Your clients send your consulting firm checks with plenty of digits. In return, you’re likely to conduct at least one meeting during which you present findings, results and/or recommendations.
How do you knock their socks off so they have cold toes they pump your hand enthusiastically, sign up for more of your consulting wizardry and recommend your consulting firm to their friends, neighbors and peers?
Below are ten tips for delivering a dynamite meeting. Actually, there’s only nine tips because I left an open slot for you to fill in.
Ten Tips for Dynamite Meetings with Consulting Clients
Know Your Story
Every great presentation is built around a narrative—a message you want to impart.
When you’re crystal clear on your message, you’re more likely to wow your consulting client.
Don’t Bury the Lead
Kicking off with a mystery is a tried and true approach… for a speech to a roomful of prospects, not
for a presentation to your client as part of a project.
Your story has a punchline—it’s your Aha! or your recommendation or finding. Lead with the punchline.
Remember Basic Meeting Hygiene
The basics you were taught during your first year of work still apply:
Always create a clear agenda, explicitly call out the purpose of the meeting, start and stop on time, and bring a big plate of cookies. (Two plates, please, if I’m attending.)
Interact and Share Ownership
Please don’t stand at the front of the room and drone for two hours.
Make every presentation interactive and invite your client to actively build the meeting’s final outcome with you. (See this article on the Ikea Effect.)
Include a “No”
If every concept, finding, result and recommendation you present to your consulting client jibes completely with what he already knows, your work may be perceived as high value.
However, your halo will glow brighter if you occasionally disagree with your client’s starting position.
The best consultants lead their clients someplace new and surprising.
A “wow!” meeting is a visceral experience, not an intellectual exercise.
Through personal, individual attention, create an emotional link between the people in the room, yourself and your message.
Don’t ever cause anyone to feel like they’ve lost time, money or reputation.
Disagreeing with a client’s premise can add value. Publicly telling a client in front of his peers that he’s wrong may cost you a client regardless of whether or not you’re right.
Prep for Stupid
Depending on who’s in your meeting, your awesomeness may be met with disbelief, thinly-veiled heckling, disagreement or numbskullery.
Walk into the meeting prepared for these types of responses so that you handle them all with grace.
This may shock you: Telling a client he’s stupid (or even implying it with your tone of voice) can lead to a dip in revenue.
Avoid Meta Comments
Typos, graphical errors, technology glitches and other unfortunate pests pop up in presentations like gophers in your lawn – unexpected and unwelcome. How you handle those little mishaps is important.
Stay focused on delivering your message and avoid making comments about your presentation (i.e., meta) such as, “Gee, this color really isn’t showing up well on your screen.”
I created a longer list, but want input from you. What’s your tip for delivering a dynamite meeting?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
When presenting to a larger group, a great outcome is if a client you worked closely with presents the material – and put the document in the client’s slide template.
Let the client take ownership of the recommendations and they are more likely to be implemented.
Fabulous tip, Will. Giving your client a leading role also works well with small groups.
Your suggestion is particularly effective during kick-off meetings at the start of a project, and in vision meetings when you’re laying the groundwork for a large, follow-on engagement.
Smart thinking, Mr. Bachman!
Except in cases where the objective or outcome is confirmation, there should be something that leads to changes in understandings, processes, tools, actions, or something else that is tangible. That should lead to value-adding results – ideally measurable results..
Great point. Clients hire us to create change. They want to walk out of the meeting richer (in knowledge or capability) than they walked in. Thank you for adding that reminder onto the list, Don.
Great suggestions David. My approach is to walk around the room when presenting and asking questions to specific people on the points am trying to convey. For example, I would say “David how have you dealt with this change?” Or David what kind of preparation do you think is necessary to ensure that you have a successful Kaizen? My approach is to get as much interactive participation to the change I would like the client to consider. This makes it easier getting the buying for change.
Ooooh, I really like that, Tony. I can just imagine wandering the room, calling on individuals, “Tony, what tasty, chocolate morsel did you bring to the meeting?”
Seriously, that’a a great presentation tip.
I always think about healthy meetings in terms of avoiding the “show up and throw up” problem that occurs so often in consulting. Whether sales or final presentations, etc. I try to focus on this 3-step formula to ensure I don’t:
1 – I start every presentation with, “before I (we) begin … [ask an insightful question to get your client speaking about what on their minds] ….”
2- And when I finally do begin presenting, I speak for no more than 2 minutes without taking a break. Try to stop and very explicitly invite comments or questions. For example, “Let me pause for just a second … How are you seeing this concept?” Or even just, “That was a lot of info, where would you like me to dive deeper?”
3 – I finish up anything I planned to present no more than 1/2 (2/3 if I’ve been able to facilitate a very interactive discussion) of the way through the allotted time. Everyone likes to talk … the extra time ensures the client has ample time to speak, and most importantly, that I have ample time to listen.
Feel free to use these tips. They’ve done me well in my consulting business and in my new role as CEO of an advertising technology business.
Excellent, 3-part formula, David. Starting with what is on the client’s mind is a Right-Side Up approach, and I highly recommend it. All three of your suggestions make it clear that your presentation is about the client, not about how smart you are. They’re outstanding additions to the list.
(Also, congratulations on your new CEO role!)
I like sending the agenda, objectives and what is expected of everybody in advance of the meeting. Nothing worse that being asked to a meeting and not knowing the purpose or why you are there.
Right on, Josh. Dynamite meetings start with your explicit agreements prior to the meetings. Thanks for highlighting that point, which is important.