For consultants, the client presentation is part of the value delivered – and so it makes sense to get it right. It’s pretty silly to spend weeks researching, thinking, testing, and prototyping – only to make your work look bad with terrible slides and a confusing talk.

Yet consultants are more likely than others to create huge text-heavy slide decks that work OK as documents but that are absolutely awful when presented. And consultants are more likely than others to believe that they are doing things right, even when they leave a trail of bored clients in their wake.

So, how should you give a great client presentation? What should consultants do to deliver more value to their audiences?

Visuals support but don’t replace the speaker

It sounds obvious, but people forget that a presentation has two key parts – visuals (usually slides), and a speaker. If the slides are self-explanatory, then the speaker isn’t needed, and will get ignored. If the slides don’t contain much information, you’re pretty much giving a speech with a backdrop behind you, which can be difficult where you have complex or data-heavy material to convey. Slides need to support the speaker, without replacing the speaker.

Create separate slides and handouts

Don’t be tempted to the use the same slides to present and to leave with the client as an abridged report. If your slides work as a report (“Slideument”) created in presentation software that means they work without explanation from a presenter. If they work without explanation from a presenter then it’s hard to present them as your audience will just read, and ignore you as they do. The best approach is to create a version of your slides to present, then to add additional information to a separate version to use as a report. To find out how, make use of our presentation handout guide. 

Ignore the “rules”

A lot of consultants are exposed to a lot of “rules” about slide design, many of them rubbish. There isn’t a numbers of slides, or bullet points, or words per line that you should aim for – it depends what you need to communicate.  Your slide titles don’t need to be two lines long, and don’t need to tell the story of your presentation for those who want the 20-second skim-read version (at least not if you are trying to use the same slides to deliver your 20-minute presentation). Consultants are paid to analyse, measure, and think. Don’t ignore these skills and accept superstitions about consultant presentations blindly…

Start analogue then go digital

It’s tempting to start creating a client presentation by opening PowerPoint (or Keynote). It makes much more sense to separate out working out what you want to say from creating visuals that help you say it. Try using Post-Its with a key point on each, and arranging them to help plan your structure. Then paper and a pen (or a Surface Pro) to sketch out your visuals.

Set clear objectives

It’s not enough for a presentation’s purpose to be ‘to share progress information’ or ‘to report on what we’ve done’ or ‘to explain our thoughts’. What do you want your client to know, to believe, and to do as a result or your presentation?  You typically have things you want to achieve – to explain, to justify, or to promote. Making these explicit when you start to create your client presentation helps you know what you want to work towards.

Don’t always try to tell a story

It’s almost clichéd to suggest that good presentations should tell stories. Which is great, but the result seems to leave 1000s of consultants and managers trying to be all ‘Empire Strikes Back’ but managing to be more ‘Car Maintenance Manual’ instead. The things that make stories interesting – tension, suspense, intrigue, redemption don’t really work if your story is just “we did some research, this is what we found, isn’t it amazing?” If there’s nothing surprising, nothing unexpected, and nothing exciting, it might not make the best story. Other presentation structures are available.

Design gorgeous graphs

Consultants use a lot of graphs because they typically share a lot of data. But PowerPoint’s default settings don’t always help you to create attractive or meaningful graphs. Consider (a) using builds so that graphs help you to tell your story (b) using labels not legends when presenting for clearer communication (c) keeping text horizontal so it’s legible.

Use meaningful visuals

If sounds obvious, but presentation visuals should be meaningful. In a meeting room (as opposed to a ballroom), slides should help you explain your ideas, not serve as an interesting backdrop. So full-slide stock photos are less likely to be useful than diagrams you create, photos you take, and graphs you draw. Ask, is that graphic helping me explain things? It not, what’s it for?

Pay a designer to create a unified design

Nothings says ‘cobbled together’ like inconsistent presentation design. Not just the most obvious problem of different slide backgrounds, (which happens), but inconsistent colour palettes, fonts, and styles. At the very least, make sure everything looks consistent. Use fewer colours in your palette by sticking to a well-programmed template. Set a clear set of font styles. Stick to a few graph styles. If you are sensible, don’t spend your own time trying to become a PowerPoint “ninja” (groan).  Pay a presentation designer and use your own time for what you’re good at.

Leave a comment
Written by

Joby Blume


View Joby Blume's profile

Related articles

Jun 2024

Sales presentations are the cornerstone of many companies’ sales efforts, yet so often they aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. Thrown together at the last-minute, often your sales reps stand up in front of a sales presentation that's nothing more than a glorified page of notes. Read this article for everything you need to make the ultimate sales presentation.

Jun 2024

Sales presentations are important, but 1000s of people each day ignore the principles of sales presentation design and sales messaging and deliver material that is tired, ugly, and ineffective. These sales presentation ideas will help you to easily improve your sales presentation; stand out, engage your audience, and sell more.

Jun 2024

Choosing a presentation design agency for your enterprise is a lot harder than buying a product. With presentation design services, you don’t know what you’re going to get until the project is nearly finished. What you get from the studio isn’t the exact same thing as what any other business ends up with. So how do you choose the right presentation design firm for your company?

  1. Image of Clemence Lepers Clemence Lepers says:

    I couldn’t agree more on point 1 Joby. Speaker comes first, slides second. A presentation could be the best on Earth… that it wouldn’t matter if presenter sucks rotten eggs (like Seth Godin likes to say :).

    You might like this infographic – it breaks down the key steps on building effective presentations:


  2. Image of Aira Aira says:

    Having a good presentation is really important because this will showcase how experienced you are and how well you know what your saying. Not just getting the approval of the clients but also gaining their respects. You can get referred to! Thank you Joby for the tips!

  3. Image of Ola Harper Ola Harper says:

    Great platform to use for effective use of powerpoint presentations.

Leave a Reply

Join the BrightCarbon mailing list for monthly invites and resources

Tell me more!

Thank you so much for conducting our advanced PowerPoint training workshop. We will definitely use BrightCarbon in the future – we really think that we would be hard pressed to find anywhere better!

Emma Pring Iona Capital