5 Terrifying Truths about Presentation Skills

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d offer a few reasons why my AEC professional practice colleagues need to face one of their greatest fears: making presentations to clients.  So make sure the door is locked and hold onto something comforting.  Here goes.

1) You literally must acquire presentation skills.

There are very few competitive project opportunities that can be won exclusively by principals and marketing people anymore. In fact, more often than not these days we marketing folks are explicitly being told to stay away on presentation day.  So, not only can we not win it for you anymore, we often can’t even be in the room to help you.

2) Success in presentations has almost nothing to do with your technical skills.

By the time a few firms are shortlisted and asked to interview for a project, it has already been determined that all the firms are qualified.  We wouldn’t have been invited into the room if the client had questions about whether or not we could do the job.  What the interview is about is figuring out what it’ll be like to work with you, how you present yourself, whether or not you ask smart questions and if you listen well.  Demonstrating all that requires presentation skills.

3) The Project Manager is most often the linchpin to presentation success.

The PM is the person a client figures they’re going to have the most face time with over the next six months to 3 years until the project is done.  They want to like you.  They want to know you like them.  They want to know you can hold your own with all the other consultants in the room.  Ultimately, they want to know you’re not afraid of them.  If you’re afraid to present, you look like you’re afraid of them.  If you’re in the PM role, chances are the job will be won or lost based on how well you do in the presentation.

4) It usually takes time and effort on someone else’s part to get you to the next presentation.

As a marketing person, it frustrates me when we lose a job and the team somewhat cavalierly says,  “don’t worry, we’ll get the next one.”  It can take marketing and BD people 6 months to 2 years to bring an RFP in the door from a prospective client and, at the presentation, you have that marketing or BD person’s reputation in your hands.  I am fine with losing when we give it our best effort.  I just don’t want to lose sloppy.

5) Your ability to present has substantial impact on your long term career success.

When times are tough, as they have been in recent memory, the people that will stay employed are they ones that can do their jobs well, communicate with clients well, and bring in new work.  Honing your presentation skills makes you good at all these things.

 

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