Make it all about them – Developing a winning Presentation

I was fortunate to be invited to attend a Microsoft Partner conference in Washington some years ago….in fact, it was the year that Satya Nadella ascended to the Microsoft throne. These are amazing events with attendance running at around 20,000 delegates from all over the world. Apart from the sheer spectacle and experiencing really slick organisation, it also gave me an opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of a city that I really fell in love with!

But then on the last day of the conference, a real bonus was that they introduce a 50% off special at the onsite merchandise store….so my Scottish blood kicked in and I tested the wares. It was here that I picked up a gem of a publication “ Make it All About Them” by Nadine Keller, an easy to read book with magic on every page and all about developing winning sales presentations!

After my first read through though, I realised that the points made throughout the book can be applied to any presentation and in fact extended to day to day communication with clients. Nadine identifies and addresses the myths that have frankly become bad habits in most (sales) presentations that I have seen and delivers some invaluable truths in the process. If we can embrace just a few of these in our day to day client engagement, whether delivering presentations, writing proposals or simply communicating in meetings where we hope to get a point across, I am sure that they will ensure a clarity of thought that will make a massive difference to us help us to deliver value to our clients.

It is impossible to cover all of the information in one posting so I am going to try to condense the content (with due credit to Nadine Keller) and convey what I believe are some of the nuggets of information over the course of a few blog posts!


Making it All about Them

We think that clients want to hear all about us, so we tend to kick off presentations talking about ourselves. While this is important it can be the death knell to an impactful presentation. So an alternative approach is to start by revealing our understanding of the clients needs. Obviously, you will have done some homework on this so why not get right to the point. It’s an attention getter, you position exactly what you are there for and everyone is immediately on the same page.

So if you remember just three things:

  1. Begin the presentation by expressing your understanding of what the client needs, the problems and opportunities
  2. Review each with the client team, and explain that as these are the basis for your presentation, you want to ensure that your understanding is correct
  3. Note any feedback offered or corrections needed…it will happen, it’s not a problem…and refer to the feedback if necessary during the presentation.


Start with the End in Mind

Here is a very bad habit that we have all fallen into at some time or another. We pick up the last presentation that we did and we retrofit the content to hopefully suit our new presentation. While this might save some time it can severely compromise your presentation.

You should approach any presentation experience as a story…it needs a clear beginning, a middle and an end. The presentation must be designed to address that specific client and the specific needs that are to be addressed!

Using “standard” material, will often lead to inclusion of unnecessary on irrelevant content and too much unnecessary information dilutes the impact. The client is left confused and unable to differentiate whether our offering is in fact better than others.

A great principle to follow here is the “Power of Three”. As Nadine points out, history is riddled with “threes”…Three blind mice, Liberty Fraternity, Equality, Blood Sweat & Tears, Stop, look & Listen!, Location, Location, Location…etc etc! (etc?). People are tuned to remembering things in three’s. Often when four things are mentioned, only three are remembered!

So if you remember just three things:

  1. When preparing your presentation, determine the three most important messages you want to get across
  2. Analyse and capture how you want to impact the audience’s emotions
  3. Use “three messages” as a guide to determine what to include, and most importantly what to exclude, from your presentation.


Develop a Story

The secret here is to not prepare to deliver a presentation, rather prepare to tell a story. “Storytelling is at the heart of impactful sales and marketing”(Nadine Keller)

We need to eliminate complexity for the client by providing a clear picture of our services and capabilities…and also explain how they will address the clients problems, needs & opportunities. Stories are powerful because they are Memorable, Interesting and Compelling, fundamentally because they make the intangible tangible, they demonstrate success, they foster personal connections (recognition) and they tap into emotions of the audience.

The use of emotive phrasing, metaphors, analogies and similes can be extremely powerful in explaining concepts and ensuring that clients remember the points you are putting across.

So if you remember just three things:

  1. Think about your presentation as a story, create a storyboard before you even start on your slides and make sure that the story is arranged from the client’s perspective and not your own
  2. If the client presents an agenda, don’t follow it blindly. Ask permission to address the content they want in a different way perhaps.
  3. Have your Big Three messages drive your content and bring your presentation to life with references, stories and metaphors


I hope that the above points give you some idea of the concepts to follow. I will cover additional points in follow up articles and will be happy to unpack the detail with you if required.

Author: John Pratt – Executive Director: Business Development