Assignment Developing And Delivering Business Presentations

After studying this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Highlight the importance of presentations in your business career, and explain how to adapt the planning step of the three-step process to presentations.
  2. Describe the tasks involved in developing a presentation.
  3. Describe the six major design and writing tasks required to enhance your presentation with effective visuals.
  4. Outline four major tasks involved in completing a presentation.
  5. Describe four important aspects of delivering a presentation in today’s social media environment.

On the Job: Communicating at Principato-Young Entertainment The Serious Side of the Comedy Business

The business of being funny can be profoundly unfunny these days, particularly for comedians who want to break into movies and television shows. Fewer movies are being made, and the audience for television and online shows is so fragmented that trying to build a fan base is an uphill struggle. Making the situation even worse for comedians, many of whom are writers at heart, is the seemingly unstoppable growth of reality shows, which require neither writers nor actors in any conventional sense.

Talent agent Peter Principato (right, with actor Will Arnett) coaches his comedian clients to hone their presentations before pitching movie and TV show ideas to studio executives. Talent agent Peter Principato knows this landscape as well as anyone, and as he puts it,

“There’s less and less real estate every year.” Studios are increasingly reluctant to “green-light” projects, particularly with the young and not-quite-top-of-the-marquee talent that is the specialty of Principato-Young Entertainment, the Beverly Hills company he co founded with producer Paul Young. But comedy is in Principato’s blood, so he works overtime to make his clients successful, even in this challenging environment.

In the entertainment industry, the road to success often starts with “the pitch,” a brief presentation to one or more studio executives by an individual writer, actor, director, or producer or by a team of these people. If the executive is intrigued by the concept, it might be discussed further within the studio, and eventually a decision will be made about funding production.

With so much riding on this brief presentation, you can imagine that it’s a high-anxiety event for the presenters, requiring vital communication skills. In fact, the ability to pitch effectively is so important that it has its own slang term: being “good in a room.”Pitches can fall flat for a number of reasons, whether the concept is not a good fit for a particular studio, the idea is so unusual that executives are unwilling to risk investing in it, or the pitch is poorly presented. A presenter may fail by being unable to summarize what a new show or movie idea is all about, by smothering executives in too many details, or by trying too hard to sell the concept.

The pointers Principato gives his clients constitute good advice for presentations in any industry, but they’re vital in the entertainment industry. First, come up with a single compelling sentence that describes the show or movie. If presenters can’t do this, chances are they haven’t thought the idea out well enough, or the idea is so complicated that it would be too risky or too expensive to attempt.

This one-line summary is essential for another reason, in that the first studio executive to hear the pitch will usually need to share it with other executives or potential financiers before a decision can be made. A catchy, succinct idea is a lot easier to repeat than a rambling, confused concept.

Second, expand on that one sentence with a single paragraph that builds interest by substantiating the concept and helping the listener envision what the show or movie would be like. Third, for a proposed series, explain how the concept would play out, week by week, by describing several episodes. Fourth, fill in the “big picture,” such as by describing how the show would look on screen or by rounding out the main characters.

You’ve probably noticed how this advice follows the classic AIDA model of getting attention, building interest, increasing desire, and asking for a decision, which is what makes Principal’s advice valuable for just about any profession.

The funny business is tough and getting tougher, but Principato is clearly doing something right. Principato-Young continues to expand and attract more of the young comedians who might be box office stars for the next several decades. And his love of comedy and comedians continues to motivate Principato himself. As he describes it, having his job “is like getting to hang out with your favorite band.”1

Planning a Presentation

Learning Objective: Highlight the importance of presentations in your business career, and explain how to adapt the planning step of the three-step process to presentations.

You might not pitch the next Oscar winner to a studio executive as Peter Principato (profiled in the On the Job chapter opener) hopes to do, but wherever your career takes you, speeches and presentations will offer important opportunities to put all your communication skills on display, including research, planning, writing, visual design, and interpersonal and nonverbal communication. Presentations also let you demonstrate your ability to think on your feet, grasp complex business issues, and handle challenging situations—all attributes that executives look for when searching for talented employees to promote.

Planning presentations is much like planning other business messages: You analyze the situation, gather information, select the best media and channels, and organize the information (see Figure 14.1). Gathering information for presentations is essentially the same as it is for written communication projects. The other three planning tasks have some special applications when it comes to oral presentations; they are covered in the following sections.

Presentations involve all of your communication skills, from research through nonverbal communication.

Although you rarely “write” a presentation or speech in the sense of composing every word ahead of time, the tasks in the three-step writing process adapt quite well to the challenge of planning, creating, and delivering oral and online presentations.

On the subject of planning, be aware that preparing a professional-quality business presentation can take a considerable amount of time. Nancy Duarte, whose design firm has years of experience creating presentations for corporations, offers this rule of thumb: For a 1-hour presentation, allow 36 to 90 hours to research, conceive, create, and practice.2 Not every 1-hour presentation justifies a week or two of preparation, of course, but the important presentations that can make your career or your company certainly can.

Creating a high-quality presentation for an important event can take many days, so be sure to allow enough time.

Analyzing the Situation

As with written communications, analyzing the situation involves defining your purpose and developing an audience profile (see Table 14.1). The purpose of most of your presentations will be to inform or to persuade, although you may occasionally need to make a collaborative presentation, such as when you’re leading a problem-solving or brainstorming session.