I’m writing a series of posts on “10 reasons to rehearse (and how)” focused on preparing to deliver a group presentation for a large account sale. [Introductory post here] In my scenario, your team has been invited to present in person after the prospect has evaluated your proposal or RFP response, but it’s the same even if the presentation is actually where you present your proposal.
You are traveling to the prospective customer’s location. You’re bringing a team–maybe 3 or 5 or more people–and perhaps you aren’t all coming from the same location. You don’t really know what the accommodations will be on their end, and your competitors may be coming the same day.
My first reason to rehearse is to figure out–How can you take charge of the situation? How can you OWN the meeting? Here’s are eight ways to prepare:
1. Find the admin. Someone on the customer’s side can help you with meeting set-up. A well-prepared prospect will introduce the admin to you, but if they don’t, call and find out. Let her or him know who you are, why you are coming, and how you’d like to help ensure that the meeting meets her company’s expectations. Suggest that you’ll arrive about 15 minutes ahead if possible. Then ask for . . .
- specific directions–not just office address. How to find their building in an office park, where to park, which building name or number, what entrance, how to find their offices or meeting room, best way to arrive from the airport, etc. I once had a street address for Battelle in Columbus, Ohio, and arrived at a parking lot at the edge of a huge campus, in the middle of a blinding rain storm, no street signs, no visible building names, no phone number for my host. THAT never happened again!
- Office/cell phone numbers for key attendees.
2. Set the dress code. Don’t leave this to chance among your team. I always prefer for my team to dress a step up from how we expect they will be dressed. If they are very casual, we’re business casual. If they are business casual, we’re in suits or at least sport coats. Etc. Don’t overdo in either direction–if you’re a creative team you have more leeway. If your meeting is in a manufacturing plant, you may need good walking shoes and plainer clothes. Whenever you have SMEs on your team who haven’t presented before, remind them about shoes polished, new laces if needed, etc. You need to look and act like a team of professionals.
3. Get or set the agenda. Request a written agenda in advance from your host. If it doesn’t quite meet your preference, call to discuss and ask for a change or two to help you ensure they get the best possible information. If they don’t send an agenda–even better. You create one, bring copies, and distribute to all of the attendees.
4. Populate the Buyers’ Table. Presumably you’ve spent some time discovering all of the people who will influence the buying decision. Now you need to double check what you think you understand. Ask for names and titles of all the participants. If key people are missing, ask that they be invited. Offer to change dates and times if a very important influencer expects to be absent. If a new senior person is coming, someone you haven’t met so far, ask if you can call or send a briefing piece ahead of time.
5. Set the room. Create table tents with your names and their names prominently spelled out. Bring them to the meeting and, if you have the opportunity, place them around the table as you prefer the seating to be. If attendees choose to rearrange them, or if they have placed name cards in anticipation, accept their plan graciously. In the absence of visible name plates, be sure members of your team know to jot down names and seat locations on their note pads as people are introduced.
6. Pair up by teams. During your rehearsal, decide how your team will “match up” with their counterparts in the room. If you can avoid it (sitting around a conference table, for example), don’t have your team on one side facing all of them. Plan ahead for your team to interact with their assigned people, meet and greet, and sit together if they can. The “networking” should begin before the formal start of the meeting and continue after adjournment.
7. Convene ahead. If you are not all traveling together, find a nearby place to gather for coffee or a coke an hour or so before the meeting starts. You can be sure everyone has arrived, check last minute arrangements, and calm yourselves in order to arrive refreshed. Make sure each member of your team allows ample time to arrive far enough in advance that no traffic or plane delays will cause them to be late. Come in the night before if necessary.
8. Bring your stuff. Be clear about who is responsible to bring hand outs or other materials and exhibits. If you need slides or video, invest in a portable, high-quality projector and bring your own laptop (or phone/tablet link). We now even travel with a portable table-top screen if we must project–that’s how many times equipment has failed on site!
Think of your offsite presentations as a road show. It’s still your show, even at their place. Spend as much time planning as if you were the host. You will set the stage to present as the consummate professionals that you are.
How do you take charge of a meeting at your client’s place? I’d love to here your ideas–post in the comments section. Or share a nightmare experience that you’ve learned never to repeat!
And, check back on weekdays for more posts on the topic of rehearsing for presentations.
Webinar May 29th 8 AM Pacific, 9 AM Mountain, 10 AM Central, 11 Am Eastern
Please join me as I present Darik Volpa, founder and CEO of Rehearsal Video Role Play, who will demonstrate how his exciting new platform supports role play training for sales and customer service people–in fact, for all of your SMEs who interact with customers. I think this service is the perfect way for teams to prepare for presentations. In fact, I am enjoying it so much I have signed on to be a licensed reseller. This is a purely informational free webinar. No sales pitch, just a demo with Q & A. More information and registration here.