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IT’S A MATTER OF PRINCIPAL: Football and Presentations

October 29th, 2015

Featured Author

Kristin Liu, LEED AP

Senior Associate, Business Development

Syska Hennessy Group, Inc.

Kristin Liu

Did you know that half of America loves pro football? In 2013, 70 percent of TV viewers watched at least one NFL game. Around this time of year, it seems to me there’s always someone talking about a football game, even when the game isn’t real. According to a Forbes article, 32 million Americans spend about $15 billion annually playing fantasy football. In fact, revenue from NFL Fantasy Football activities is quickly exceeding revenue from the traditional football market.

Now… imagine if people loved sitting through presentations as much as they loved watching and talking about football games. Think about the last time you sat through a presentation that you thoroughly enjoyed. What was it about the presenters that kept you fully engaged? Did their stories flow logically and seamlessly from one part to the next? A successful presentation requires pre-planning, teamwork and practice.

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When one breaks it down to the basics, the strategies used to win over an audience’s attention and affection in a presentation are quite similar to the strategies used to increase a team’s chances in getting a touchdown in football. Like an 11-man roster on the field, each playing its role, you need to move in sync with your co-presenters. You need a quarterback to lead the charge and supporting defense/offense positions that will get you a win. You need behind-the-scenes coaches who help the “game day” players reach their full potential. In order to be successful in both football and presentations, you need to, most of all, practice, practice, and practice.

For the football fans out there, here are four ideas to keep in mind for creating a winning presentation:

It’s a team effort.
On each team, there are “game day players” and there are “preparation players” (aka coaches). Both roles are equally important for winning a game. Are you utilizing the strengths and expertise from your entire team to score a winning presentation? Do you research your competition to understand their game-day decision making? Do you call upon the practice area experts early enough to optimally incorporate their knowledge into your story?

Do you engage your marketing professionals early on for strategic input or only at the end for formatting slides? Do you engage them at all? Sometimes, especially for project interviews, clients dictate a specific outline of topics which the presentation must cover. Marketing professionals can be your helpful referees to ensure that all the required topics are covered in the right order. Furthermore, they can suggest creative approaches for delivering your message with personalized impact.

Preparation is key.
Executing a “play” is most successful when it’s based on preparation and strategy. The more familiar everyone is with your presentation play-book, the more in sync your team will be on presentation game day. How often do you make enough time for the entire team to huddle and practice the different parts of a presentation before the real deal?

What’s your offensive strategy (i.e. discussion of firm overview, similar work, approach to the project)? What’s your defensive strategy (i.e. anticipate questions evaluators may ask)? Are there “drills” that your individual team members can work on during, or even before, the “preseason”? Do each of your presenters truly understand their speaking roles in relation to each other, in relation to the project goals, and in relation to the client’s business goals?

At times, your initial game-plan may not work. NFL teams constantly change their strategy throughout the game. Make sure you have a back-up plan and know your key messages by heart in case the audio-visual equipment breaks down. As a Principal, your “teammates” will look to you as their coach, their leader and mentor; someone that they can rally behind. Help each team member play to their strengths. A quarterback may call the plays, but the whole team working together is what’s necessary to score a touchdown.

You must keep your eye on the goal to win.
Despite the tackles, fumbles and interceptions that come their way, football players always have their eyes on the end-zone. They know that their ball must cross the goal line to score. The more often they cross the line, the higher their score. To score touchdowns in your presentations, stay focused on delivering your key message. This is your end-zone. All other details and anecdotes should bring your audience back to the key message. Keep your eyes on the end-zone and take the audience across the line every opportunity you get.

Practice, practice, practice!
What do NFL players do when they are not playing football on national television? The answer is practice! Conditioning, training, studying the play-book and preparing for the regular season are all critical requirements. What if our principals and team leaders make it a habit to conduct presentation conditioning drills for the “big game”? This could mean finding opportunities to present to internal team members, developing a play-book for presentation strategies, practicing at home in front of a mirror or creating flash cards to help memorize key points. Repetition will allow you to become comfortable enough to overcome your nerves.

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Here are some additional resources for creating successful presentations:

Special thanks to guest contributor Rory McMahon, Marketing Manager at Kallen & Lemelson, Consulting Engineers, LLP.

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