The 5 New Business Presentation Types: A Primer For PR Pros

You’ve spent weeks researching the category and the potential client. You’ve strategized and brainstormed and created the perfect presentation. The team has rehearsed, and everyone is psyched. You’ve set up the room and made your introductions. Its showtime! Despite your best preparations, however, there are unknowns when pitching new business. Human beings are unpredictable, subject to change without warning. Here are five “presentation personalities” you are likely to encounter as you pursue new PR clients.

The nodder and smiler. This person defines the ideal audience for a successful presentation. The prospect is warm and engaging, makes and keeps eye contact and actually shows enthusiasm for what you are discussing – and sometimes even gratitude for the hard work your team invested in the effort.

The inscrutable. A tough nut to crack, this type may have been terrific on the phone and even greeted you with an upbeat welcome. But once the presentation starts, the temperature drops and you cannot read him. Sometimes people adopt this persona to shield some insecurity in the face of higher-ups or perhaps because they don’t feel comfortable “showing their hand” when the process is competitive. Whatever the reason, it’s the agency’s job to try to engage them by stopping and eliciting feedback or thanking the individual at an appropriate moment for providing good direction and input.

Nitpicky, challenging or mean. It happens, and the odds are they didn’t get that way just because your team entered the room. Sometimes someone is truly having a bad day, or there are office politics at play that a visiting firm wouldn’t be privy to. Whatever the case, keep your calm and your professionalism. Don’t let this personality ruffle you, and don’t engage in an argument. If you feel your own temper or emotions rising, try to defuse the situation, defer to someone else on your team, or pray this prospect has a hard stop.

Poorly prepared. It can become obvious that one or more people in the room were late adds or replacements and are genuinely puzzled by what’s going on. This may manifest itself in stops and starts and seemingly gratuitous questions. As annoying and thankless as that may feel, go with it! Enjoy the presentation and take your time with this individual. You never know how important he or she may be to the business.

On a device the whole time.  Sadly, this is a trend on the rise. This disrespectful person cannot disconnect even for something as important as the presentation your team worked on for weeks. Even though IRL you cannot tell the prospect to GFY, you can very kindly offer to wait until the person is done with their device. The result should mean a more intent listener, and if not, you could be the first firm to collect phones at the conference room door. Now, there’s an idea!

Adventures In New Business

PR pros know that the high-stress experience of pitching a prospective client can end up being an adventure. The attendees, location, even the assignment can change without your knowing! And, of course, technology can always thwart you.

The best thing you can do is to be prepared for anything and everything. It’s a jungle out there! Here are some tips about what to expect.

Expect delays. Always assume a new business presentation will take longer than planned, especially if it’s a “beauty contest” with back-to-back meetings. A recent prospect from out of town kept our team cooling our heels for an hour while we assumed the worst – a business emergency, or a lengthy meeting with a rival agency. (We later found out the CEO had a personal errand.) The trick with delays is not to let them make you nervous; try relaxing with a mobile game or even listening to music with earphones to keep the tension at bay.

Be discreet. Some pitches are confidential, but even if not, never share details about pending new business. It can’t possibly help to clue in a competitor. Also, take care when you travel. At a recent agency shootout for a plum travel account, we ended up in the same hotel as a competitor. They, too, were rehearsing in the business center, and if we’d wanted, we could have overheard their entire pitch!  (We did the honorable thing and moved.)

Dress to impress. Assuming the execs from the cool new startup will show up in jeans? The stuffier corporate types in navy blue suits? Not always the case! Dress “safe” and be prepared for anything. This can even mean keeping a change of clothes at your desk for meetings that come up unexpectedly. Or not. Once a supervisor of mine flew to a meeting “for the day” that turned into 3 days and the client provided a clothing allowance! (ahh, pre-recession).

Lunch, what lunch? Just because your meeting is set during the “lunch hour” and someone may have indicated the team will be ordering in food, assume they’re not. Besides, you can’t eat and present at the same time. Fortify yourself ahead of time. A former colleague of ours actually passed out during a business meeting…either from hunger or nerves, we were never sure! It’s a good way to win the sympathy vote but not recommended.

Hard copies. Going “green” is a great thing, but it’s not always practical. The last thing you want is to show up ready to present with presentation backups saved in the cloud but no access to a computer projector. Technology will fail, trust us. We once had to present from a dying Dell netbook – not a winning strategy.

Date/time/location. Things get lost in translation. Triple and quadruple check meeting details, and make sure you confirm the day before. Last year, a group of us sat waiting in our conference room, prepared to the last detail, for a prospect who didn’t show. (It turned out they were waiting in a hotel uptown, and yes, we did rush there.)

What have you learned from your new business adventures?

How To Network Like A PR Pro

A guest post by networking and PR pro, our very own George Drucker.

Which would you rather do? Make cold calls and send emails to names from a directory trying to convince them that they should see you and your agency; or send one email that says, “So glad we met recently at the Jones party; it was really great fun.”

That line can say it all. Every person you meet, every individual you say hello to, every function you attend, is a bonafide networking opportunity. It’s a unique chance to engage with people and learn about them, who they are, where they’re from, what they do, where they work, where they went to school, their interests and hobbies. Networking can be done so naturally.

After each brief encounter, you exchange cards, follow up with a breezy email and, voila! A budding relationship. A networked connection. And you didn’t even have to go to LinkedIn!

What are the keys to networking success?

Engage with people every chance you get. As noted, every encounter, every handshake, every greeting is a network opportunity. And when you have the chance to engage and get a dialogue started — make the person you’re speaking to feel you’re interested in them, what they have to say, what they think or feel.

Ask questions, and listen to the answers. You’ll be amazed how the conversation can smoothly, logically flow when you listen. There’s also an axiom here; most people (not all, but most) like to be asked about themselves, and talk about themselves when engaged in natural, tactful conversation. It makes the individual feel the person asking the questions has an engaging personality, and a genuinely likable persona.

Check your ego. Most people don’t want to spend time with someone who seems to love talking about themselves. People like dialogues, not monologues. That doesn’t mean when you think of a personal anecdote relevant to the conversation that it shouldn’t be used, but just don’t let it lead to five minutes of talking about yourself.

Get out there. Everyone has that moment at a cocktail reception, a dinner, or a party, where you’re standing alone, seeing others chatting away in twos and threes, and you think “I hate this. I don’t know anyone,” or “I feel out of place.” Stop right there. Instead, get over that fear and think “there are 60 people here that I don’t know, and I have the unique chance and great opportunity to make 60 new connections, acquaintances, maybe even friends–with a whole new world of of people.”

It’s the art of the network. Use it to your benefit.

Crafting Better New Business Proposals

New business is the lifeblood of any PR agency. Often, your written proposal is your strongest selling piece, particularly in a competitive situation. What goes into writing a winning proposal? In addition to the obvious: define the client objectives, target audience, develop a strategy and create tactics, here are some tips to make your proposal pop.

Knowledge is power

All good proposals begin with in-depth research into the client, the category , the competitors and the media. Take this one step further and research the viability of your concepts – has your “big idea” just been implemented by a rival? Can you find a case history that supports one tactic you are pushing for? The more you know, the more you can exude confidence in your presentation and your creative ideas.

Group Mentality

We all know that you can’t be truly creative in a vacuum, but there isn’t always time for a formal brainstorm with colleagues. If you can’t conduct a group brainstorm, send around an email of some thoughts so your clever co-workers can chime in.

Delegating and Deadlines

Do both. A proposal can come alive when different brains take a hand in the writing. But don’t let the process overwhelm, work backwards from the proposal due date, building in adequate time for brainstorms and re-writes and make dates you can stick to.

Promise but Not Over-Promise

Set both achievable and “stretch” goals for the client should they hire you and implement your program ideas. Put real thought into what is achievable and how to get to the more “aspirational” goals you have set. This explanation will help the client best evaluate your work.
What made your last proposal a “winner?” Share here please!