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!« What PR Pros Can Learn From Hillary Clinton | How Strategic PR Can Support A Successful Exit »