When Trolling for Business, Don’t Wing It
Let’s start with substance or the guts of the presentation, and it begins with the assembling of facts. One of the best ways to do this is to use a group-think technique: two heads are always better than one; three heads are even better. Always try to get other people engaged in the process of helping you. Even when you know your stuff cold, they can offer you a perspective on how to present your material that can help your listeners understand it better or to be more convincing. Remember “e pluribus unum,” out of many, one. Use many sources and inputs for your pitch but have one story. This is very important in this era of cut and paste. How many times have you watched a presentation with multiple speakers and the various sections are in different fonts with different formats and totally different styles? It’s clearly a cut and paste job. It has even entered the lexicon. That isn’t “e pluribus unum.” That’s “e pluribus pluribus.” You should use many sources of data but you should have a single story.
You must also absolutely verify your accuracy. Nothing rattles a speaker more or degenerates a presentation faster than having the audience challenge the facts. Verify the accuracy and always differentiate facts from opinion. Try using external subject matter expertise. Quote a pre-eminent source in the industry, use someone who has credibility and is a voice of distinction, and you’ll gain trust from your listeners.
Excellent, top tier consulting firms like McKinsey are taught to present in a certain way. They’re taught to make an assertion in the opening statement of a presentation or the header of a visual, and then to validate it.
Anyone who is interested in giving a great presentation ought to read the Declaration of Independence. Really! It’s a wonderful document that teaches salesmanship and teaches the fundamentals of great presentations. Everybody knows that Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, but it was actually drafted by a committee of five. Why a committee? Remember, group-think, two heads are better than one; three heads are even better; well they used five. What’s the objective of the Declaration of Independence? It tells you in the opening sentence why the document was written. It tells us that “when … it becomes necessary … to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.” The first sentence of the first paragraph cites the objective and then states the assertion. It then goes on to validate those reasons. As it turns out, it gives 27 reasons—27 specific reasons—why independence ought to be achieved by those united colonies.