How to present.



In advertising, we come up with lots of great ideas. But if we can’t sell those ideas to our clients, they’re worthless. So if the concept presentation is the single make-or-break point for what we do, why do we place so little emphasis on it? I mean, think about it – how do you present an idea? Unless it’s a big pitch, how often do you practice a run-through? Most of the time you just get up in front of your client and wing it. But there are plenty of ways to get better at selling our ideas to clients. Throughout the years, I’ve learned some tips and tricks from some great presenters:

1. Be left, not right. When you walk into the meeting, have the portfolio in your left hand. Because I said so. (Actually, if you know the reason, leave it in the comments.)

2. Know who’s doing what. This doesn’t take long, but decide beforehand. Will the writer read the copy, then the art director addresses the art direction or vice versa? Will you alternate who sets up the concept? It ain’t rocket science – just don’t wait until you’re shaking the client’s hand to figure it out.

3. Start by reviewing the brief. It’s amazing how infrequently this is done. What you’re trying to accomplish was agreed to weeks or probably months ago by the client. Do a quick overview to give yourself a starting point of what you’re trying to communicate, to whom, and why.

4. Take small steps. If you start at the brief – which has been agreed upon – and take one little step away from the brief, the client can follow your thinking. It’s not a big leap. Then you take one more small step from that. And then another and another and another. Your goal is to keep them nodding so that when you finally show them the creative, it’s only one small step from your previous point. They see the logic – no matter how far you end up from your original point. If you just jump to the end and they don’t immediately understand how you got there? That’s a sure way to kill an idea.

5. Tell a story. Clients often judge a concept based on what they like and dislike – even though they’re probably not the target audience. So you need to get them thinking like the people you’re advertising to. Start by telling them a story about your target – what their day is like; how they’re thinking; where they’re going to encounter this ad; what they’ll think when they see it, etc. Telling a story gets the client out of their world and into their target’s.

6. It’s the greatest concept ever. Back in college, my copywriting teacher told me something I’ll never forget: If a client agrees with you, they’re done. If they disagree with you, they have to tell you why. So it’s easier for people to agree. If you tell them what they’re about to see is great, they don’t need to critically think about it. They just need to say yes. This is especially true when you’re presenting to a large group of people. No one wants to be the guy who dislikes it and has to explain why.

7. We love all our children. Inevitably the client will ask “So which one does the agency like best?” You should always have a recommendation, but never discount the other ideas on the table. When I’m asked this question, usually I’ll start with a pros and cons list of each. “Well, this one would probably catch their attention most, this one gets the key message right up front, and this one they’d probably spend the most time interacting with.” Then I’ll tell them my favorite.

8. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Remember, clients are seeing all this new creative for the first time – and they probably have zero formal teaching in how to evaluate advertising. We’re throwing a lot at them at once. They can’t really be expected to retain everything we’re saying. So repetition is key. Give your pitch when you show an idea. Repeat it before you move on to the next idea. And do another overview of the key points when you’re done presenting all the ideas. It’s even ok to bring up the main points again as the client starts giving initial feedback.

9. Learn to read upside down. It sounds ridiculous, but when you’re presenting from boards or printouts, the last thing you want to do is to stumble over a headline or have to pull the ad back to read the copy. And I hate flipping an ad over to show the client, then letting it hang there while I go refer to my own copy to read from.

Cartoon by Toothpaste for Dinner.

3 Responses to “How to present.”

  1. Portfolio in the left hand so the right is free to shake?

  2. 2 dognpony

    Bingo! You’d be surprised at how often someone ends up fumbling around trying to switch a bag or portfolio into the other hand.

    I still remember an incident where an art director, in trying to switch hands, cracked the client in the shins with a hard-sided portfolio case. Let’s say it got the meeting off on the wrong foot.

  3. 3 Dan

    Another observation….and it can’t be stated enough.

    When you believe in the work strongly and you know it’s good and on strategy, you just exude confidence, it’s evident just the way in which you talk about your ideas…and it’s nearly impossible to fake.

    Once clients see that confidence, they tend to relax and be more trusting, so your job becomes way easier.

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