By now, most of us have heard about or watched Michael Bay's disastrous presentation at CES last month. For those of you who haven't seen it yet, click here. It was so bad, I found the video googleing "CES 2013 presentation fail." I didn't even get the year right and google knew what I wanted.
While I have sympathy for Michael, he did remind us of an important lesson. Regardless of how confident you are the technology, nothing takes the place of preparation. How many of us could give a reasonably persuasive new business presentation if the equipment failed us? No PowerPoint, no Keynote, just you and your thoughts. Would you be able to hit the high points of the presentation or would simply mumble your way off-stage saying "Sorry, I can't do this."
Certainly, part of Mr. Bay's mistake was relying too much on technology. But the reliance on the teleprompter could have just as easily been on note cards instead of the teleprompter. The real issue is that he was not prepared. He did could not recite the key points that he wanted to mention. The teleprompter goes down, he is not prepared, now his nerves take over. What started as a bump in the road has now quickly snowballed into an avalanche of nervous reactions forcing him to make his way off-stage in what was l likely one of his most awkward professional moments.
If you look at this through the lens of new business, make sure that you and everyone on your team knows the two or three most important parts of their part of the presentation as well as the two or three main points of the entire presentation. This forces you to make sure that your prensentation has a small set of primary takeaways and insures that everyone is in agreement about what those takeways are.
While this may seem straightforward, I have an experiment for you. A day or two before your next pitch, go around the room and ask each member of the pitch team (don't simply ask a question to the group) what they think are the three most important things in the presentation for the prospect to remember. Resist the urge to engage people in conversation about those points. Simply go around the room and ask everyone. If everyone on the pitch team gives the same answer, you are in good shape. If you get a collection of different answers from different people, send me an email because you have a problem. If the pitch team cannot articulate the three or four things the prospect should remember about your pitch, there is no way that the prospect will be able to recite your primary takeaways. If the prospect misses your primary takeaways, you will almost certainly lose.
President and primary pitch consultant at