BY Michael Fleming

DATE: 21 JAN 2016


Those of you familiar with the work of Simon Sinek will recognise the phrase "start with why?".  The book is definitely worth a read and his TED talk is terrific.

In the past couple of months I've been working with directors and partners in law and other professional services firms. Preparing them for big presentations: conference slots; client training seminars; beauty parade pitches for big jobs.  It's hugely rewarding, especially when they really nail the talk or win their pitch. Delivering the pitch you never knew you had in you is very empowering.  

There are many ways to be a good presenter so there is no set way of effecting a better delivery style on an individual. But there is a simple, common flaw in the approach most of these senior individuals have take in preparing these hugely important presentations:  They failed to "start with why?". Instead they start by creating a slide deck.  In fact they often start with a slide-deck they created for an earlier presentation to a different audience.  And there's more, the slide deck has usually been crested by someone else. When you think about it - that's nuts!

How can you possibly expect to create a compelling pitch that hits the mark with such a plan. Here's how you start with "why?":

  • Why is the audience coming to listen?
  • Who exactly is coming and what do you know about their level of seniority, expertise, likes and dislikes, issues and interests?
  • What challenging issues is their business/sector facing at the moment?
  • What do they want?
  • What do you want?
  • What can you say that will help them?
  • Who else is speaking and how can you differentiate yourself?

And a million other questions.  Well perhaps not a million, but easily a few more that you could usefully ask BEFORE YOU START PREPARING YOUR NEXT PRESENTATION!  You will hit the mark more by luck than judgement if you fail to do your analysis before turning to the tablet.  

You may think, if it's a formal pitch, that everything you need will be contained in the invitation to tender document: Trust me, it won't be.

Many presentations by lawyers and other professionals bomb at the point of delivery because they have spent little time on this analysis phase.  Professionals turn up all the time and deliver the talk they want to deliver to audiences they don't really know! Once you've done the analysis you then start to tease out some key themes that are going to resonate with the audience.  

When I'm involved it's only at this point they realise they need to go and do some more digging.  And they tear up those initial slides because it's obvious many of them are irrelevant, then go off to obtain a clearer understanding of the issues the audience really want covered.

Get this initial analysis phase right and you will deliver something that's relevant for you audience.  Great... But it might be slightly boring.  Unless you then spend some time having a creative brainstorm about how you might bring the it to life, make an emotional connection with the audience and ensure that you are appropriately memorable. This the use of stories, analogy, quotations, humour, props and other visual aids.  That’s for another day.

For now, next time you've got an important presentation coming up, start with "why?"  before you think about opening PowerPoint (or Prezi).

And how about not using slides at all?


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about the author

Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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