Valuable lessons for client presentations


That’s what my client told me. I had just finished presenting my masterpiece. You know, the definitive presentation on Dynamics CRM. I used cool and impressive sounding technical words like JavaScript and Plugin and wowed them with Online, Cloud, Security and Mobility. I thought I was the MVP of MVPs, the king of consultants. I was convinced the head of Microsoft Dynamics would hear of my greatness and send for me. Soon Bill Gates and I would be best mates taking the Dynamics CRM world by storm. And then it hit home. I surveyed the room and realised my audience were bored. They were yawning, doodling on their notepads and playing with their phones. They didn’t care.

boring client presentations

Dilbert by Scott Adams

After a few awkward questions, I left the meeting deflated. Why weren’t they impressed? Why weren’t they excited like I was? CRM COULD DO ALL THESE THINGS – WHY AREN’T THEY IMPRESSED?? Didn’t they care about how this was going to make their life easier? Didn’t they think my knowledge about CRM was something to be hailed as great? I was convinced they needed to hear this stuff and couldn’t get my head around the fact they didn’t want to know.

A few days later, I was in a rush around town buying a few items. I had a limited amount of time and needed a new suit. As I entered a men’s suits store, a well-groomed sales guy appeared. We exchanged pleasantries and he started his sell. He launched into a spiel about the different type of stitching, the cotton and where the material came from. He asked me detailed questions I couldn’t answer and used suit terminology that I didn’t even know existed. This fueled his excitement (and also his smugness). He powered on with his mission imparting his knowledge about ties, socks, cuff links, different combinations of the three, types of sunglasses, what trend was in, what was out, how young males dress differently to older males, why I should buy a pocket handkerchief… By now, my brain had switched to all the tasks I needed to get done. The information on suits wasn’t going to help me buy the food for dinner or write the presentation due Monday. All I wanted was a suit!

It wasn’t until later, sitting on the train home that it struck me. I connected the two experiences and realised there were 4 valuable lessons to be learnt:

Lesson no. 1: Client Driver

Like the sales guy, I had completely missed understanding my client’s objectives and reason for holding the meeting.

  • My objective was to buy a suit that fit a certain set of requirements and get home ASAP. I didn’t care about the cotton or stitching. What value would this give me? I doubt a conversation about stitching and cotton would have impressed the ladies out on the town. Looking good in a suit would.
  • My client wanted to understand how their CRM could facilitate achieving their objectives and empower the users. Was the information about JavaScript, Plugins or Security of Datacentres going to achieve their objective? If my client went to their boss and repeated the information regarding JavaScript, would the boss slam their fist on the table in excitement, scream “BRILLIANT” at the top of their lungs and give my client a raise? More than likely, no.

Lesson no. 2: Audience

In my meeting preparation and when I walked into the meeting room onsite, I had completely forgotten who I was presenting to. I was focused on displaying my knowledge and brilliance to the audience about what the team and I had delivered.

  • When buying the suit, I was an everyday customer under a time constraint. I wasn’t a supplier or expert on suits looking for something in particular. I had a clear objective I wanted to achieve and everything else was just noise.
  • My client was an end user who managed and interacted with their customers. Their every day job didn’t involve terminology such as entity, solution file, JavaScript or C#. This information couldn’t be used in any way to assist their customers. My client wanted to know how they could use CRM to efficiently and effectively perform their job, and in turn provide excellent customer service to their customers. With this result, they could then have an easy conversation with their boss at their performance review.

Lesson no. 3: Complexity (Usability)

The additional information had turned a simple presentation into a boring, overcomplicated and seemingly over engineered CRM application. The terminology I used was foreign, not relevant, and created confusion.

  • After listening to the complex set of suit rules, do’s and don’ts combined with a tsunami of information, the complexity of buying a suit had increased tenfold. If I didn’t consider all of these items, what would happen? How was I going to achieve my objective if I didn’t consider these factors? Was I going to look unprofessional if I bought the wrong suit!?
  • My client wanted a tool that captured the necessary business information and was simple and easy to use. This would assist with a rapid rate of adoption. This would empower them to achieve their business goals and a return on their investment. My preaching about JavaScript and Plugins had increased the perceived complexity of the system. Users could only see a complex web of irrelevant functionality. It made perfect sense to the developers and me as we walk and talk CRM everyday, but was of no value and made no sense to those whose business was not.

Lesson no. 4: Attitude

I walked into the presentation thinking my information was going to display my brilliance. My arrogance that everyone in the room should know CRM was my downfall. At the time, I believed that everyone should know its terminology and functionality due to the power of CRM.

  • When the sales guys started preaching the intricate knowledge of a suit, he really put me off. I wasn’t impressed by his knowledge and impossible questions. Instead, it frustrated and annoyed me. His arrogance, smugness and a general sense of “you should now this” attitude actually put me in a combative state. I’ll admit that mentally, I pictured myself slapping him hard across the face, shouting “I DON”T CARE, YOU SMUG MORON!” (luckily, cooler heads prevailed)
  • The blunt statement from my client indicated that they didn’t like the way I interacted with their team. I was perceived as arrogant and unapproachable. The client and their team were a great group of people that were more than likely put off by my “you should know this” attitude. People are more open and willing to listen to people they like and to those who, in a professional sense, provide value.


Sometime later, I was standing in front of a different client. I had been warned that this group was a bit rowdy and going to be difficult. If it wasn’t relevant or didn’t achieve what they wanted, they would destroy me. Right at the start, I flicked up a configured Dashboard on the projector, each chart and list carefully planned to show the information most important to them. I spoke their language, used their terminology and talked about what each part meant. Then I drilled into a chart.

“Wait! Can I create my own dashboard?” “Yes.”

I flicked over to a second configured Dashboard displaying roughly what they had asked for. Suddenly the floodgates opened.