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 with their client presentations?

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.

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 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 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.

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Written by

Joby Blume

Director

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  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: http://www.pptpop.com/9-actionable-presentation-tips-thatll-make-you-stand-out/

    Clemence

  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!

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