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Guidelines for your Dog and Pony Show

November 10, 1998
by Pat McClellan

Everybody's done one. You put on your best duds, shine your shoes, pack up your portfolio and parade it in front of a committee of half asleep corporate managers -- most of whom don't care who you are and don't know why they've been asked into this meeting. Welcome to the Dog and Pony Show. Usually, it seems like an expensive waste of time. But you can't NOT put on the show, right?

Sales and Marketing

Early in my career, I found myself pointing a video camera at a corporate executive who was making a presentation to his company's entire sales force. Although I didn't really have to pay attention, I did -- which is good, because otherwise this paragraph would be really pointless. Anyway, he was talking about why the corporation had converted its Sales Department to a Marketing Department. He explained that it was much more than a name change; really a shift in perspective. He contrasted Sales and Marketing this way:

It's a key distinction that focuses on the #1 communication skill: listening. (That's right, listening is more important than talking.) The fact is that we're all used to listening to our clients, finding out what they're interested in, checking out their needs. But that usually happens later in the process -- when we're looking at a specific project. So how does this apply to your well-rehearsed portfolio revue?

Think of your presentation as an interactive program. (Hey, we know something about interactive!) Sure, all the content is well-prepared and ready for delivery, but like any good interactive program, we're going to let the audience navigate through it.

Start your presentation with a little dazzle -- introduce yourself with a bit of flair if it suits your personal style (but keep it short.) Then, move immediately to the menu. This is the point where you lay out a range of programs -- by media, by client, by industry, or whatever. It's up to you how you want to lay out the options. But when you lay them out, describe each option as a good waiter would describe the specials at a fine restaurant:

"We have some specials today... a tenderloin of pork braised in a fig and balsamic vinegar compote, served with sauteed baby vegetables..."

You get the idea. Don't just say... "well, I've got a CD-ROM I did for Acme and 3 websites for Bob's Widgets". Give them a reason to want to see it.

"I brought several programs with me today which I selected because they might be of special interest to you. This interactive program was produced for Acme Corp to launch a new product. Acme's sales force responded very favorably to our approach and the new product is setting sales records. I've also brought along a series of websites I produced for Bob's Widgets. Each site focuses on a different market segment. I'd like to let you control the time we spend on each. Where would you like to start?"

In presenting each portfolio piece, think back to what they taught us about writing resumes. You need to show that your program solved a business need. That's where value is -- that's why a client hires you. Demonstrate that you know how to use multimedia to solve business challenges. (Actually, this is a pet peeve of mine about media awards. They tend to focus only on the artistic, creative, or programming aspects of a production, while ignoring whether or not the program was a success for the client.)

A good framework for presenting a program is as follows:

This framework allows you to demonstrate that you understand your client's business needs. It shows that you can work within the ever-present time or budget constraints. It shows that you can deal with production challenges. And finally, it allows you to brag about the success of the program.

Presentation Tips

I hate it when someone starts the program or goes to the first page of a site, then talks for 2 or 3 minutes before showing me the program. Sure, there are lots of interesting background stories you could tell. Don't. Weave the key points you want into the presentation -- as you're moving through it. Don't make me wait to see it.

Shorter is better. I don't care if your CD-ROM program takes 3 hours for a user to move through. Don't show me every level or every cool interface. Show me just enough that I'll want to ask questions -- or want to explore the program for myself later. Practice demonstrating each of your portfolio programs and limit yourself to 5 minutes per program. 5 minutes.

Don't Forget "The Ask"

A friend of mine recently went to a local reunion of people from her college class. The gathering was clearly supposed to be for fundraising. But after 3 hours at the party, she left without giving any money. Why? They never asked.

There's nothing more frustrating than walking out of a presentation, realizing that you're no closer to working with this client than you were before. When you go into a Dog and Pony Show, you need to know what you want to come out of it. Perhaps you want to set up a follow up appointment to discuss a specific project. Or maybe you want the client to visit your office. Whatever it is, know what you want before you go in, and most importantly, ask.

So, now, I expect that you're primed and ready. You've selected the few items from your vast portfolio which are most appropriate to this client. (Of course, you've researched your client's company and their industry a bit.) You've practiced 5 minute presentations for each item you'll present. And finally, you know what you want to come out of the meeting, and you've practiced how to ask for it. Go get 'em!

Patrick McClellan is Director Online's co-founder. Pat is Vice President, Managing Director for Jack Morton Worldwide, a global experiential marketing company. He is responsible for the San Francisco office, which helps major technology clients to develop marketing communications programs to reach enterprise and consumer audiences.

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