How to Present a Business Proposal to a Client: Try Thinking Like a Theater Producer

The good news is that your business proposal has been short listed. Even better, at a client presentation, you could win the whole thing outright. Every bidder wants the opportunity to present to the client, even if it’s scary. You must demonstrate, in your own words, assisted perhaps by video, website and props, why the client should choose you over the competition. Look at it as theater. Your cast of characters has to convince the audience that, thanks to rave reviews, you deserve the job.

Like a producer, you have to figure out the best way to present to the client. Is it how you intend to execute the project, and the role you expect client staff to play? Or, if the client’s convinced you can do the job, is it about the relationship between your people and their people? Will it work? Can you be counted on to complete the project on time, or go the extra mile? If you can show how other clients have valued working with you, the project could be yours.

Many presentations I’ve been involved with, like sales meetings and product introductions, contain theatrical elements. How will this new vehicle be revealed? How will you acknowledge a great sales team and encourage even greater success next year? The client must be confident that you can deliver. After all, they’re paying for it. Before you rehearse, you identify the role each team member must play. Your job is to describe the overall picture, the flow of the presentation, and draw together the final threads. In between, your team, such as your stage director, speech writer, video producer and web designer, discuss their roles and answer any questions.

How long do you have for this presentation, and where will it be presented? Can the client provide any needed equipment, or should you bring your own? Where anything is likely to cause a problem, keep it simple. Don’t complicate things, and test that everything is working before you begin. You do not want embarrassing moments where the video fails to cut in at a critical moment. And stick to that time limit!

This is your presentation, not the client’s, so you direct it. You tell the client, at the start, what will happen and who does what; they may be shown a sales video, a website, even a live performance. But keep this in mind. This is not a read through. The client expects you to bring your business proposal alive. I’ve watched read-through presentations and they are deadly dull. It’s tough to watch client faces glaze over.

If you’ve been asked to present your proposal, try thinking of it as a theater production. Team members must know their roles and be well rehearsed. And finally you, the lead actor, must from the beginning, hook your audience and command the stage.

Tips on Preparing a Successful Presentation

I still remember the first time I was asked to prepare a commercial presentation for a potential client. On the one hand I was grateful for this amazing opportunity, on the other… I was terrified! That time I had no idea where to start from, how should I prepare myself and the presentation in order to make a great impression and consequently win the contract for the company. Hundreds of successful presentations later I believe that the greatest advice on how to prepare a powerful presentation I got from Abraham Lincoln, who said “If you had eight hours to chop down a tree, spend six hours sharpening your ax”!

A successful presentation is not a coincidence. It is an art, a performance created for a unique audience. The key to success is the careful mix of your personality and the workshop tools available: words, gestures, and interpersonal skills. The presenter has to adopt the clients’ perspective and be attentive to their needs, while simultaneously striving to achieve his or her own objectives.

Start from asking yourself four basics questions that will help you to set the objectives for your presentation:

1. Who am I as a presenter?
The primary challenge for the presenter is… self-awareness. Awareness of your own strengths and abilities, as well as the shortcomings. This will allow you to adopt the method of delivery to your own, unique style. You need to feel relaxed in order to create a personal connection with your audience. Unnatural behavior greatly reduces the credibility of the message and thus, has a negative impact on the perception of the presenter and the effectiveness of the presentation.

2. Who is my audience and what arguments should I use?
Another milestone on the road to create a powerful presentation is profound knowledge of your audience. Initially, acting solely as listeners, by the final scene it’s them who take over the initiative and make the ultimate decisions. Hence it is vital to know and understand the strategic needs and expectations of your clients, to be able to address them adequately.

3. What is my goal?
For you it may be obvious, but definitely not for many of the presenters I had the pleasure to shadow during their performance! So let me just emphasize it one more time- make it very clear to yourself and to your audience what the key point and objectives of the presentation are. You don’t want to leave the meeting with a bitter feeling of unfulfilled expectations.

4. How should I build my presentation?
Simplicity and consistency of the message is always appreciated. A small number of slides, intriguing and evocative words, surprising and applicable metaphors, many examples and creative and aesthetic visuals – this is the recipe for an interesting and engaging presentation which will remain in memory of even the most demanding audience.

Presenting, although described as an art, is NOT a so-called ” art for art’s sake “. It has an explicit purpose and an individualized audience, and therefore cannot be prepared in advance and used for any occasion. Every presentation should be created as a unique masterpiece of the presenter which triggers and inspires the public!

Better Presentation Skills – Don’t Care Too Much About What Happens!

Caring about your audience and how you do as a speaker is a good thing. If you don’t care about what you do, how well you do it, or what the audience takes away from it then you are just apathetic and probably shouldn’t be speaking to this group.

However, caring too much can be just as bad as not caring enough. By caring too much you actually reduce your ability to perform well. It sounds ironic, but the more importance you put on succeeding, the less likely you are to succeed.

Caring too much is the number one reason people feel nervous before they speak. There are many reasons you can care too much: you are afraid of being embarrassed, the speech is important to your career so you want to do well, you think the audience is hostile, etc.

Allowing these nerves in makes it very hard for you to perform your best. It is hard to speak naturally when you are freaking out!

This happened to me in my early speaker days, during one of my first “big” speeches. I walked in to the event with my speech prepared. However, before my speech I spoke with several of the attendees. I found out that the year before that had a world champion boxer as their speaker. Here I was, this young guy going to do this little comedy speech, when they were used to speakers who had been on the world stage! “There is no way they are going to like my stuff,” I thought.

On top of that, I started discovering that a lot of these people were very successful. Way more successful than me. Also, this was my first “big” speech and I wanted to do really well so I could get referrals and follow up business. I was counting on it.

I got up to speak, but it was too late. I cared too much, and psyched myself out. The speech was OK (they didn’t ask for their money back or anything) but I got zero referrals or follow up. Nada. Zilch.

I realized afterward that the problem was that I put too much importance on what the audience would think. I wanted to do a great job and give great value to the audience, but I realized that all I could do was worry about doing my best, and if they didn’t like it, too bad.

Now, whenever I start to get nervous about a speaking engagement, or anything else for that matter, I remind myself to do my best and not care so much about what the audience thinks. When I do this, my nerves immediately calm and I am able to perform much better. I encourage you to try this before your next presentation.