At some point in your business life you will have to present your ideas in a formal environment – perhaps a job interview, board presentation or new business pitch.
The inimitable Wendy Clark is Chief Executive Officer DDB North America – if you’re not familiar with the advertising agency’s name you’ll no doubt know their work for brands including IKEA, McDonald’s, Skittles and John Lewis amongst many others. An accomplished public speaker herself, Wendy has seen hundreds of presentations over the course of her stellar career including 12 years working in marketing client-side at Coca-Cola and AT&T.
I was lucky enough to meet Wendy at The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2016 and have since become a serious fangirl! I interviewed Wendy for my book about her vast experience as someone of the receiving end of pitches and so here are her 11 tips on how to persuade, influence and sell your ideas to your audience:
- If you’re doing more ‘sell’ than ‘great work,’ take note. Great work, the right work and solution, should not require Herculean effort to sell-in.
- Know the business case. Current performance, desired performance, business challenge and opportunity are all your responsibility to understand. After all, if you don’t know the business, how can you possibly offer creative solutions that will work to change it?
- Plan well, timing can be everything. Do everything in your power to schedule meetings outside of distracting or challenging timeframes – e.g. quarterly earnings reports.
- Prepare a tight, cogent rationale. Make sure it’s really good. Again, if you cannot express in a compelling, articulate manner why your idea and work are right, why would your audience be able to?
- Be realistic. Often our brilliant ideas simply challenge some core fundamental to what’s possible either through timing, budget, legalities, etc. It’s always worth sharing all on-strategy ideas, but don’t be crestfallen if a magical idea, which presses against a fundamental, doesn’t get sold in.
- Be passionate.
“Some of the most powerful presenters I’ve seen have literally levitated me out of my chair with their passion. To sell an idea you need to show your belief in it,” says Wendy.
7. Consider your non-verbals, everything communicates. This includes things like looking at your phone during the presentation, other open windows on your computer as you present and appropriate attire for their meeting environment.
8. If you use them, make great visuals and support materials.
“The best creative presenters I’ve seen require no visuals and simply use the imagery in your mind,” says Wendy.
9. Rehearse. Rehearse. While they make it look effortless, the best presenters in the world rehearse aggressively. Nothing in your presentation should surprise you. Make it a point to never say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that slide was next.’
10. Have empathy. Wendy believes the ability to empathise is perhaps the most underleveraged skill in helping to sell great work. Letting your audience know your understanding of their situation, their needs, their challenge and your matched excitement/concern/optimism, etc., for their situation is one of the most powerful connections you can make. Check out our free ready-to-use empathy map template.
11. Be resilient. “In our business, you have to believe that a ‘no’ is just a ‘yes’ waiting to happen. If I don’t succeed this time, what can I do differently or better to convince you this is the right path? You have to be relentless in this belief”. Wendy believes that to be resilient you also need to stand up to your inner critic – the voice in your head that makes you question yourself – often called ‘imposter syndrome’. Her advice: “you have to shut that bitch up! Have confidence that you’ve prepared, in every sense, for success in this moment”