Apr 16, 2009

Making Good Consult Presentations - Part I

This is the first part in a three part series on “What makes a good consultancy presentation?” As part of the series I am interviewing three consultants working with major consultancies and asking them what it takes to create and deliver a good presentation. Young consultants should find these posts really useful.

In today’s post I interview Mr. Rangarajan V, an IIM Ahmedabad graduate and a consultant at A.T. Kearney, Mumbai.
AAP: What is the most important thing in a consult presentation?

Rangarajan:
Just like in a movie a presentation has to have a solid storyline. It is very important to have the structure and the flow right. The main thoughts should be placed correctly and should be linked together so as to go on and prove your point (recommendation).

This will only happen if you understand what your audience needs. Do not focus on peripheral issues, but try to zero in on the main problems at hand and focus your presentation on them.


AAP: What are the mistakes one should avoid in consult presentations?


Rangarajan:
There are two mistakes which I have seen most consultants commit.

1. Not listening to what the audience in saying while the presentation is on. You cannot start presenting X while your audience wants to know Z. You will only realise it if you are listening. Be flexible and talk of Z, then come back to X.


2. Putting too many thoughts on one slide. We all know that one slide should talk of one idea. But then an idea can have multiple dimensions. In that case people end up putting everything up on the same slide and confusing the client (audience).



AAP: How should one present charts and graphs?


Rangarajan:
It is easy to fumble here. However great it might look but avoid using complicated graphs like radars, etc. Choose the simplest chart option; a bar, pie or line chart. Simplicity is the key.
Use a few lines of text to summarize what you intend to say with the chart. Give the source of data and have a proper caption and legend.


AAP: Why do consultancies have templates? Does it not act as a disabler?


Rangarajan:
A template is there to have consistency of identity. All the presentations from one company should look and feel similar. The template does not limit your thoughts nor does it act as a constraint.



AAP: Why do you give Executive Summary at the start? Is it not like revealing the plot before the movie has begun?


Rangarajan:
Consultants present their recommendations to the top management. These people are always short on time and are interested in knowing the final action and how it impacts their business. How did we arrive at the recommendation is secondary. So it is advisable to start with a good detailed executive summary.



AAP: Is there something we can learn from consultants abroad?


Rangarajan:
Rehearsal. Consultants in India are always busy making last minute changes to their slides. This does not leave enough time for rehearsal. When I say rehearsal what I mean is a complete dry run; standing and delivering the entire presentation at one go with the projector.



AAP: What would be your final words of advice to young consultants?


Rangarajan:
Relax. Do not get nervous if you don’t have all the answers to your clients' questions during the presentation. However hard you may work and prepare there are always questions you have no answers to. Accept it and move on.