13 Best Practices For Client Presentations


Jelly's last jam For the marketing consultants, and the people who work with consultants, this one is for you.

Sometimes I think of a consulting project as a well orchestrated event. So many pieces have to integrate to be successful. For example, you've spent hours and hours and possibly months researching, analyzing and developing recommendations. The day has finally come to present to your client. At this moment in time How you present is as critical as What you present.

One of my favorite from the heart gigs is co-teaching a management consulting class at
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. This innovative course provides undergraduate (juniors and seniors) with a unique opportunity to actually be a consultant to a non profit "client. It's not often that a consultant gets to touch the lives of people beginning their careers.This is why I give up summer weekends to prep the course and cut business trips short ..

"This class has been hands down the best experience I've had at Goizueta. Several other classes do "real life" projects, but never to this extent. It was an eye-opening experience in all regards, and I think each group experienced the class a bit differently, which I think is really neat."

The course was profiled in Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell's ebook Creating Customer Evangelists - click on Bloomberg Marketing and highlighted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Our clients this year included: Christian City, Parent to Parent of Georgia, Junior League of Atlanta, Martin Luther King Historic Site, Georgia Family Credit Union Project, Park Pride, MUST Ministries, National Gaucher Foundation.

In addition to working with the amazing students and great "clients" (over the past 5 years), I've had the opportunity to collaborate with some talented co-instructors. None more so than this year .. Dr. Skip Gunther, a retired Booz Allen Hamilton partner.

Skip has to be one of the most eclectic guys I know not only is he an adjunct prof at Goizueta but the Leader of Brookwood split Brookwood Split, The High Energy Party Band. The band plays renditions of the most popular rock, funk, soul, and R&B cover songs of the past thirty years. You're in the metro Atlanta area check out Brookwood Spit .. even worth a trip OTP!

In keeping with the music intro Skip wrapped the semester with a few notes on how to make a client presentation sing (ouch! sorry Skip). His advice to the students is equally, if not more, valuable to professional consultants. Thanks for sharing it with Diva Marketing Skip.

13 Best Practices For Client Presentations from Prof Skip Gunther

1. Be sure to put your presentation and report into proper context before jumping into findings, conclusions, recommendations – several of the teams missed an opportunity here.

2. Always think like an executive: how much will it cost, what will my expected returns be, what will it do to the organization, who can I have do this?

Often, these questions are answered in part by doing a pro forma financial analysis. Other parts of the answers come from prioritizing the recommendations so that your audience can see relative degrees of importance

3. Make certain that you introduce your team (name and role) as one of the first agenda items – it helps keep the audience focused on your presentation rather than thinking about who these other people are and why they are there.

4. Always tie your recommendations back to your research findings and conclusions. Your recommendations may be great ones, but, when not placed in context, they may cause your audience to wonder about why this particular recommendation over something else.

5. Always make certain that your client is totally on board before making a presentation to others.

6. Don’t try to disguise incomplete analysis by representing it as something that it is not – you will be found out and will lose all credibility with your client (and others). Intellectual honesty is always best.

7. Be careful with flipping dense word charts too quickly, or, if your intent is to make a simple point with obvious depth of supporting points, touch on a couple of the supporting points at least before moving on.

8. Rise to the cause if your team looks at you for the response to a question, and either give a thoughtful answer, or acknowledge that you will have to think about that and get back to the person asking the question – try not to come across as talking without thinking, as doing so will result in your loss of credibility, which is never a good thing.

9. Work to have some kind of mechanism at the start to totally engage your audience – a provocative question often does it – and make sure that the potentially distracting stuff like not introducing team mates is not present.

10. Always try to give credit to the client for good ideas, key insights, etc.

For example, all of your recommendations may have initially come from the client, but the contribution you made was to put them into a framework and in context so that everyone can see what great ideas they are.

11. Good consultants look for ways to reflect praise back to their clients. After all, you are (usually) getting paid and that (plus the strong satisfaction of doing a creative, professional job) is your reward. The client has to live with what you present and recommend.

12. Present enough of the supporting analytics to motivate your conclusions and recommendations – much of this will find its way into the appendices, but always have ‘just enough’ in the story line.

13. Always be meticulous in citing your resources – it’s ok that you didn’t create everything, but what you did was integrate it into a story to solve a problem.

So .. how to you bring the notes together and make your cleint presenations rock n roll?


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Toby, these are very helpful bits of advice. Thanks for posting it!

Posted by: Marshall on Dec 16, 2008 12:29:57 PM

Having been on the receiving end of one of these recently (while facilitating a meeting for a client) I would add a few more:

1. If it looks like your client is bored with some of your overview stuff, consider that they might know more than you anticipated and move forward - acknowledging what you are doing. In this case, the agency person was describing "the basics" to a very sophisticated audience. It is a delicate balance between bringing everyone along and talking down to people, especially if the audience is diverse.

2. If you are asking for feedback and you are getting it, at the end review what you heard. DON'T try and shoehorn what you heard into your own recommendations to validate them, ESPECIALLY if they ARE different. This is what happened at our meeting. The agency person appeared to hear only what fit the agency's proposal, and did not include the divergent perspectives. Divergence doesn't mean you did something wrong and you have to hide it, it just means there is more material to consider. If your client does not feel heard, REALLY heard, this relationship is going nowhere.

I felt a bit bad for the agency who presented because some of their good work got obscured by these two pitfalls.

Posted by: Nancy White on Dec 17, 2008 10:07:58 AM

I enjoyed your post and agree with your points entirely. I do have to emphasize that it is a two way relationship at all times. I agree with Nancy that the client needs to believe they have been heard or all less would be lost.

Posted by: Sharon Wilson on Dec 19, 2008 7:58:22 PM

@marshall - good luck with your next presentation!

@nancy - excellent advice! if your client looks bored you have not done your job in the pre presentation prep.

@sharon @nancy - listen is so critical. that is always one of the big lessons learned for the student teams.

Posted by: Toby on Dec 21, 2008 11:19:41 AM

Hi Toby,

My name is Novryan Im from Indonesia, South East Asia. Im interested with your posts specially about marketing and customer satisfaction.
Im from Indonesia, South East Asia.

I have added your name in blog and I think i'll come here more often.

Keep up postings some nice and informative posts Toby.

Posted by: mystery shopper on Dec 22, 2008 12:03:42 AM

It's very interesting to hear these perspectives. The way the ideas are presented should reflect the relationship between the client and marketer. I think these concepts for presentations could be applied to relationships as well.

Posted by: Sharon on Dec 22, 2008 7:01:24 PM

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