They come in all shapes and sizes: informal presentations to the account exec or your creative director (just to see how things are going); more formal internal presentations when a creative proposal is being finalized; and, of course, formal client presentations to get approval to go into production. All these steps have different aspects but all have some commonalities too. The most important of those is (like a good boy scout) be prepared.
As a copywriter you’re going to have to get used to making effective presentations.
The starting point for any presentation is to be on top of all the facts. You don’t just need to know everything about the product you’re selling but you need to be able to show that you know it all. Go back to the brief and remind yourself what the job is all about: the communication objective, target audience, impression statement and USP.
The brief is actually a good way to kick off a presentation as it reminds everyone what you’re trying to achieve and gets everyone focused on the right things. Try and be methodical here because if your audience all have different expectations of the meeting you won’t have a chance of satisfying them all. You are making the rules here, channeling people along your line of thought.
Different types of presentation
That goes for almost any presentation – and there are many different kinds that you’ll have to get used to. At the early stages of a project you might discuss ‘scamps’ with the account executive or creative director. These are your first ideas, more like scribbles, just to establish whether you’re going in the right direction or not. As the project progresses, these ideas will become worked up to a higher and higher level. By the time you get to a client presentation you’ll have ‘highly finished visuals’ which are intended to give a real feel of what the finished job will look like.
You should be aiming to come up with dozens and dozens of ideas to begin with. Good or bad or downright bonkers it doesn’t matter, just create create create! Then start whittling. When you think you’re ready, aim to present three to five ideas to the creative director so s/he can decide which is the best one to go to the client with.
- Relax. But not too much.
This kind of presentation can take many forms but at the end of the day you’ll know everyone involved so it’s going to be reasonably informal and relaxed. But you’ve still got to be on top of your brief; you’ve got to know exactly why you’re proposing what you’re proposing. And remember, the creative director and the suits are humans too so they’ll be thinking “How am I going to sell this to the client?” and if you can give them a good angle they’ll love you for it.
- What to say. What not to say.
Above all, don’t talk jargon. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Keep your presentation simple and to the point. Also prepare a rationale – a written document giving the reasons why you reckon your proposals work. Again, the suits will appreciate this because it gives them a foothold when preparing their sales pitch.
Last but not least, learn to take criticism because during a career as a copywriter you’re going to get a hell of a lot of it. It’s a creative industry and, by definition, a subjective one so everyone will have their own opinion of what you’ve done. But it’s also a business (and quite a brutal one at times) so there isn’t time for much soft soap and sympathy. Sure, if you’re convinced your proposal fits the brief to a tee then defend your corner but remember too that you’re probably going to lose more of those battles than you win.
Once you’ve got internal agency approval then you’ll work up your ideas to a highly finished state. Naturally, this is going to be a much more formal affair than the one in the agency.
Having said that, though, many client presentations are done with both account executive and creative team together. The Suit (with a capital S) is there to exude professionalism in his or her expensive suit and to do the boring stuff like financials. There’s quite a lot of leeway for the Creative (with… oh, you get the idea) to play up to his or her more maverick reputation. The client often half expects the Creative to be a lot looser in style – albeit still within the bounds of professionalism.
Yet again, go back to the brief as a good starting point and a way of getting everyone rowing in the same direction. Then it’s just a matter of showing how your ideas meet that brief. Simple, eh?
- What to show when making effective presentations
Visual-wise there are various routes you can go. A confident speaker won’t need much at all, just the visuals of the ad or brochure or whatever is being presented. These, by the way, would normally be mounted on boards so they can easily be seen and passed around without getting damaged. The boards will be left behind to adorn the – suitably named – board room. As a copywriter, you’ll need to prepare your own ‘leave-behind’ – a printed document with the copy that goes along with the visuals. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that it’s very rare at a client presentation to go through copy word by word but your headlines will be scrutinized to the nth degree.
- Beware of PowerPoint!
Alternatively you can go down the PowerPoint (or Apple Keynote) route but do be careful. For every good PowerPoint presentation there are a thousand and one tedious ones so keep it light and don’t get bogged down in details. It’s a visual aid to what you’re saying; don’t end up as a talking slave to the ppt monster. Remember too, that you don’t have to stick to the standard templates. Think visually: let the pictures do the talking and try and keep on-screen words to a minimum. Use the ppt to surprise people and keep them on the edge of their seats not to bore them to death.
- Talk, don’t chat
During the presentation you probably won’t want to encourage too much discussion. This is your moment in the spotlight and you should control that time as much as possible, not get sidetracked by too many enquiries. Of course, at the end you should invite questions and then get into the nitty gritty of discussion.
- And finally…
This brings us back to where we started and being prepared. You should be capable of answering those questions and demonstrating that you know the client’s product (almost) as well as him or her.
Above all, whether it’s an internal presentation or an external one the most important thing is to give the impression that you believe in the creative execution that you’re presenting. As we said before it’s a terribly subjective business but if someone sees that your passion for your idea is stronger than their skepticism then you’re half way there.
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A successful presentation helps make the better use of the relationship among the presenter and the audience. It will take total consideration with the audience’s demands as a way to capture their interest, inspire their self-confidence, create their understanding, and accomplish the presenter’s goals.