I once read about this guy named Michael Jager who is the Chief Creative Officer for JDK Design based out of Vermont, USA. He works with a bunch of hot brands like Nike, Levi’s, Virgin, MTV, as well as my favourite – Xbox.
Apparently, when presenting his proposal for Xbox’s iconic ‘X’ logo to Microsoft, Jager revealed the design by slicing an X in a sheet of paper, pushing his head through it, and yelling “X today is all AARGGHHH!” He then gracefully flipped the paper over and explained how the X could also represent an opening to an enhanced gaming experience. Now, he could have probably explained this through a detailed PowerPoint deck with some fancy animations, but I probably wouldn’t be talking about it right now if he had.
The point is: it’s not just what you are presenting but how you present it that gets your point across and makes a lasting impression. And in the world of creative advertising, if you want to be noticed and remembered, you need to make sure that every presentation is bigger and more legendary than the last. Here are some tips and learnings from my personal experience to put the extra power in your point.
I always prefer to meet potential clients prior to a presentation for two reasons. Firstly, to get insights beyond the brief and secondly, to get to know them personally. Do they have a sense of humour? Do they have kids? Are they stressed out? These little cues allow me to customise a presentation so that it resonates on a personal level. It could mean slipping in a humorous anecdote or showing a relatable image that evokes their emotions. Remember, when you are presenting, your audience should feel like you are talking to them and them only. They should feel your presentation was made from scratch exclusively for their eyes. Avoid generic templates. Make sure their logo pops up a lot. Use their industry terminologies. That way, clients feel like you are owning their business and are willing to put in extra effort to make it a success.
You might have thought that Jager’s peekaboo routine to Microsoft was a little over-the-top, but considering who he was talking to, I think it was a smart move. People don’t often expect drama in the boardroom, which is why it’s such an engaging icebreaker to open presentations with. I have heard about presentations that have made CEOs teary-eyed with nostalgia. I have also heard about agencies entering boardrooms in costumes with props and gear. Personally, depending on the nature of the client, I always try to ensure that every presentation comes with its own personality, whether it’s for a playful brand or a life-saving one. Nobody looks forward to a boring presentation. They dread it just as much as you do. Be disruptive. Break script. Perform a skit. Interact with audience members one-on-one. It’s okay to make people ponder, smile and ask questions. Actually, it’s better than okay. Apart from being memorable, it shows that you and your organisation have personality and gives clients more reasons to invest themselves in you and your presentation.
You may not be Steve Jobs, but you don’t have to be a genius to create amazing presentations. Software like PowerPoint and Keynote are designed to allow even laymen to create stunning presentations with basic efforts. Yes, you may need to tinker with the options to get used to them, but I can assure you, after a little exploration you will surprise yourself as to what you can achieve. Move away from the conventional slide-to-slide approach. Enhance your points by adding videos, dynamic HD images and animations to spruce up a presentation. Combining these elements with a unique presentation style can transform even the most boring slideshows into immersive multimedia experiences that wow audiences and keeps them glued to their seats.
Although it looks really cool to brand an 80-storey skyscraper with your client’s logo for a presentation, the sad reality is that you are never going to be able to apply that here in Pakistan. So, showing it to a client is like giving them a lollypop and then promptly yanking it out of their mouth. It’s counterproductive and makes a presentation look hypothetical. Make an impact by proposing realistic ideas with practical applications. Let them know that you understand the real world challenges and limitations of the market. As an agency, it’s your job to do so. For lack of a better phrase: always keep it real.
A study revealed that 25% of people’s greatest fear is public speaking. Not ghosts. Not spiders. Not even evil clowns. For some reason, many of us are intimidated by speaking in front of crowds (even small ones). Yes, it’s certainly a vulnerable position to be in, but an extremely powerful one if mastered. You can be the greatest creative, designer, CS person or CEO in the world, but if you spend your life hiding behind a desk, you are probably not going to get the recognition you deserve. Confident presenters tend to be noticed much more in professional environments and are usually given more important leadership roles as a result. When it comes to a presentation, confident body language and delivery projects authority and credibility. Even when you think the work could have been better, present it like it’s the best thing on Earth. After all, everyone wants to rally behind those who are competent and confident at what they do.
I never heard the term ‘hygiene’ being used in the context of presentations until a marketing guru said it during one of his meetings. What he was referring to was attention to detail and proper etiquette, such as spelling, grammar, formatting, punctuation, etc. Although it seems like something I shouldn’t have to mention to industry professionals, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen tiny mistakes become tarnished focal points of otherwise flawless presentations. Even something as trivial as misaligned text can become an eyesore. No one trusts a presenter who doesn’t pay heed to the finer details or fails to check a presentation before displaying it to a room full of people. Check. Recheck. And recheck again. Don’t ever let mistakes steal your show.
There may not be any silver bullet to creating the perfect presentation, but a good mix of preparation, a little creativity and attention to detail can certainly take you a long way. If pulled off properly, bland boardroom presentations can be transformed into Broadway-like performances that inspire and entertain audiences while leaving a lasting impression. And just like any performance, practise makes perfect. Focus on organising your thoughts and putting them into a format that people can understand and embrace. Be creative and use whichever medium you feel your audience will respond to best. Avoid convention, jargon and formalities. Keep it clear, impactful and to the point.
Above all else, make sure that every one of your presentations leaves your audience hungry for the next one.
Taimur Tajik is Executive Creative Director, Manhattan International.