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New-Business-Presentations
How to Make an Impression That Wins New Business

The most important presentation you ever do may be the one that lands you important new business. New business can launch your organization. It can keep your bottom line secure. It can signal the world that you’ve arrived.

But first, you have to win it.

Whether it’s private business or a public agency whose business you’re seeking, there will probably be a Request for Proposal (RFP) that outlines its expectations. Some RFPs are complex and demanding. The important thing is that you fulfill all the requirements, no matter how involved or troublesome. This is the price of securing a new client.

But there’s more, and here’s where a good presentation comes in—you also have to establish a point of differentiation. Every good business does this, but it’s especially important when you’re seeking new business. Your audience must understand and remember what sets you apart. No one ever got a new client by saying, “Me, too!”

Are you more efficient? Better equipped? More experienced? Do you offer more expertise? Have you found a new approach? Find something you have that no one else does, and make sure your presentation stresses this differentiator. Keep coming back to it as you present so that the audience remembers it when the presentation is over.

And while you’re at it, you must do one other vital thing with your presentation—you must form a warm connection with your audience. You’re not just presenting numbers here; you’re presenting yourself. You need to make those people want to work with you. If you don’t, they will cool to your presentation soon after it’s over, however qualified you seem to be. People go where they want to go. Make sure they want to go to you.

A stellar presentation can make the difference. So don’t leave it until the last minute! Don’t concentrate on the RFP requirements and think you’re done when every taxing detail in them has been fulfilled. The truth is that your would-be client doesn’t like reading those details any more than you liked writing them. That’s not what will push you over the line. What your audience remembers about you will push you over the line.

Get a coach. Gather your materials and create a presentation. Rehearse it over and over until it comes naturally. Scout the location and see how large a room you have. Find where the electrical outlets are. Determine where the sun will be at the time you present, and if it will be on the screen, know how to work the blinds. When you appear, everything you do will look effortless to your audience because you took this part seriously.

And that’s the kind of impression that wins new business.

Blogart-platformfear
3 Ways to Handle Platform Fear

I spoke not long ago with a group of caseworkers from a government social services agency. These are the people who do the hard and often thankless job of seeing that children in difficult circumstances get the financial support they need.

But some of them told me they were most stressed out when they had to get up in front of an audience. One said she broke out in hives every time. She asked what could be done about that.

I told her I’d never been schooled on how to treat stress rashes (though I’m told that moisturizer and hydration help), but I know some ways to reduce the stress that leads to them. It begins with realizing what’s going on in your body.

There are those who believe stage fright stems from our evolutionary heritage. When we get up to speak, we face a sea of eyes looking back at us. We humans all have pretty strong threat detection radar, and those eyes seem threatening.

Why is that? The audience is just sitting there.

Well, some anthropologists have a theory about that. They believe that down through human history, everyone looking at you at the same time has pretty much meant bad news. It could mean you’re about to be hunted. Or attacked. Or accused. So your body prepares you to fight or outrun those you’re facing. It gives you a nice shot of adrenaline to help ensure your survival. That’s why, just when you want to be calm and in control, your body makes your hands shake, your palms sweat, and your voice break.

There are a couple of ways to handle this. One is to work off the adrenaline.

Before you speak, go someplace you can’t be seen and do something strenuous. Do pushups against the sink in the restroom. Shadowbox. Run in place. If you can’t get off alone, grip the arms of your chair or the rim of the podium or the chalk holder behind you. You’ll find your jitters are reduced, placing you in better physical control of yourself. That alone will calm you down a little.

A second technique is to focus on just one person in the audience at a time.

If you go from face to face when you get up to speak, you’ll get another shot of adrenaline each time you assess those faces for signs of a threat. This isn’t the rational part of your brain talking, of course. But we’re human beings, and when we’re nervous all we can see are more reasons to stay nervous.

When you focus on a single face you have to perform only one threat assessment. Once that’s behind you, you can just talk with that person as though you were the only two in the room. When you’ve made your point, move on to the next person and talk to her for a while. Do this again and again, covering all parts of the room as you move along. People will feel engaged even when you’re not looking at them, and they will relax. Once you see that, you’ll probably relax, too.

The best and longest-lasting technique takes a while to perfect. That’s to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking what your audience needs from you. After all, that’s the reason you’re up there, or should be. If you think, “What can I do for them?” you’ve made them into a group you will act upon, not a group ready to act upon you. You begin thinking more about your message. You begin looking for feedback, for signs of understanding. You put yourself in the right frame of mind to speak.

Now, none of this is likely to keep you from getting at least a little nervous before speaking. I’ve been speaking for more than 40 years and I still get nervous before each talk. But I’ve found that nerves aren’t really my enemy. They keep me alert and on my toes. I speak best when I’m a little on edge.

When you can think, “This isn’t hurting me; it’s making me better,” you’ll have mastered the art of handling platform fear.

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