpose – to win. We think that gives us a handle on what really matters.

To start at the wrong end, what doesn’t matter is you. I’ll assume you can speak, look smart, and don’t have Tourettes, so you can be polite. But apart from that you don’t count. No one gives a damn about you. They can barely remember your name, and next week when they meet you again they will have to look you up on Linkedin to remind themselves what you look like. 90% of people we work with are middle aged men. I’m a middle aged man, and we all look the same and are almost completely unmemorable.

But Bill, I’m a fascinating person! I ran a marathon! I have 2.3 children. I’m an expert in the songs of Supertramp!

I’m sure you are, but NO ONE IS INTERESTED. Not when you’re selling.

Because they, the one’s with the money, the money you are after, only care about one thing.

How you can make them look good.

What is the outcome they most want? A successful project? A harmonious working relationship? A great team?

Yes…but. It really all comes down to making them look good.

They want to be seen in their organisation as being successful. That will lead to bonuses, promotion, a bigger house, that holiday in the Caribbean.

So the biggest mistake in presentations is to think the client has asked you to talk about yourself. Right now in a hundred magnolia meeting rooms around the world, middle aged men are explaining in great detail about how their company works, how it organises itself, how it has been successful in the past and how it will be successful in the future. And facing them are thousands of bored people who are thinking, “When is he going to talk about me?”

So here is a simple rule for presentations.

Make every sentence you say about them. This is simple to do. You have to add the missing second half of the sentence.

“We have built 10 buildings just like the one you want us to build.”

Fail! So what? That’s just a fact. What is your point?

The point is that we have tons of  experience which means we will be more efficient at building your building. OK, so try again….

“The good news is that we have built 10 buildings which have many similarities to this building, and that means we have learned valuable lessons which will allow us to deliver this for you on time and on budget.”


So the biggest mistake is missing out the second half of the sentence. The bit that makes absolutely explicit why you are the one who can make them look good.