Writing a Presentation – the lessons learned from TV

I worked in telly for 23 years and wrote hundreds of pieces for BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, Discovery, C5, and many more.

I was reading an excellent piece by Phillip Collins, someone who really knows about speechwriting. His point that good rhetoric doesn’t exaggerate is one to note. But it set me thinking about what I had learned from TV writing, and my conclusion was that there was a fundamental lesson to learn from telly.

Yes, you can’t exaggerate. It will alienate your audience and destroy trust, but what happens in the business world is that this leads people to worry so much that they might be seen exaggerate that they underplay their strengths.

If you want to learn a lesson from TV, it is to say the strongest thing it is possible to say.

In the world of construction you can say: We have many projects that have fully met their brief.

Or: We have delivered many successful projects.

Or: We have a good reputation for delivering on time and on budget.

Or you could say: We have the evidence from our happy clients that we can claim an unrivalled reputation for delivering successful projects on time and on budget.

Now if I was in the room I would ask, Unrivalled? And would want a justification for that claim. Note that evidence of a bold claim is absolutely vital.

Saying, “We’re the best” only works if you can then build a coherent case that you are. One you yourself actually believe.

So if you are writing a selling presentation, ask yourself, what is the strongest sentence I can write a feel comfortable saying it?

Push the envelope, We’re the best…. maybe not, there is no one better, maybe, a bit mealy mouthed, but I can say it with my hand on my heart and with confidence.

So push yourself to the absolute limit of what you can say and you will not be selling yourself short.