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Sally reads a story and wins a client

An Anticonventional Presentation Story

Anticonventional thinking need not be a long collaborative process. It can also be a matter of recognising that you do not want to take a conventional action in a particular situation and pushing yourself to look for unconventional, original options. The key is consciously to reject conventional approaches and purposefully seek alternatives. As you look at each idea that comes to mind, ask yourself if it is conventional. If so, ask yourself if you can push it further. If not, reject it and play with another idea. It is through playing with ideas that an unconventional idea will eventually present itself to you. Once you've found it, play with it more and try to make it even less conventional and more creative, more unique and perhaps a little bit bonkers.

A Story

After a couple of years of struggling, Sally's small software company was finally beginning to take off. She had built a reputation for being innovative in a field where most of the competitors preferred tried and tested, conventional approaches.

Sally was delighted when a call to a potential client led to an invitation to present her software to top management. If her company won the contract, it would be worth more than a million Euro this year and a couple of hundred thousand Euro per year for the next few years. But, the contract was not hers yet. Three software companies were each invited to one hour sessions to present their product and answer questions.

The other two companies were well established global software providers. It would not be easy competing with them!

Rejecting the Conventional Action

Sally began to prepare the presentation. Her initial reaction was to put together a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points stressing the strengths of her company and their software. But she was familiar with anticonventional thinking and realised that her initial idea in this situation was a conventional one. There was nothing wrong with that, but her competitors were likely also to take conventional action. If she wanted to stand out, she would need to be creative and come up with a less conventional action to take in this situation. Since her company was smaller and had a reputation for innovation, being a little unconventional could help her better highlight her business's uniqueness.

So, she decided to reject her first idea and look for something less conventional and more creative. But she didn't want to do anything too crazy. She thought about using images in place of text in the slides, but she'd seen a number of presenters doing that already -- so that would not be such a creative idea. "How can I push this further?" she thought.

She considered making a video. But that would not take advantage of the fact that she was in the room with her potential buyers. She needed to communicate to them, not the video. Anyway, videos are awfully conventional these days.

She remembered reading recently about the power of stories. Could she turn her presentation into a story, rather than a collection of facts about her company? Of course she could! She could tell the story of how a typical client had a problem and how her company's software not only solved the problem, but made life rosier for the client.

Thinking about story-telling reminded her of Linda, an illustrator friend of hers who specialised in illustrations for children's books. She called Linda to make an appointment.

Pushing It

The two women discussed the situation and Sally's idea. Linda had a number of suggestions to make the story more interesting: add some tension, make the hero an interesting character with weaknesses, put the audience in suspense. Sally loved Linda's suggestion and hired her to do a dozen illustrations for the story which they outlined together.

On the day of the presentation, Sally was tense and beginning to have second thoughts. Was she insane? While the big competitors would present slick, professional presentations, she was going to tell a story complete with children's picture book-like illustrations. How could she have been so stupid? She wondered. But it was too late to change things. The presentation was complete and she had rehearsed it several times.

To complete the presentation, she had left her contact lenses out and wore her eyeglasses together with an outfit that looked like a school teacher's. It seemed appropriate for her presentation. When the client called her in, she walked confidently -- although she didn't feel that way -- into the room, sat down, opened a large book and began, "Once upon a time, there lived..." At the same time, Linda's first illustration appeared on the screen where the audience had been expecting a Powerpoint slide.

There was a bit of mumbling and one overweight man even laughed smugly with a colleague. But as Sally got into the story, the clients became quiet. The story was compelling and a refreshing change over the endless bullet points and jargon of the previous presentations. And when the story's hero's company was saved from bankruptcy by Sally's software, you could hear a collective sigh of relief in the conference room.

By the end of the story and illustrations, the competitor's products were forgotten. Sally gave each member of the audience a booklet with the slides together and the technical specifications of her software.

Over the next few weeks, the details were agreed to and Sally's company won the contract!

She also had a killer presentation for future prospects.

 

A question to you

How Do Your People Present Your Company?

If your team's presentations could do with some anticonventional thinking, get in touch! I can show you how to use anticonventional thinking and story telling to create compelling, unique presentations. As a novelist, I know a thing or two about story-telling.

Contact me to talk about how I can help your team give creative presentations!

 

Want to Discuss This With Me?

If so, get in touch. I'd love to chat about it with you!



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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium