You are asked to put together a proposal for a big client who could bring in lots of business. You invest a huge chunk of time gathering the information and fashioning it into a saleable product. Then you shoot it to the marketing department to package.
You and your colleagues are proud of your efforts. You are certain that you’ve created a winner—a proposal that exceeds the client’s every need. With high expectations, you send it off. In a few weeks, the phone rings. You’ve been selected to “pitch the client in a beauty contest.” You send out invitations. You are ready to throw back your shoulders and strut onstage for the bathing suit competition.
But there’s one problem. You lack the skills to win. You think you’ve covered all bases. But you’ve neglected the key presentation skills that will make you stand out. What good are an hourglass figure, gorgeous face and talent if the contestant wears a frown, whispers to the judges and minces across the floor?
Content counts. But packaging sells.
How will you present? At a conference table? If so, remember to adjust the chair to its highest setting. Even seated, you want to be in a power position.
Are you in a position to make direct eye contact with the key decision maker? Do you know how long to maintain eye contact before directing it toward another key decider? Do you take enough time during the pitch to make eye contact with all your colleagues? You’d better. You want the client to see the camaraderie that exists among you. What does your body language say? Are you leaning forward when making a key point? Do you emphasize each point with the appropriate tone of voice? When a colleague presents, what is your posture?
If you stand to give a PowerPoint presentation, are you looking at the screen instead of the decision makers? Are you using your body as a power prop? Are your slides easy to read? Where are your laptop and teleprompter? Did you maximize the position of your visual aids? Are handoffs to colleagues seamless? Do you come across as likeable, professional and passionate about your firm and the job you can do?
I recently worked with a client who practiced these and other secrets that set the firm apart from the competition. In one day, that client had become more confident by mastering the precepts of a superior presentation. A few weeks later the firm won the beauty contest!
Content is important. But in the client’s mind it will usually appear equal to that of your competition. (Remember, all the contestants in the beauty contest are beautiful.) In most cases, how you present your material determines whether you win or lose.
Winning beauty contests is an art. Successful law firms pride themselves on honing their presentation skills. And it pays off handsomely when, at the end of the competition, you’re at center stage wearing the winner’s crown.
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