The Only Rule That Really Matters When Presenting for Ad Agency New Business

boring ad agency presentations

Every agency presentation must be focused on capturing your audience’s ATTENTION and keeping it. It is the presentation rule that matters most.

A lot of agency presentations are nothing but recycled insights, predictable services, using the same agency speak, nothing note worthy or memorable for an audience who must be bored out of their minds. I wonder how much new business opportunities were squandered because of boring ad agency presentations.

If you want to reach your audience, you must have something significant to say which you are passionate about. Genuine passion will attract attention and attention will lead to action.

What can you do to keep the audience’s attention through your entire presentation? Chris Atherton, an applied cognitive psychologist, a self-described dork of attentionomics, suggests these 7 specific rules of attention:

  1. People can really only retain about four bits of new, unrelated information — and sometimes not even that many.
  2. It’s hard to process spoken and written words at the same time. Integrating your spoken words with pictorial slides makes it easier for the brain to process these two streams of information efficiently.
  3. A story will keep people’s attention, because they will want to know what happens next.
  4. People really like looking at screens. If you’ve ever been in a pub with the TV on and the sound off, you’ll realize that screens are attention-magnets. Screens have become an important element at college and pro sporting arenas.
  5. Sustaining audience attention requires frequent changes. Unexpectedness is a great tool for acquiring and maintaining people’s attention as well as changes in your tone of voice, speaking volume, or where you are standing to draw the audience’s attention to a particular point.
  6. Your audience will tell you when their attention is wandering. It’s a kindness and a courtesy to stay with your audience, and a presenter on auto-pilot is not a pretty sight.
  7. Chris’s last rule, short is good.

Here are some additional rules of attention that I would add to Chris’s list:

  • Use a remote. I take one with me to every presentation. It is a great tool to keep me from losing eye contact.
  • Don’t use the podium. I tend to have less energy and am less engaging when I use a podium. I like to be able to move and my presentations tend to be much more animated without one.
  • Less text on the screen is more. People can read faster than you can speak. I find that using images and telling stories allows me to keep my audience’s attention better. I want to be so engaged that they wont break contact to write notes.
  • The fewer the slides the better. Some of my best presentations were less than 10 Keynote slides.
  • Get into a flow. I’m a student of the cadence, inflection and the use of rhyme and repetition that some ministers have. Their delivery style excites their congregants with memorable effect.
  • Passion is more important than perfection. I strive to make my presentations inspirational, not flawless. Passion garners attention and will enthuse your confidence.
  • Know your environment. I almost always ask permission to view where my meeting will be held in advance. For agency presentations, I would even make an onsite visit in advance and snap photos of the facility to discuss with the team in advance of the pitch.

Just this past week, reviewing a banquet hall an hour before presenting, I asked permission to make my presentation from a different spot.  The speakers podium, set-up to the left of the stage, wasn’t as engaging as a smaller stage closer to the audience and was more in the center of the banquet room.

Read Chris Atherton’s article, When giving presentations, the only rule that matters is the rule of attention.

I want to always improve my speaking skills. Having spoken in workshops, conferences and seminars in over 40 different cities this year, I’ve also found a wealth of presentation tips from Olivia Mitchell’s website, Speaking About Presenting.

photo credit: normalityrelief via photopin cc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

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