Select the right words. Say them well.

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Just in the last month I’ve helped clients win millions of dollars in business by successfully coaching them for high-stakes interviews. It’s a terrific learning experience and something I want to share with you in this edition of the Monthly Memo.

The biggest keys to success in a competition are to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE and gear your presentation to them! Too often really smart and excited people talk all about themselves and forget the audience — as in the people who will decide who gets this piece of business! From top to bottom, make sure you are talking about them. You may be describing some great advantage you have over the competition, but make sure you are telling that story in a way that directly relates to them.

Also, KNOW THE ROOM! We have actually taped off our practice space so we are simulating everything about the room where we will do the presentation. If it’s cramped or oddly shaped, have a plan for that. Arrange the furniture to give you your best advantage if you can. And have a back-up plan for any AV or other items you will be bringing with you. (I have visited a room two or three times prior to the interview, just to know where power cords can be placed and I sat in the worst seat in the space to understand what that person will see.)

If a person on your team is an inexperienced speaker, no problem! They are there because they are critical to this job, so make that clear in the introduction. EMPHASIZE THEIR EXPERTISE and therefore make it possible to overlook their shortcomings as a speaker. (We even had the Chairman of one company say, “I didn’t pick these people because they are great presenters. I picked them because they will do a great job!”)

MIX UP THE TOOLS YOU USE! Too often a team will go in with a PowerPoint they have fallen in love with. As you have heard me say before, it is a tool, not a crutch! Use the PowerPoint, but also have poster boards at the ready, a white board and sometimes just shut everything off and simply talk to the audience.

TELL A STORY. All the points you make in the world can be trumped by a single memorable story! Decision makers often have to sit through three, four, five or more presentations in a single day, and then make up their mind. It’s a blur! Make sure you have worked in a story or two that underline your biggest points.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. It is as true today as it was in Vince Lombardi’s days with the Green Bay Packers. Set aside enough time for your team to get comfortable with the presentation and make sure everyone has a chance to completely go through their portion of the program. Too often the only time a team really does the entire presentation from beginning to end is when they do it for real in front of the decision makers! Yikes. Start planning now for your next presentation and give your team a chance to shine — and win a lot more business!

Whoo-Hooo! This is Monthly Memo #75! Thanks to many of you who have been with me from the beginning — more good topics to come! Have great Memorial Day weekend!