Huff and Puff and Blow Them Away

By Heather Baldwin

Every presentation should have an underlying theme, a motif that ties everything together and reappears throughout the performance, driving home the bottom-line message again and again. A presentation is all about telling a story, and no story is complete without an object or image that carries through from beginning to end, says Peter Giuliano, founder and chairman of the Executive Communications Group in Englewood, NJ.

Guiliano recently helped a client win a $50 million contract with a presentation rooted in the theme of the three little pigs. The client’s prospect wanted a new platform for a global network, recalls Giuliano, but the client believed, with the changes sweeping through his industry, that whichever platform that prospect put in would fall apart in nine months and they’d be starting all over again. So Guiliano’s client went in with this opener: “Thank you for inviting us here. You’ve asked us to present on such-and-such a topic which we’ve declined to do and here’s why: we believe that with the winds of change blowing through your company and industry, other platforms will be like a house of sticks and will blow apart in the wind. Our solution is brick and mortar, and while the winds of change may damage it over time, it will be repairable, expandable and usable, and you will get your investment back.”

Throughout the presentation, several words and phrases continually reappeared. “Huff and puff, house of sticks, bricks and mortar, winds of change,” says Guiliano. “It was a theme we used over and over again in the presentation and referred to again at the end.” The result? The prospect got the message. It was driven home so effectively that the decision makers could not dodge the vision of Guiliano’s client’s solution being the solid choice and could not shake the doubts raised about the alternatives. With a simple theme, Guiliano blew away the big bad competition.