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The Secret To Nailing The Biggest Presentation Of Your Career

Source | FastCompany : By TED LEONHARDT

There’s a lot that goes into a successful presentation. You need to marshal all the right evidence to support your case. You need to finesse your delivery. And sure, a little luck and personality can play a role, too. But knowing how to check all those boxes properly isn’t all that easy. Many of us try to cover too many of these bases at once and wind up with unwieldy, unfocused presentations that sound more anxious than persuasive.

The good news is that simply knowing how to prepare can help you set the stage to get it right. This isn’t always easy to do, because our day-to-day jobs tend to draw our focus toward details that may not always matter when you’re trying to win over a boss, team, or prospective client with a super-important presentation.

To do that, you need to understand some bigger-picture issues that few of us usually take the time to map out. Personally, it took me years to learn to push back from my work and hit the conference room with my team weeks in advance in order to research, plan, and, (often most painful of all), practice for pitch day. But here’s how to do it.


Preparing for any big presentation means focusing first and foremost on the particulars of who you’re pitching to. If it’s a prospective client, that means researching their history, market position, affiliated industries, competitors, team members, ambitions, past failures, and key successes. That may sound obvious, but it rarely is. Many of us head to the drawing board initially with ideas about how to communicate our ideas, when what you really need is to first understandyour audience’s needs and interests.

Earlier in my career, I made a huge pitch to a regional manufacturer that had been bought by a larger firm with global ambitions. I’ll call the company Daimyo for the sake of illustration. As a small creative firm in London, we were a little fish in that pond, but we’d made notable successes. I was hungry to pursue this new project and was thrilled we’d been asked to pitch. The Daimyo acquisition had been friendly. The new parent intended to take the brand global and had brought in a CEO who’d decided a complete brand refresh was in order.

Our pitch competitors were several monster-sized firms. They had vastly more experience in multimillion-dollar projects in Daimyo’s industry as well as with global brands. None of my employees (all usually ready, willing, and able to a fault) were jumping up and down to deliver this presentation, fearing we’d be waxed. But with a little cajoling, then arm twisting, I put together a strong pitch team and hired a researcher for full-bore homework on Daimyo, the parent, and their new CEO.

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