Master meetings & pitches – Interview with Belinda Huckle of secondnature

BelindaSecondnatureMeetings are one of those things – They have the power to leave you totally drained and scratching your head, or leave you strutting out of the room, punching the air with enthusiasm and satisfaction because everyone has actually gained something useful and valuable from it. So, in the interest of ensuring that we and our clients can enjoy more fist-pumping and less head-scratching, we caught up with our client Belinda Huckle, Managing Director of secondnature, and picked her brain on how to prepare for, run, and generally dominate that next big (or small) meeting or pitch.

Client meetings and presentations are one of those things that us marketers are always trying to improve for everyone involved – What are some of your top tips for both service providers and their clients on how to be better prepared for meetings, and ensure they’re as streamlined, productive and useful as possible for everyone?

Meetings require time which is our most precious commodity. And it’s become a more and more precious commodity as demands on people’s time increase and people seem to have shorter and shorter attention spans. Not surprising then that we need to make meetings ever more efficient and productive.

Pre Meeting:

  • Always send an agenda in advance (ideally no more than about 5 items/themes to discuss) and if decisions are required from the meeting let people know this is the case so they come prepared.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of only booking ½ hour, full hour meetings. Sometimes booking a 15min or 20min or 40min meeting can make people more focused and efficient.
  • Try booking a meeting for an unusual time – like 3.10, or 10.35 – many people are disrespectful of meetings and turn up late, believing that others are like them and will do the same, so an unusual/very specific time stands out and suggests exactitude and a need to be prompt
  • Don’t overload meetings with people that don’t need to be there.
  • Save time by sending pre-reading in advance, especially detailed content. Explain that you want them to read the information in advance of the meeting so that you make the meeting itself as efficient and as productive as possible.

During the meeting:

  • Stick to the agenda.
  • Have relevant handouts etc for everyone.
  • Don’t use PowerPoint unless you have to.
  • It is critical to ensure notes are taken of decisions, actions and timings.

Post meeting:

  • For significant meetings decisions and action items with timings should be circulated and it should be reinforced that the actions are to be completed.
  • For the above, use the RASCI/RACI model of responsibility (who is ultimately Responsible: who will Approve: who can we get to Support: who can we get to Consult: who do we need to Inform)
  • How much time is spent every day by tens of thousands of people chasing tens of thousands of people for stuff they haven’t done. It’s utterly unproductive time. It’s simple. Commit to stuff and then just do it.

Digital marketing often involves a lot of statistics that need to be presented to a client all at once – Conversion rates, click through rates, traffic sources, engagement levels, e-commerce results and more. Do you have any creative tips on how marketing professionals can present this data in-person without the client’s eyes glazing over?

Yes. DON’T dish out data (we call this ‘showing up and throwing up’)! You might be interested in it (it might be ‘evidence of industry’ to you), but a client isn’t interested in it. Instead give them value. Clients don’t pay for data, they pay for advice!

DATA – think of them as just the raw ingredients – the client wants you to make something out of them – the meal, which includes:

  1. INFORMATION (tell me the WHY)
  2. INSIGHTS (tell me what it MEANS)
  3. RECOMMENDATION (tell me what you think we should do next)

If you have to, put the raw data in a handout (do not put it on PowerPoint slides!) and refer to it, but make the meeting or presentation about your recommendations.

If you have limitless budget and geeky clients who have plenty of time and want to be entertained, take a leaf out of Hans Rosling’s book and get into visualisation. Or try using infographics.

Any easily-avoidable mistakes you’ve seen marketing teams make in big presentations?

Where to start?!

  • Turning up late.
  • Spelling the client’s name wrong.
  • Not matching the client’s dress code.
  • Not having researched the audience.
  • Not addressing the key decision maker.
  • Talking about themselves first and too much.
  • Going in to too much detail.
  • Reading the slides verbatim.
  • Going on too long.
  • Not answering the brief.
  • Interrupting each other.
  • Not presenting well as a team.
  • Obviously not having practiced.

But, mainly the issue is their visual support/slides. Too much meaningless information that nobody will remember, that doesn’t tell a story or add any value. PowerPoint/Keynote slides are ONLY support for the presenter, not the presentation itself – if they were you’d just send ‘the movie’, you wouldn’t need to be there! We coach 7 visual principles for more inspiring slide creation:

  1. Say it with pictures
  2. Graphics for dimension and comprehension
  3. Support not swamp
  4. Animate for impact
  5. Colour and contrast for clarity
  6. Even lobster every day gets boring, so mix it up
  7. To amplify, simplify

In short, don’t be a slave to your visuals, make visuals your slave.

With these no-nos in mind – How can marketing professionals better deliver pitches to clients to help them interested and engaged with the information they’re being presented?

Attend our Pitch2Win course ha ha!!

Really it starts with them stepping back from their content and starting with their audience in mind. What do they want/need to hear? What are their issues and objectives? How will this info benefit them/the business? What do you want to happen as a result of the meeting? Will they prefer more high level info or detailed info? What questions or objections will they have that you can pre-empt? Only after you have answered questions like these should you begin to write the presentation.

When writing the presentation remember that people only have an attention span of 10 or so minutes – think TV ad breaks. What that means is that there needs to be some form a break every 10 minutes. This could be a change of speaker, some audience involvement, an exercise, showing video, using a different medium e/g whiteboard, flip chart etc, or changing the style of the slides e.g. from quantitive info to qualitative info.

Any especially creative presentation ideas you’ve seen from marketing teams who’ve undergone training with secondnature?

Creativity doesn’t necessarily make a presentation great. In fact sometimes it can hijack the presentation. Presentations aren’t meant to be ‘entertainment’ – after-dinner speeches. In business, presentations are a way to disseminate information/decisions/plans etc. Some presentations are ‘pitches’ to win business which can be more creative. Presentations that tell a truly compelling story and that are delivered with passion though are even more important.

  • Some neat things we’ve seen are:
  • Presentations delivered in situ can be fantastic i.e. presenting to a pharmaceutical company in a hospital. Presenting to farmers in a paddock. Presenting to construction engineers on a construction site.
  • Presenting from a series of simple and graphic art-boards to nail the presentation’s key messages, rather than using PowerPoint, totally changes the mood/engagement of a room.
  • The use of metaphors can be incredibly powerful e.g. using two jars of coloured marbles to explain how Genetic Modification works. That image and the message has stayed with me for years.

Special thanks again to the wonderful and incredibly talented educator Belinda Huckle, the Managing Director of one of Reef’s clients, secondnature. Read more about Belinda here.

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One Response

  1. Thank you Belinda and Marina, this is spectacularly informative and will be added into the Reef wiki for longstanding reference.

    For our industry in particular, artfully delivering data heavy pieces is a rare differentiator, especially important when audiences have mixed levels of interest and understanding on the topics being discussed.

    Marina: ideal timing given next weeks conference call schedule. The challenge to live these points and raise the bar is upon us!

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