Why you should never start a presentation at the beginning.

People ask me why I always start presentations in the middle.

What most people think is the middle, to me, is really the beginning, or should be. That’s because most beginnings are irrelevant or dull or both. And the middle is where it starts to get interesting, if it’s ever going to get interesting.

A typical presentation starts by introducing the company or with the personal introductions of the presenters. This is usually dull and irrelevant because it's self-oriented and has nothing to do with the prospect’s needs.

The middle, at least effective middles, is where presenters finally get to what they can do for the poor prospects. I say poor prospects because they’ve had to sit through many minutes of dull, irrelevant presentation openings. If there are six competitors presenting, multiply the dull-irrelevance factor by six.  Therefore, “poor prospect” is not an overstatement. 

Just for the sake of human kindness, shake it up a little.

And be creative.

A client prospect needed a new agency and a new advertising campaign. Boy, did they need it. Their service had been so bad that customers not only left, they hated the company as they were going out the door. So instead of starting with the expected irrelevant boring beginning, our opening slide said this:

 
 

We knew being that bold could risk making them hate us. But we did it for three reasons:

1.    They had a big problem; if they didn't get that, we wouldn’t be able to help them.

2.    They seemed like reasonable, down-to-earth people who could handle our bluntness.

3.    We had no experience in their business category, so our best shot was to convince them that we knew how to solve their problem…and do it in a way that would grab their attention, right from the start.

It worked. A few days later I called to see if we made the finals in the competition. They told me they had decided to skip the finals. We had nailed it. Our blunt (call it “starting in the middle,” if you want) presentation won it, even with no category experience.

Starting in the middle is one of the tools I use to help my clients avoid the most common presentation failures.  Check them out on my presentation consulting page. Avoid these failures, and this alone can help you beat the pants off your competition.

How three words helped win against great odds.

When I ran a Hartford, Connecticut advertising agency, going up against 14 Boston agencies for a Boston-area client was not considered wise. To win was unheard of.

We thought, what the hell. Why not?

The new business prospect was a supermarket chain with a frustrated management team. That's because shoppers drove right by their stores and shopped at their top competitor even though the competitor's quality and pricing were not as good. It was just a shopping habit.

So we started the presentation with a promise, "If you hire us, we'll create shoppers' dissatisfaction with your competitor's stores, change their shopping habits and drive them to your stores."

That was a powerful opening, but too complicated for a slide. So, we just talked the idea, and our opening slide simply said this:

 
 

The prospect's marketing director told me that the entire 14-person management team voted for us. They said, "We want that ‘Jolt And Break’ agency."

So next time you present, start in the middle and end up on top. It works.