Board Games: Strategies for Creating Board Presentations That Will Leave Your Audience Anything But

By Sherin, Jack; Hanc, John | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, January 1, 1992 | Go to article overview

Board Games: Strategies for Creating Board Presentations That Will Leave Your Audience Anything But


Sherin, Jack, Hanc, John, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Why, in this age of computerized graphics, desktop presentation software and digital video, would you want to use boards -- a simple sales communication medium that's been around since Henry Luce and Briton Hadden were first pitching the idea of a weekly newsmagazine?

Because boards can be easily customized to fit any sales situation, any client. They don't require projectors, VCRs, outlets or anything else your client's office may not have. And they allow you to control the pace of your pitch and the dynamics of the situation. You can stop, take questions, emphasize certain points, occasion comments, direct the flow of discussion and make eye contact. In other words, board presentations allow your salespeople to sell -- something not easily done in a darkened room.

Is there a hitch? Yes. The quality and creativity of your boards can make or break a presentation -- and a sale. Too many are flat, dull and filled with numbers -- numbers presented without context and without any sense of (dare we say it?) fun.

It's not that numbers aren't important. They are. But numbers don't have to be numbing. Formal doesn't have to be frigid. And sometimes words and images can speak louder than statistics -- especially to people who already have those numbers at their fingertips.

A prominent ad sales manager once said that you sell people an inch at a time. If true, we'd like to present some guidelines for board presentations that can add some inches to your sales effort.

Ask yourself, What's the point of this presentation? If you're not sure, cut out this article and file it until you are. Once we sat in on a meeting where a sales rep went on and on about his idea for an elaborate category presentation. There was talk of a contest, of props, a video -- all kinds of things. At one point, a bright young marketing manager, clearly tired of the all-smoke, no-fire discussion, finally asked why the presentation was being planned. The rep squirmed, shrugged, and finally said, "Well, because we've always done a new one every year."

Presentations, and the precious time of your client and agency contacts, should be used only when you have something fresh to say. We like to think of presentations as telling a story, but you can't tell a story if there's no plot.

Get your ad staff on board, but keep them off the bridge. Your ad sales people are the ones who are going to have to personalize the presentation. Therefore, their input is essential -- but it also needs to be limited. We've seen situations when promotion writers and artists ended up as functionaries for salespeople, literally taking dictation, word for word, from the rep.

That's not only demoralizing, it's a waste of time and talent. As David Ogilvy once said about such creative back-seat driving, "Why keep a dog and bark yourself?" The reps know the client and the situation with the account better than anyone else. They should help decide what to say in this presentation, but not how to say it.

Think visual, think verbal. Print ad copywriters are often urged to "think visually." The same applies here: You have to think about how what you say will translate onto a 17" X 22" board, how it can be illustrated or graphically brought to life.

By the same token, you have to remember that a presentation is a form of oral communication. Technically, the presentation boards are a speech aid. So know your speaker -- or, if an entire staff is going to use the presentation, at least one of the speakers. Then, write it with that person in mind. Indeed, it's wise to spend a little time with the sales force to get a sense of what they're trying to communicate.

Boards aren't books, so don't write a novel. No one is going to read your board copy as carefully as you read the morning paper -- and think how fast you blow through that! So consider these tips as you sit down to write your presentation:

* Write tight: That means concise, punchy headlines. …

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