Great Meeting Presentations

By Heather Baldwin

Large national sales meetings are expensive. There’s the cost of flying the whole team to one site, lodging, meals and all that lost selling time. To get the maximum return on your investment your message needs to stick, and there’s no better way to make that happen than with a stellar presentation. Kevin Carroll, a communications consultant and speech coach based in Westport, CT, suggests using a memorable prop to get your point across and ensure attendees remember your message long after the last chicken dinner has been digested.

Seventeen years in the advertising business has taught Carroll the essential two-step process to great presentations: Be crystal clear on what your point is – be able to sum it up in one sentence or less – and then figure out the best creative device to drive home that message. Consider, for example, how he helped a presenter for one high tech company’s national sales meeting transform her presentation from reams of data into a memorable, attention-getting event. Her goal was to get sales reps to drive from mind share to market share. When she talked with Carroll before the event about her message, he realized the phrase mind share to market share had a compelling alliteration – two Ms: M&Ms. With the message crystallized and the creative device in place, the executive now had the foundation for a great presentation.

Here’s how it played out. Each of the one thousand or so attendees entered the meeting room to find small bags of M&Ms on their seats. As they crinkled the bags and ate the candy, the executive pointed out that the candy was connected to her presentation and the first one to figure out the connection would win a prize. She had their rapt attention. Shortly into the presentation, someone in the audience got it and hollered out: M&Ms! Mind share to market share! The lights went up, everyone laughed and the winner went on stage to collect his prize – a big bag of M&Ms. “We wanted to emphasize the importance of the message,” says Carroll. “So we didn’t want to give out something totally unrelated, such as a Walkman.”

The message didn’t end there. On the sales reps’ last night in the hotel, they returned to their rooms to find on their pillows not a delicate chocolate mint but – you guessed it – a bag of M&Ms.

Sound corny? Maybe. But here’s the thing: a year later everyone in that audience remembered the message. They remembered the M&Ms and they remembered mind share to market share. That was the whole point of the meeting, to communicate that message and change behavior. “People get a lot of data dumps. They’re bored,” says Carroll. By imparting a message creatively, meeting attendees not only will remember it, they’ll likely remember the presentation as one of the high points of the meeting.

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