A Foolproof Way to Never Fail With Your Presentations and Client Meetings

A Foolproof Way to Never Fail With Your Presentations and Client Meetings

Did you read the title of this article and tune in hoping for a magic bullet that would transform every presentation and client meeting into a sure-fire winner? Sadly, life is never quite that simple. The only advice I can offer to make sure you never fail is to never set objectives for the outcome in the first place.

Fortunately (or not), this is the approach that many businesses seem to adopt - even if not by design. They don’t set objectives for what they want to get out of a client meeting so, by definition, they cannot fail. But, even if risk of failure can’t be eliminated, there are steps you can take to make it much less likely.

Most businesses find it easier to accept the need to set objectives for what they want their clients to get from meetings and presentations. Most tell me this is blindingly obvious – ‘we are just presenting a business update,’ or ‘we want to secure the contract.’ Too often they are content to leave their measurement of success at these bland and non-measurable levels.

Accurately measuring whether a session was successful from the presenter’s perspective needs far more detailed consideration. The presenter will (or should) have put a lot of effort and preparation into the session. Probably there are considerable rewards on offer to them personally or their business. Defining what success would look like calls for a detailed plan of objectives that match the importance of the event.

What Might Your Priorities Be?

When it comes to priorities and objectives, it’s impossible to generalise. They will be specific to the client, contract and the depth of your existing relationship. The sorts of things you could target are these:

  1. Clarification of a specific customer need or priority.
  2. Gaining acceptance that you have the capabilities to deliver what they need.
  3. Confirmation of the decision-making process and identification of key individuals (these people might not be part of the meeting).
  4. Influencing the agenda and criteria for decision-making to suit your strengths.
  5. Highlighting project risks that the client may not anticipate and showing how you would manage or reduce them.
  6. Convincing your client that you fully understand their needs and priorities.
  7. Getting explicit agreement that the client shares your vision for project execution and the key success criteria.
  8. Ensuring that your client understands the depth of experience and expertise you will deploy to deliver the project.
  9. Introducing additional benefits and opportunities that the client hasn’t anticipated to get them excited about your solution.

Itemise what you need to achieve from the session and you can then add appropriate trigger statements or questions to the presentation or discussion. 

Structure Your Desired Outcomes

Instead of coming out of a client meeting and convincing yourself that it ‘went OK,’ try to add a bit more structure to your evaluation. The way I do this is to explicitly write down what I need to achieve – probably no more than 5-8 things – sometimes fewer!

I then rank these. I set myself a base of what I absolutely ‘need’ to achieve and I expect to be successful in realizing these at least 80-90% of the time. This sets the lowest level of success I would be satisfied with. It could be whether I communicated my key messages to the audience and confirmed this based on feedback (both verbal and non-verbal) during the session.

Assuming I achieve the base level of “Must” the next level up is my “Intend” level. These objectives should be achievable anywhere between 50-30% of the time; they are becoming much more of a stretch.

Finally, I have my “Like” level. These are the things that I only succeed in getting 5-10% of the time. When absolutely everything goes to plan and the audience or client I’m with is 100% attuned to what I’m saying. You could look at this as being the ‘magic wand, all the stars aligned level.’ But it still helps to shoot for the stars.

Hopefully, this type of structure will help you plan to get more value from meetings and presentations, and have a clearer idea of whether you’ve actually made progress.

And don’t forget, the same applies to internal meetings where your goal might simply be to elevate your profile and standing with colleagues and stakeholders. Understand the outcome you want and plan how you will make it happen.