After the applause and adrenaline have died down, you're going to wrestle with a question that has plagued everyone from politicians after a big campaign rally to romantic couples after that first kiss: Now what?
If you want to stick in everyone's minds, you need to be thinking about the follow-up long before the presentation. M. Nora Klaver, a Chicago-based executive coach and motivational speaker who has guided many professionals through speeches and has given many herself, suggests that you keep a long-term focus. "Just because your presentation is done and over with doesn't mean you won't be in touch with the client again," she says. "Remember that good relationships are built on long-term experiences--not on short-term sales pitches."
So make sure your presentation is just part of a relationship with your audience or at least the key decision makers. One clue that you're off to a good start is during the question-and-answer portion. "Are the questions detailed?" asks Voss Graham, author of Three Games of Selling. "If they are, then your audience is thinking about implementation, and you're close to a deal. But if everyone's just giving broad generalizations in their comments or questions, then you didn't hit the mark."
Graham, who is also CEO of the InnerActive Consulting Group Inc., in Cordova, Tennessee, adds that your presentation needs a call to action. He stresses that before you're finished with your presentation, you have to ask your investors and buyers to step up. "You need a trigger mechanism," he says. "You have to ask for some kind of action. It doesn't have to be, 'Buy right now,' but tell your audience what the next step is."
Meanwhile, your next step should be to mail a handwritten note to the key decision makers "immediately after the presentation," suggests Graham. "And if you can include something personal about that particular person, all the better. There are so many computer-generated things these days, that the handwritten note stands out from the crowd." And getting your handwritten missive in the mail promptly keeps the energy alive from the presentation.
Of course, if you're a true go-getter, you're probably already thinking that a handwritten note isn't enough. You want to send a bottle of wine along with the note, or maybe a bouquet of flowers, or perhaps a red, shiny bicycle for your investor's young son, Tommy. But not so fast.
The handwritten note really is enough. "It's part of the old-school way of thinking," says Graham. "When I first started 20 years ago, you wouldn't believe the stuff people would get from vendors and suppliers; it was flat-out bribery." Now most companies have very explicit limits as to what can be given as a gift. Wal-Mart, for instance, won't let you spend anything. You can't even buy them a cup of coffee, Graham says.
Room for Improvement
If you don't think your investors and buyers were won over, or if you later learn that they definitely weren't, consider asking people in the audience how the presentation might have gone better. That's the strategy employed by Matt Friedman, 36, president of Wing Zone, a growing restaurant chain based out of Atlanta that offers chicken wings. He and his co-founder, Adam Scott, have been staging presentations on college campuses for entrepreneurs who may be interested in franchising.
They found that initially they were sometimes going over their young audiences' heads. "You have to flat out tell them that we're planning on doing this in more markets and would appreciate some constructive criticism," advises Friedman. "If you just ask how was it, it's too easy for them to say, 'It was great; it was good.'"
The thing to keep in mind is the difference between product and process, says Michael Guld, owner of the Guld Resource Group in Richmond, Virginia, which provides management and marketing consulting, as well as corporate and broadcast training. He points out that after your presentation, during which you've laid out all the reasons your product or service is spectacular, is the chance to sell yourself. "Think about when you go to a doctor," he says. "You expect them all to have clinical expertise, and so I could argue that their bedside manner is as important or more important than their medical background."
It's really the same principal when sending a handwritten note, writing an e-mail or following up with a telephone call or an in-person meeting. Be nice, be human and be helpful. Demonstrate that working with you is going to be a pleasure for your investors or buyers. "They can buy or get another product or service similar to yours anywhere," says Guld, "but they're not going to have you."
Other articles in "The Perfect Presentation Series":Week 5: Appearance
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.